Monday, October 10, 2016


Wang and Ahmed (2003) describe the learning organization as the "collectivity of individual learning, training and development...within the organization." Rao (2016) contributes to this description by elaborating on the value of individual worker training to learning organizations. All three advance the belief that a learning organization's stability and growth is intimately tied to and dependent on individual workers' professional development. In this cognition of things, adult workers who are engaged in continuous learning and/or skill development are the essential--the most critical, perhaps--cogs in the learning organization machine; they help drive the organization forward and serve as stewards of the organization's culture. Furthermore, in the context of our ultra competitive labor markets, where learning organizations are increasingly jostling for survival, these adult workers/learners can be viewed as organizational assets as their ability to learn fast "constitutes the only sustainable competitive advantage at the disposal of a learning organization (Wang & Ahmad, 2003). In light of these admissions, it is a bit perplexing why learning organizations continuously turn to "training" as a means of developing their organizational assets.

Rao, after all, defines training as "the process involved in improving the aptitudes, skills and abilities of [...] employees to perform specific jobs" (2016). This definition recalls Kegan's (2000) conception of informational learning and brings to mind Argyris and Schon's single-loop learning theory. In both cases, the role of the adult learner/worker is tied to a specific task and behavior and remains largely at odds with the long-term needs of the learning organization, which is survival. To survive, learning organizations must see beyond the stable present and actively plan for future turmoil (risk). Training, as posited by Rao, does not allow for this; Rao's training merely facilitates a "business as usual" mentality. It helps a learning organization, via its adult workers, become good at what it does--specialization--but it doesn't impart those adaptive skills that are essential for long term survival. What then must a learning organization do if mere training can't facilitate survival in our increasingly complex market economy? Simply stated, learning organizations by way of their adult workers must pursue and encourage learning that is both meaningful and transformational and recalls both double and triple-loop learning. Doing this, I believe, will not only cultivate the insight and mental models needed to weather external risk and organizational competition, but it will ensure the long term survival of the learning organization. 

At this juncture, then, there is one question left to be asked: "if training is not the answer to the question of learning organization survival, why do most if not all learning organizations still make use of it as a means of developing workers' skills?" To me, this gets back to the notion of organizational stability. Organizations, learning or otherwise, have a bias toward stability because stability is safe and cost-effective, in the literal and figurative sense. Trainings, which often reflect organizational mission and culture, reinforce this stability by imparting an organization's "safe" values in workers. On the contrary, professional development that would be deemed transformational and emblematic of double and triple-loop learning is risky and costly. Mazirow (2001) states that transformational learning challenges the current mental model. In the workplace setting, the "current mental model" equates to the mission and/or culture of the learning organization; thus, transformational and double/triple-loop learning can amount to a destabilizing force that wreaks havoc on organizational stability by challenging and undermining the mission and/or culture of a learning organization.

In the end, training can be a force for good in that it can help learning organizations maintain their culture and mission; however, for learning organizations to survive (and thrive) in their resource starved and risk present ecosystems, a more robust means of professional development will be needed to facilitate the skill development of organizational (adult) workers.


Friday, September 30, 2016


Single-Loop: The majority of students who take the placement test at HCC are not ready for college level work and require some form of remediation.

Double-Loop: Is the Accuplacer Test an effective way to measure college readiness?

Triple-Loop: Given the correlation between family income and standardized test performance, why does our educational system even rely on the latter to predict college readiness and success?


Single-Loop: To avoid morning rush hour traffic on 95, I take the Metro North to get to work.

Double-Loop: Why not just buy a house in Bridgeport and be closer to work?

Triple-Loop: Do I even like my job?

I think that's how this stuff works.


A case for humanism...

If the fundamental learning unit of any learning organization is the individual, and competitive advantage is a function of the collective learning potential of individual workers within an organization (Wang & Ahmed, 2003), then it stands to reason that skilled workers engaged in continuous learning via PD are valuable organizational assets. To what end, then, can organizations go to keep these valuable assets, thereby maintaining competitiveness and protecting their interests? Whatever it is, it aint this:

It's one thing to read theory about the tension between AL and their respective organizations, but to see organizations actually engaging in behavior that is antagonistic to their AL, in real life, is something else. I, for one, am glad to see that our legal system views workers through a humanistic lens.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Professional Development for Faculty and Staff...

Within my learning organization, adult workers can be split into two inherently broad categories: staff and faculty. Within each category, there is further categorization based on one’s professional skills; for example, within the ranks of the staff, there are those who specialize in IT, business administration; guidance, advising, and counseling; or student activities. My domain of specialization is in academic support. Amongst the faculty, you have biologist, sociologist, psychologist, and mathematicians—just to name a few. The point here is that, within my organization, there exist a variety of skills sets that must be considered in the development of worker aimed PD opportunities. In a world without budget constraints and at times conflicting HRD interests, perhaps, it would be possible to do this; however and unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world, so the limited PDL opportunities that we do have should aim to address the most pressing concerns of the learning organization; and for me, the issue of diversity, or lack thereof, is one such concern worth addressing. Everyone in my organization would benefit from diversity focused PDL opportunities, but I believe our faculty would be best suited for it because they are at the forefront of my organization’s mission to deliver a practical education for our diverse, minority-predominant student body. But therein lies the problem: the primary facilitators of education in my organization are neither representative of the students they educate, nor emblematic of the increasingly diverse world these students will be asked to work in. How then can faculty drive meaningful student learning, which takes students’ personal narratives into account, if their frames of reference are incongruent to that of students? Short of a massive and improbable hiring spree to “fix” the representational imbalance, I think faculty focused diversity PDL would help faculty, and my organization at large, better meet—through understanding and familiarity—the educational needs of our students. If our students, adult learners in the their own right, are making meaning and self-authoring their identities from a reservoir of diverse experiences, then it behooves faculty to learn how to also tap into this reservoir to encourage and facilitate student academic engagement and success. 

Within the rank of the staff, I think it is important for workers to engage in PDL activities that emphasize collaboration and allow for greater familiarity with the multiple domains within my organization. Too often, departments operate within a silo like environment and this can negatively impact students' experiences within my organization when, for example, they aren't given accurate information. One way to possibly resolve this issue is through the creation of intra-organizational PDL internship program/opportunity. As I imagine it, the I.O.PDL program would allow working staff to routinely intern in other organizational departments and/or domains to get a sense of the different kinds of professional work and responsibilities occurring elsewhere in the organization. This familiarity with the work of various organizational departments would translate to better customer service and support for our students.