Schools as Learning Organizations LO30127

From: Mark W. McElroy (
Date: 04/21/03

Replying to LO30119 --

Hello Don:

Your line of reasoning resonates with me because it largely comports with
a body of theory and practice that I and several others have been working
on for several years now. Most of this work has occurred under the
auspices of the Knowledge Management Consortium Int'l ( ).
The key components of the resulting frameworks are a) the view that
collective learning is a self-organizing progress in organizations, and b)
that the behaviors exhibited by the agents involved have pattern-like
regularity to them. This view is, in part, informed by complexity, or
CAS, theory.

Next is the view that the social learning patterns cited above are a form
of social capital. We call it 'social innovation capital.' All of these
ideas are chronicled in my recent book, "The New Knowledge Management --
Complexity, Learning, and Sustainable Innovation." You can learn more
about the book, the history behind it, and the ideas involved by paying a
visit to my website at . In addition, one of the
chapters that deals specifically with the integration of KM, complexity
theory, and OL can be found at:

A paper on the notion of 'social innovation capital' can also be found

Where I think we may part in our views is in terms of how these ideas
relate to schools, per se. I'd be interested in hearing more about your
views on how and why the ideas we seem to agree to up to this point are
applicable to schools. In particular, I'd be interested in hearing more
about the kind of knowledge you feel is produced in schools via
organizational learning processes, and how, if at all, students
participate in these processes and not just teachers and staff.

Next is what appears to be your conclusion that Peter Senge's five
disciplines somehow logically follow from the argument you lay out. I'm
not sure I see that. What, for example, do Peter's five disciplines have
to do with a complexity-inspired model of OL? What is it about the vision
you have of an OL system that suggests the five disciplines in particular,
and not some other body or theory of practice? I believe that this is the
standard we should hold ourselves accountable to.

Looking forward to your response.


Mark wrote:

>Thanks for this. Perhaps it might help if I expanded upon what I'm trying
>to do.
>I don't want to create a simple input-output system dynamics model of
>school improvement through the creation of a learning organization.
>I feel many writers/researchers/educators who are concerned with schools
>as learning organisations are covering the same ground but mapping their
>progress using different frames of reference. I feel it would be of
>benefit to sketch out a broad theoretical context which establishes
>interconnections between these discrete areas. Given that schools cannot
>be regarded as places of linear and predictable development, despite what
>reductionists might try to have us believe, we should seek develop a
>theory which helps us to explain, rather than predict, the outcomes of
>organizational behaviour. The outcome of my study will hopefully be a
>series of models which consider particular critical incidents, which, when
>considered collectively give some insight into the process of school
>improvement through the application of learning organization theory.
>My model for 'Schools as Learning Organizations', looks something like


"Mark W. McElroy" <>

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