Scholarly article on topic 'Learning Organization as a Tool for Better and More Effective Schools'

Learning Organization as a Tool for Better and More Effective Schools Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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{"Learning organization" / "School diagnosis" / CVF / INRO/RDA}

Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Tibor Baráth

Abstract The socio-economic context of learning and the needs for increasing the quality of the teaching profession in Hungary. The research was aimed at increasing employability via improving the quality of higher and public education. This paper analyses and highlights the relations between a knowledge-rich economy and the quality of higher education with special regard to the preparation of teachers and schools that all serve as a motivating environment for learning. Schools as learning organizations and a model used for diagnosing them The second part of the paper introduces the scientific basis for diagnosing schools. It analyses how the concept of a learning organization developed by Senge can be interpreted and adapted to schools. The applied model integrates three key concepts: the culture and the efficiency of a school organization were investigated with the application of the Competing Values Framework model; the behavioral competences of opinion leaders in schools were tested with a professional HR model (INRO/RDA); schools made SWOT analyses of themselves focusing on their learning capacity. These three concepts/models were integrated in one complex and holistic model, which provided a firm basis for the analyses. Profiles and characteristics of schools as learning organizations The core part of the paper provides a brief overview of the characteristics of the 82 schools based on the complex diagnosis model. This part of the paper describes how the characteristics of schools as learning organizations were formed, and what differences arose among the schools. Based on the fitness of the schools to the LO profile, the paper analyses what kind of differences appear in the CVF model. Conclusions The closing part of the paper summarizes the main conclusions of the diagnosis, and gives suggestions that were articulated for the schools on the basis of the research.

Academic research paper on topic "Learning Organization as a Tool for Better and More Effective Schools"

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Procedía Manufacturing 3 (2015) 1494 - 1502

6th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2015) and the

Affiliated Conferences, AHFE 2015

Learning organization as a tool for better and more effective schools

Tibor Barath*

Hungarian-Netherlands School of Educational Management, University of Szeged, Dugonics tér 13., Szeged6720, Hungary Qualitas T&G Consulting and Service Ltd.,Alkotmâny utca, Szeged6728, Hungary

Abstract

The socio-economic context of learning and the needs for increasing the quality of the teaching profession in Hungary.The research was aimed atincreasing employability viaimproving the quality of higher and public education. This paper analyses and highlights the relationsbetweena knowledge-rich economy and the quality of higher education with special regard to the preparation of teachers and schools that all serve as a motivating environment for learning. Schools as learning organizations and a model used for diagnosing themThe second part of the paper introduces the scientific basis for diagnosing schools. It analyses how the concept of a learning organization developed by Senge can be interpreted and adapted to schools. The applied model integrates three key concepts: the culture and the efficiency of a school organization were investigated with the application of the Competing Values Framework model;the behavioral competences of opinion leaders in schools were tested with a professional HR model (INRO/RDA); schools madeSWOT analyses of themselves focusing on their learning capacity. These three concepts/models were integrated in one complex and holistic model, which provided a firm basis for the analyses.Profiles and characteristics of schools as learning organizationsThe core part of the paper provides a brief overview of the characteristics of the 82 schools based on the complex diagnosis model. This part of the paper describes how the characteristics of schools as learning organizations were formed, and what differences arose among the schools. Based on the fitness of the schools to the LO profile, the paper analyses what kind of differences appear in the CVF model.Conclusions: The closing part of the paper summarizes the main conclusions of the diagnosis, and gives suggestions that were articulated for the schools on the basis of the research.

© 2015 The Authors.PublishedbyElsevierB.V.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of AHFE Conference

Keywords/Learning organization;School diagnosis; CVF, INRO/RDA

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +36-20-9577367; fax: +36-62-544154. E-mail address:barath@kovi.u-szeged.hu

2351-9789 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of AHFE Conference

doi:10.1016/j.promfg.2015.07.330

1. The socio-economic context of learning, needs for increasing the quality of the teaching profession in Hungary

Nomenclature

LO learning organization

INRO holistic, behavioural model of human competencies, based on its earlier form called RDA (Role Diagrammatic Approach)

CVF Competing Values Framework, organizational effectiveness and a culture model developed by Quinn and Rohrbaugh

HlES high level experienced school in learning and institution development MlES medium level experienced schoolin learning and institution development

1.1. Introduction

As a result of the complexity of our knowledge society and the exponential changes that characterize our age -and probably even more so, our future - the role of schools is also changing. While before, it was normal for students in various types and levels of schools to prepare for specific and well-known professions, now schools need to assist their students in preparing for jobs that are not known at the time their training or prepare them for solving problems that have not even been recognized. This influences the very essence of learning, the way we view learning, as well as learning management technologies and methods that can be applied efficiently. We can conclude that these changes have a significant impact on teacher training, its content as well as its methods, and on schools where teachers work.

Next, we will introduce a program that was conducted by the University of Szeged and that was aimed at improving the quality of higher education, which would eventually lead to increasing employability via providing a better-trained workforce. This objective requires that the efficiency of education and teaching in the public schooling system should be increased, which is closely linked with the professional knowledge and preparedness of teachers as well as with the institutions' quality, adaptivity, and their attitude and dedication to learning. Thus, improving the quality of the public education system can only be achievedbydeveloping the teachers and the institutions.Institutions employing highly qualified teachers and providing the right conditions for organizational learning, which also consciously and systematically develop their own knowledge asset (by selecting training programs and other development forms that are in harmony with their relevant, motivating and specific objectives) are the ones that are capable of gradually increasing their students' results and improving their individual chances in life. Students prepared this way, who enter the labor market, perform better at work, and those who have a higher standard of knowledge can enhance their individual prospective as employees, thus contributing better to social development by being able to produce an added value.

1.2. Knowledge economy, higher education, teaching profession

Our transition into a knowledge society increases the value of knowledge, which now plays a major role in the world of economy and work alike. The link between learning and economy is clearly demonstrated by the results of a research project conducted by the OECD in 2010, according to which even a relatively small increase in student performance - expressed by the PISA test results - could have a significant impact on the competences of the labor force of each country, which would lead to an increased sense of well-being in the long-run. Researchers considered three different occurrences of performance increase and, calculating with a life expectancy of 80 years of those born in 2010, they predicted that by 2090, the total economic growth in OECD countries would reach USD 115, 200 and 260 trillion. This growth is much larger than the expenses spent on development [1]. The OECD analysis proves the importance of learning both for the society and the individual. It is not the length of time spent with learning but its efficiency that counts. The exponential pace at which knowledge is growing and how rapidly it becomes outdated as well as the extent of learning affecting our entire life, all bring learning abilities and attitudes into focus.

Changes greatly transform the link between the world of work and learning. Besides or rather instead of qualifications, the labor market defines competences that are required from an individual for various tasks and positions.

This also sheds light on just what a great change schoolsexperience during ourtransition from an industrial society into a knowledge society. Based on Sawyer, what help us here are some prominent results of learning science. Education as a social subsystem, which was established in the age of industrial society and which turned into mass education by the early 20th century, has grown into one of the largest and most bureaucratic systems. At the time of its establishment, no in-depth and well-founded knowledge about human learning existed that could have served as a basis for school teaching itself. It was mostly built on accumulated experiences, on common sense and presuppositions deriving from them, which however, had not been studied academically, thus they were not scientifically proven. The so-called standard model of schooling was therefore based on teaching facts, rules, correlations and procedures, while the efficiency of schooling was proven by the quantitative reproduction of these. As opposed to this model, the new schooling model is centered around in-depth, coherent, integrated and contextualized group learning, which is proven by the quality of conceptual understanding and application. [2]

The OECD's skill strategy [3] can also be linked with this new model of schooling, which emphasizes a shift from formal qualification towards actively existing competences. At the same time, it considers it a fact that in our global knowledge society, only those countries and economies can be competitive that invest appropriately in developing competences [4]. The development model prepared for governments on how countries can maximize the utilization of human skills, defines three key elements: the development of appropriate competences, the activation of the competence portfolio, and the active utilization of acquired competences [5].

The skill strategy proposed by OECD to developed countries has a close link with the already mentioned Sector Skill Councils introduced at the turn of the millennium in Great Britain and to the competence expectations defined for each sector, which had a strong impact on the entire learning sector.

Based on the analysis of the socio-economic context, it was justified to opt for a development model within the framework of the university program that enabled us to diagnose individual and organizational competences as well as defining development directions.

2. Schools as learning organizations

It is the activity of teachers, the organization of learningand the quality of teaching that have the biggest impact on the development of students [6]. However, research into school leadership [7,8,9] strongly suggests that school leadership has a significant indirect impact, and in fact it is the second most important impact factor. Lastly, we must mention the research projects conducted byMulfordandSillins[10], who examined how the school as a learning organization, leadership and the actual results are linked with one another, and concluded that via its rich impact system, school leadership has an indirect, but empirically justifiable influence on the learning achievements of students, and this impact system manifests itself through learning organization culture.

These research findings serve as an important basis for the systematic, development project element covering the entire region, which has been drawn up with special regard to the organization's operation features and the function the institutions play in teacher training (operation as training sites, providing mentor services).

2.1. Senge's LO concept

We can regard organizational learning as a concept that provides a foundation for the learning organization. It is worth mentioning here the model developed by ArgyrisandSchon[11, 12] (1978, 1996) for single-loop (correcting unexpected results and mistakes), double-loop (reflecting the dynamic link between and mutual influence of objectives and the processes and activities performed in order to reach these objectives) and deuterolearning (aiming at a strategic learning of how to learn). The latter is discussed by Visser [13] (2007) in an in-depth manner, also exploring the roots of its emergence.

The concept of the learning organization and its structure can be coined toPeter M. Senge. Based on the experiences accumulated in the field of leader training, the researcher of the MIT came to the conclusionthat a new

movement in corporate leadership could be the concept of the learning organization. When developing the model, he found it vital to plan how the unavoidable decline following the early, intensive flames of interest (novelty effect) could be mitigated.

In addition to what there was to know about the nature of changes and subsequent corporate management models, Senge could also rely on the findings of workplace learning research that could boast a certain history at the time of the early '90s. [14, 15].This supported - and at the same time strengthened - his idea of the learning organization and its main features, as well as new methods inspiring the participants and their way of thinking to search for new approaches.

Senge defined five, co-related characteristic features of a learning organization, the joined existence of which could serve as a guarantee for the model to be sustainable and functioning with reasonable effort. Next, we shall briefly describe the key principles of the learning organization according to Senge.

Theessenceof systemsthinkingis to see and understand things and phenomena globally,together with their correlations, and to search for long-term impacts. The essence ofpersonal masterylies in leading ourselves; reformulating the way we think about our future, and looking at the world with patience and with an objective mind. Under mental modelswe mean beliefs in principles, convictions and stereotypes that have a decisive influence on our behavior and operation. Shared visionmeans that the members of the organization have a definite, clear and attractive vision, which reflects a strong cohesion among the members, therefore it has a strong catalytic impact. The essence of team learningis to be found in collective thinking and tuning onto one another[16].

The school adaptation of Senge's model exceeds the limits of this paper, therefore now, we will only list a few demonstrative examples. Systems thinking helps us see the school as an organization in its entirety, understand the individual and team processes, and the endless complexity of learning (integrating school subjects and learning processes in order to provide students with applicable knowledge; the correlation between school objectives and daily operation, its impact on individuals and groups, etc.). The concept of personal mastery can be grasped through what the institution does for the students' and employees' self-awareness to grow, whether and how it is capable of sustaining and increasingstudents' commitment to learning, whether and how the institution assists its members in creating a shared vision and in clearly identifying and reaching their objectives. If we examine mental models in the world ofschools, we realize that school behavior rules reflect an organizational way of thinking that is compiled by individual thoughts; or if we wish to give another example, they reflect what is considered knowledge and accomplishment. At an institutional level, this shared vision can be manifested in the documents defining school strategy and operational content, which is called the pedagogical program in Hungary. The Hungarian law on public education prescribes that schools must define their objectives in their pedagogical programs. Considering that objectives must reflect the value system of schools, if an institution wishes to produce a document that affects its daily operation, it is indispensible to have a mutual agreement on the core values that can later serve as a basis for setting objectives. Regarding team learning we can articulate the following questions: Is it the individual student or the teams of students that form the basic element of school learning? Which one and why? [17, 18]

2.2. The concept of organizational diagnosis

In the following, we will briefly introduce an organization development and diagnostic model that can be suitable for setting a school onto the route of becoming a learning organization. We need a model that fits the complexity of the task, one that:

• allows for the actual (starting) state of the school to be taken into consideration;

• supports efficiency and the targeted development of organisational culture;

• is a tool for clearly defining the task and role of the management;

• is built on the players of the schools, first and foremost on the knowledge, experience and aspirations of the

opinion-shapers.

The applied model is a system integrated from the Competitive Values Framework (CVF) model built on organizational culture and efficiency as well as defining the characteristic features of its leadership; the INRO model that supports individual and organizational behavior on a holistic scale, and the SWOT analysis.

The CVF model was developed in an empirical way and it is used for judging how efficient an organization isin a complex manner. Depending on the given situation, organizational efficiency can necessitate different values to be taken into focus, and this is where the term 'competing values' comes from. The model can be described along three dimensions. The dimension of organizational orientation reflects introversion or extroversion, micro and macro processes and the well-being of the individuals within the organization and that of the entire organization. The second dimension reflects the attitude of the organization to change, the characteristics of the internal organization, which ranges from a control-based structure to a flexible one. The third dimension of the model defined by Quinn andRohrbaughfocuses on the tools and processes used for realizing the organization's fundamental values and objectives[19-22].The advantage of the model is that besides the organization, the roles and functions of its leadership can be presented in the same structure. Fig. 1. a describes the CVF organizational model.

It was important to use an HR model for the organizational diagnosis because - although the organizational features cannot be identified by simply accumulating the members' individual features (values, attitudes, knowledge, etc.) - we can fundamentally conclude that the intentions and skills of the key figures in an organization demark the functional and development possibilities of a given organization. This way, we can create a link between individual and organizational competences. The reason why we focused on behavior was because it can be regarded as the manifestation and form of competences that can be identified, examined and thus developed (both in the case of the individual and the organization).

The INRO model is further-developed version of the so-called RDA behavior competence model. INRO is a competency system that is suitable for finding solutions for many demands raised in the field of HR development and selection.

The INRO model's structure and function is built on the RDA competence assessment tool. INRO is a broader concept encompassing the areas that can be measured by RDA.The INRO/RDA model examines human behavior in a holistic system, in relation with the roles fulfilled by an individual. With the help of this model, the effective and ineffective behavior forms of the individual can be identified, which provides a basis for individual and group development. The model's key dimensions are as follows: dynamism/stability; operational/strategic management; and content/personal relation orientation [23, 24].In addition to reflecting personal behavioral competences (i.e. personal profile), the model is also capable of defining any system profile that is built on human behavior (e.g.: a training program, an organization or a position). Fig. 1. b shows the INRO/RDA model.

The innovative and open system in the CVF model can be matched with the extraversion quarter of the INRO/RDA model, while the cooperative quarter can be matched with the human relations model. Furthermore, the autonomy quarter in the INRO/RDA model can be linked to the target-oriented and competitive model of the CVF model, while the organization quarter can be paired with the internal processes model. SWOT can also be linked with the system alongside the CVF dimensions. Regarding the attitude of the organization towards change, we can link flexible operation with possibilities, controlled operation can be paired with threats, and organizational orientation (external or internal focus) can be coupled with strengths and weaknesses. The areas of SWOT can be correlated with to the INRO/RDA axes. The three models can be closely linked to one another, i.e. they do not only provide simple supplementary information about the individual and the organization, but when we integrate them, they actually create a synergy. An example for the application of this complex model is detailed in a study by Baráth and Cseh, in which so-called reference institutions, i.e.: institutions that function as learning institutions for others, were selected, with their profiles drawn up and their development executed [25].

3. Profile and characteristics of schools as learning organizations

3.1. Inviting and selecting schools to take part in the R&D&Iproject

It was one of the aims of the project to execute the development in a way that it could have an effect on all the schools of the region. Therefore, we decided to form institution groups falling not too far from each other regarding experience and knowledge. These selected schools attracted followers who felt that the group ahead of them was within reach, as far as knowledge was concerned (15 - 80 - approx. 660 schools). Directly, we worked together with two smaller groups in which we performed organizational diagnosis. The selection criteria for the schools were as

HUMAN RELATIONS MODEL

OPEN SYSTEMS MODEL

Internal ^^

^^ External

INTERNAL PROCESS MODEL

RATIONAL GOAL MODEL

Autonomus

CONTENT

ORIENTED

Organizing

STABLE!

Control

Extravert

RELATION

ORIENTED

Cooperative

- Leading Operational

Fig. 1.(a) Competing Values Framework; Source [19]; (b) INRO/RDA model.

follows:a) results lastingly over the average or a continuously improving result in the national standardized student performance test in the last three years;representation (according to school type and geographical location);experience in learning and institution development.

Out of nearly 800 schools, we selected15 that had the largest knowledge and experience (HlES), then an additional 80, that also had significant knowledge and experience but less than those of the former group (MlES). We informed the public about the possibilities and tasks of the LO program at conferences organized in three counties of the region, then - based on detailed and written information - the teaching staff of the institutions decided about their own participation. Eventually, 15+67 institutions took part in the program.

3.2. The learning organization model — the first version of the profile

Following several professional consultations and workshops and building on Hungarian as well as international knowledge and experience, the group comprising researchers, consultants and practicing school leaders defined the features that characterize the behavior of schools that function as learning organizations. (This means that the model was based on behavior scientific principles, dealing with the behavior of the individuals and the organization jointly, thus examining their correlation). The organizational behavior was described by 140 statements, the content and approval of which were the result of a consensus between the experts. This meant that in a given phase of the development process, over 2/3rdsof the 15 experts agreed with the drafted description. Here are some examples:

• The main pillar of organizational operation and culture is trust.

• The organization has a written vision statement, which was drawn up and is reviewed collectively.

• Teachers take responsibility for their own development.

• Self-organized student groups and professional teams operate within the organization.

• The organization is characterized by system thinking.

• The critical examination of current practices as well as continuous learning and development form an integral part of school culture.

• Individual student paths are (also) monitored, and to this end, the school assumes a shared responsibility with the players involved in successful learning.

Based on the statements describing the learning organizations' behavior, the LO profile was drawn up in the INRO/RDA model, which served as a basis for comparing the institutions.

3.3. The organizational diagnosis of schools and the first results

The diagnosis of the schools was based on the complex and integrated model described in Section 2. Taking into consideration the meaning and the definition of the learning organization, the schools prepared their own SWOT analysis about how their internal features reflect their operation as learning organizations and how external circumstances and impacts promote or hinder this operation. Next, they filled in two questionnaires linked to CVF. Of these two questionnaires, we dealt with the results of the one in which respondents had to evaluate 16 statements and say how much these characterized their own institution (7-grade Likert-scale). All the teachers from theHlESschools, and no more than 10 decision-makers from MlES schools together with opinion-shaping teachers (formal and informal leaders) filled in the INRO/RDA questionnaire.

We used the CVF questionnaire to identify the features of the organizational culture. We took the average of the INRO/RDA questionnaire values, which we considered the typical feature of the organizational behavior. Both CVF and INRO/RDA results were standardized. Then we deducted the standardized INRO/RDA values for each school from the LO profile value, which helped us determine how much the organizational behavior profile of each school matched the LO profile (fitness variant), or to what extent it deviated from it. The institutions were ranked in three groups according to the scale of their match (low, medium and high deviation from the LO profile). Then we examined what similarities and differences these groups showed according to the CVF. Lastly, we examined how big the differences were, if any, between HlESandMlESschools regarding either their organizational culture (CVF) or the organizational behavior (INRO/RDA).

HlES and MlES schools have a different pattern regarding their fitness to the LO profile as it is shown by Table 1. While the HlES group reflects a nearly normal distribution, the MlES group shows a two-humped one.

Table l.Distribution of schools based on their fitness to the LO profile. Table 2. Deviation between school groups by CVF.

School Level of fitness to the LO profile Total CVF model Group of schools Mean

groups Low Medium High HlES 2,7987

- Open System -

HlES 3 (20%) 8 (53,3%) 4 (26,7%) 15 (100%) MlES 2,1398

MlES 25 (37,3%) 28(34,1%) 23 (34,4%) 67 (100%) HlES 3,0940

Rational Goal -

MlES 2,7415

HlES 2,3640

Internal Process -

MlES 1,9100

HlES 2,2607

Human Relations -

MlES 2,1555

Comparing the two groups of schools we can identify that there are significant differences between HlES and MlES schools regarding the open system model of CVF. The other three components also show deviation: in every case the HlES schools have higher score than the MlES. We can suppose - based on the detailed and deep statistical analyses - that HlES schools mirror higher level action in their work in all four model of CVF than the other group. Examining the subcomponents of the CVF (see the 8 components on Fig. 1. (a)) we also concluded that the HlES group shows higher average and lower standard deviation than the MlES group, so the HlES schools appear more homogeneous group.

Examining the pattern of the organizational behavior of the two groups - applying t-test on the INRO/RDA dataset of schools - we can conclude that there is no any difference .While CVF made a differentiation among schools, this did not happen in the case of INRO/RDA. The reason behind this probably lies in the fact that CVF quarters and their components can have higher or lower values independently of each other, while in the case of INRO/RDA, a higher value in a dimension or quarter necessarily results in a lower value somewhere else, as the total 100% is shared among 8 axes.

We rated the 82 schools into three equal size groups based on that how much their organizational behavior fit to the LO profile (fitness score). The level of deviation can be low, medium and high level. We examined whether the level of fitness mirrors relation to the organizational culture and behavior. Applying different statistical method (anova, multiple comparison, homogeneous subset) we found out that the patterns of organizational culture based on the CVF are very similar independently from that whether schools belong to the low, medium or high deviation group.

Carrying out the same investigation we can point out that except of the leading-operation dimension of the INRO/RDA all other dimensions and subset of the model show significant differences. Using the holistic approach of the INRO/RDA we can state that those school which profiles fit the best to the LO profile characterize -comparing the schools which have high fitness score, which means they differ strongly from the LO profile - higher level openness, extraversion; they are more dynamic. However all schools are more relation than content oriented the low fitness score schools have a little bit stronger content orientation. Lastly, these schools behave more independent and self-confident expressing higher level awareness in their work. This suggests that the LO profile makes a differentiation among schools, i.e. it can show the differences in behavior. Greater openness, self-confidence and target-orientedness expressing independence and a higher level of dynamic change can be the characteristic features of a learning organization operation if we compare them to institutions that fit the profile less; and these characteristics were appropriately identified by the applied diagnostic model.

4. Conclusions

The applied complex model proved effective and sensitive enough to identify differences among schools. The LO profile seemed relevant for the schools, and the analyses of the characteristics of the organizational culture and behavior showed differences in harmony with these characteristics. The complex diagnosis model provided firm basis for the formulation of detailed, clear goals and actions for schools inspiring them to go further the way which lead to became learning organization.

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