Queensland state schools as learning organisations: findings from school reviews

Year: 2017

Author: Kowalkiewicz, Anetta, Diamond, Chris

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Originating in organisational learning theory (Argyris & Schon 1978) and much advanced since The Fifth Discipline (Senge 1990), the concept of the learning organisation has inspired many scholars and educators. It has been adopted by education research to reconceptualise schools as learning organisations (for example, Johnston and Caldwell [2001], and Silins et al. [2002]), and informs national educational agendas, such as those of Singapore and the Netherlands (Kools and Stoll 2016). A learning organisation facilitates its members' learning and continuously transforms itself in response to the changing environment (Pedler et al., 1996). Considering the constantly changing and largely unknown future educational needs of society, schools need to develop their own capacity to learn and effectively deal with change.

This presentation explores the concept of the learning organisation in relation to Queensland state schools, whose capacity for improvement is supported by a centralised school review process. Around a quarter of Queensland's 1236 schools are designated each year for one of three review types, and as a result, they are provided with formative evaluation and constructive feedback on their current practices. Schools identified as needing additional support to further improve student outcomes are allocated a priority support review which includes an additional 12 months of follow-up. The findings presented are based on the analysis of data from 84 schools that completed this process in 2016. An inductive approach to analysis identified the key areas where improvement was evident, and the scale of these improvements across the sample. These data were further interpreted through the lens of school as a learning organisation concept to determine how Queensland state schools have increased their capacity to learn as a result of school reviews.

The findings describe how Queensland state schools advanced on each of the five common dimensions of the learning organisation: shared vision and goals, collaboration and teamwork, continuous professional learning, culture of decision- and risk-taking, and learning-focused leadership. The benefits of applying the learning organisation concept to school improvement research are discussed, as well as the prospects for extending this research. The presentation concludes by considering the implications of this research for educational leaders and policy makers in terms of how schools' capacity to learn and self-improve may be developed and assisted by the system.