Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Applying Learning Organizations to the Classroom

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Applying Learning Organizations to the Classroom

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This article is intended to address a common challenge experienced by teachers in higher education - how to blend theory into practice in the classroom. It is premised on the development of a semester-long business simulation project that emphasizes learning business knowledge and skills. More specifically, the project is designed to help students develop all business aspects in an effort to help revitalize New Orleans by building a first-class hotel and convention center in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In addition to applying the principles of management learned throughout the semester, students are expected to develop cross-functional teams and are empowered to establish systems of sharing information to guide the project's success. The assignment reflects the challenges and rewards of applying a learning organization model to the 21st century workplace, and culminates with an oral presentation to local business executives who help with the final grading.

INTRODUCTION

This article is intended to address a common challenge experienced by teachers in higher education ~ how to integrate theory with practice in the classroom. One of the key problems facing recent college graduates (and their employers) is the lack of key management competencies needed for the 21st century workplace (Mill, 2007). The root cause may be traced back to passive learning environments, minimal student engagement, and inconsequential collaborative learning in the classroom environment.

The topic is significant for many reasons. First, according to employment recruiters who were surveyed, "communication and interpersonal skills, leadership skills, the ability to work effectively within teams, analytical and critical thinking skills, adaptability, people and task management skills, and self-management skills" are among the most important competencies for four-year business school graduates entering the workplace (Calloway School of Business, 2004). Second, these competencies are particularly significant given the changing organizational structure and key workplace challenges facing businesses today - challenges that include globalization, technology development, knowledge management, ethics, and workplace diversity (Nelson & Quick, 2006).

Third, according to a report by ASTD, managers are asked to take undertake certain tasks without receiving proper training. Such tasks include project management, leadership, problemsolving, teamwork and managing people, among others (ASTD, 2009). Presumably, employers may have assumed that having these skill sets were necessary requirements in order for a student to graduate from a four-year college with a degree in business management. Not surprisingly then, U. S. employers spend billions of training and development dollars, annually, to help their employees develop and/or improve essential competencies.

Fourth, today's workplace challenges require changing the way in which commerce is conducted. The hierarchical structure of the 1 9th and 20th centuries, designed to create stability in the workplace, is in direct conflict with the rapid and constant changes evolving in today's business organizations (Lawler and Worley, 2006). Yet, current management and leadership practices - influenced in part by complacent attitudes - reflect a focus on maintaining the status quo (Kotter, 1996; Lawler, 2006). The result is that the United States has become a less competitive nation. We in academia must prepare to offer our youth new and better learning constructs. Failure to do so may very well contribute to the continued erosion of the national - indeed the world - economy.

This conceptual paper proposes introducing college students to a learning organization model which, according to Daft, and introduced by Senge is "an attitude or philosophy of what an organization can become" (Daft, 2005). It is premised on the idea of operating with the intent to solve problems as opposed to focusing primarily on organizational efficiency. …

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