Customised Academic Learning
In an emerging economy, characterized by high degrees of complexity and uncertainty in addition to high degrees of inequality, a new perpective on management education and organizational development has become a core business imperative.
Managers need to develop new knowledge contextually. They must fully understand their environment and its complexities in order to find new ways of addressing issues arising within their individual environement/s. In addition, they require an expanded skill set to handle complexity.
Customised Academic Learning develops managers at various levels in the organisation that can rise to this challenge. It integrates the ideas underpinning adult learning, systems thinking and action learning to design and deliver accelerated management development.
Traditional programmes tend to focus on transferring information in an attempt to close gaps in existing knowledge. Customised Academic Learning programmes go beyond this transfer process to two additional levels of learning:
- The 'unlearning' of old ways of thinking and behaving to enable the development of more appropriate ways of thinking and behaving; and
- The 'reorganising' of existing knowledge and experience to higher levels of complexity which will enable managers to deal with issues and opportunities on a higher performance curve - at a higher level of complexity.
Understanding Adult Learning
Customised Academic Learning programmes are based on the following principles of adult learning:
1. Management development in an active process and takes place in a real management context
The programmes balance classroom time with workplace assignments that allow participants to implement their learning in the real world. Participants complete in-company action learning projects on issues of strategic and operational importance in their workplace. The mutually-reinforcing interplay between work and learning means that a manager learns optimally within his or her own work context, where learning is enhanced by doing and the learning is taking place where it is actually applied and practiced.
2. Adults learn as they do – each action can lead to new insights that enable them to learn from experience
Managerial learning is not a linear process and often defies simple theories. Customised Academic Learning employs the SysTAL approach which synthesises systems thinking and action learning. This encourages learning with and from fellow learners within their work context.
Reflection on the experience of learning is as important as the theoretical learning, allowing good behavioural patterns to be documented and sustained and bad behavioural patterns to be noticed and consciously improved. A process of continuous improvement and development becomes an intended consequence of the learning process. Nurturing self-awareness in the relevant institutional and societal contexts is key to success, all the while building analytical and systems-thinking skills.
3. Adult learning is a social activity
Managers learn through conversations and debates. The programmes are embedded in social processes that provide the opportunity for communicative action and interaction. The programmes have emerged according to recent developments in social science and management referred to as practice turn which focuses on day-to-day activities that make up social systems.
4. New knowledge cannot be assimilated without previous knowledge and experience
Although all learning material is grounded in theory, participants are not expected to accept this at face value. Students construct their own theories by building on their experiences and existing knowledge.
5. Values and relevance need to be explicit in learning – managers pursue what they value
Learning focuses on integration, synthesis and evaluation that go beyond the analytical aspects of management and draw on existing experience, commitments and purposes relevant to the knowledge construction process. This tends to stir emotions and increase engagement in the learning process.