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The impact of social environments on emotional, social, and cognitive competency development

Jane V. Wheeler (Department of Management, College of Business Management, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 4 January 2008



The purpose of this research is to examine the interactions between individuals and the social environment as individuals engage in self‐directed learning, a predecessor to intentional change theory. The individuals are graduates of a part‐time MBA program and the social environment is the life sphere framework introduced with this study. Self‐directed learning refers to the learning agendas that these people outlined for themselves when they first entered the MBA program.


Longitudinal assessment data were collected using the critical incident interview, the learning skills profile, and the life sphere interview. Correlations were run testing the hypotheses: as the number of life spheres, relationships, or activities increases, so will the demonstration of the targeted competencies; and if the participant is able to work on developing these competencies in the life sphere that he or she designates as primary to the learning goal, then the demonstration of these competencies will improve.


The number of life spheres, relationships, and activities does impact positively on the demonstration of these competencies and those participants for whom the work organization life sphere is primary to learning goal achievement showed improved demonstration of the targeted competencies.

Research limitations/implications

The study needs to be replicated with a larger sample size. This initial study was merely exploratory in nature.


As society approaches the virtual office it makes sense that it will get what it needs, when it needs it – no matter where one is or to whom one is talking. With these changes has come the need to find resources in places and from people that may not have been considered previously. The relationships and activities in one's social environment are more critical than ever before.



Wheeler, J.V. (2008), "The impact of social environments on emotional, social, and cognitive competency development", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 129-145.



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