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The governance of organizational learning: Empirical evidence from best-practice universities in Germany

Sabine Lauer (Center for Higher Education, TU Dortmund University, Dortmund, Germany)
Uwe Wilkesmann (Center for Higher Education, TU Dortmund University, Dortmund, Germany)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 10 July 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to link two modes of governance (transactional and transformational) to organizational learning by examining the example of academic teaching. Consequently, the “transformational” strategies of best practices that have been used by German universities to achieve teaching excellence are interpreted as double-loop learning. In delineating two exemplary cases of double-loop learning concerning the university-wide implementation of a new teaching formats as part their institutional strategies to develop teaching excellence, the authors want to answer the following research question: Which kind of governance is required to manage double-loop learning processes?

Design/methodology/approach

The purposive sample comprised four universities that had won awards for their teaching excellence. In 2014, a total of 21 semi-structured expert interviews were conducted in these universities within the following status groups: members of the rectorate, full professors, and university management professionals. The coding procedure followed a directed content analysis.

Findings

Both forms of governance are required for the management of double-loop learning. In the case of a top-down instigation of organizational learning, transformational governance is especially required in terms of idealized influence and inspirational motivation. In the case of a more bottom-up trigger of organizational learning, intellectual stimulation becomes more important. Transactional governance is required for the university-wide implementation of new routines (e.g. a mandatory quality management tool, obligatory coaching for newly appointed professors or competitive teaching grants).

Originality/value

This paper contributes to the empirical research on organizational learning in higher education institutions by adding a governance perspective.

Keywords

Citation

Lauer, S. and Wilkesmann, U. (2017), "The governance of organizational learning: Empirical evidence from best-practice universities in Germany", The Learning Organization, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 266-277. https://doi.org/10.1108/TLO-02-2017-0012

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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