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Development of a multi-level learning framework

Kate V. Morland (University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Dermot Breslin (University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Fionn Stevenson (University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 28 November 2018

Issue publication date: 8 February 2019




This paper aims to examine multiple learning cycles across a UK housebuilder organization following changes made to their quality management routine at the organizational level, through to subsequent understanding and enactment at the level of the individuals involved.


This study uses a qualitative case study methodology based on an analysis of six-weeks of participant observation, semi-structured ethnographic interviews and documentation within three of the organization’s regional offices. Through an abductive process, it draws on gathered data and extant literature to develop a multi-level learning model.


Four levels of learning cycles are observed within the model: individual, team (within which inter-organizational relationships nest), region and organization. Three inter-related factors are identified as influencing feed-forward and feedback across the levels: time, communication and trust. The impact of these levels and factors on the process of learning is conceptualized through the metaphor of coupling and decoupling and discussed using examples from housing development projects.


While previous models of organizational learning highlight important multi-level interaction effects, they do not explore how the different levels of learning synchronize over time for learning to move between them. This paper addresses this gap by shedding important light on how layers of learning synchronize and why and when this can occur within multi-level organizations.



Morland, K.V., Breslin, D. and Stevenson, F. (2019), "Development of a multi-level learning framework", The Learning Organization, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 78-96.



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