Macquarie University
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Critical action research: exploring organisational learning and sustainability in a Kenyan context

posted on 2022-03-28, 18:55 authored by Abel Barasa Atiti
The main goal of this study was to deepen an understanding of exploring organisational learning and sustainability using critical action research methodology in a Kenyan context. The research process invloved a group of 23 middle level management emplyees of the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) in identifying and acting on sustainability issues. This group was designed and cultivated as a community of practice for organisational learning purposes. The basic premise underlying the study is that exploring agential, structural and cultural interactions (morphogenetic relationships) through educational interventions (communicative interactions) in a community of practice can deepen context specific understanding of organisational learning and sustainability. I developed this argument by drawing on a complex philosophical framework that brought together assumptions from Archerian social realism, Deweyan pragmatism and critical theory. The framework underpinned three distinct and yet related theoretical perspectives - the Archerian morphogenetic approach. Habermasian critical theory and Lave and Wenger's communities of practice. The Archerian morphogenetic approach and Habermasian critical theory respectively provided ontological and epistemological perspectives for the study. Lave and Wenger's communities of practice approach provided both a unit of analysis (the NMK community) and a social theory of learning to complement the Archerian and Habermasian theoretical perspectives. -- I generated data within a 14-month period between March 2005 and March 2007 in three distinct but integrally intertwined broad action research cycles of inquiry. During the first cycle, the research group identified contextual issues related to organisational learning and sustainability. In the second cycle the group investigated the issues deeper and deliberated possibilities for social change and the emergence of sustainability. The final cycle delineated social learning outcomes from the study and explored ways of institutionalising social change processes. Throughout these cycles, I explored ways of knowing the social reality of enabling organisational learning and sustainability. The cycles were integral to communicative interactions, which I implemented as educational interventions for developing agency in the NMK community of practice. Data analysis was undertaken within cyclical processes of entering and managing data, manual coding and developing categories, identifying themes, presenting results and validating findings. -- Undertaking a collaborative critical organisational analysis of the NMK revealed various contextual factors that both constrained and enabled participant learning capabilities and reflexivity to address sustainability issues. These factors manifested as contextually mediated issues of communication and information flows, decision making and leadership (governance), staff motivation and development, financial management and identity and role of the NMK. The research process promoted collective social action and innovation, forstered critical reflections and reflexivity, enhanced democratic deliberations and strengthened systemic thinking capabilities in the NMK community of practice. This study contributes to the body of literature on environmental education in its employment of a coherent and complex philosophical and thoretical framework for exploring organisational learning and sustainability.


Alternative Title

Exploring organisational learning and sustainability in a Kenyan context

Table of Contents

Part 1: Introduction and contextual influences chapter 1: Getting a sense of the research terrain chapter 2: Shaping contextual influences -- Part 2: Theoretical foundations of the study chapter 3: Understanding organisational change chapter 4: Exploring organisational learning and sustainability as social learning processes -- Part 3: Methodology and research processes chapter 5: Critical action research methodology chapter 6: Research design and processes -- Part 4: Contextual issues and social learning outcomes chapter 7: Critical organisational analysis of the NMK chapter 8: Deliberating and exploring possibilities for change -- Part 5: Discussion of findings chapter 9: Ontological, epistemological and pedagogical implications of the study chapter 10: Reflections, contributions and recommendations -- References.


Bibliography: p. 370-395

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Division of Environmental and Life Science, Dept. of Graduate School of the Environment

Department, Centre or School

Graduate School of the Environment

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Anne Burns


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Abel Barasa Atiti 2008.






xvi, 419 p. ill. (some col.)

Former Identifiers

mq:3821 1289345