32 SES 03 A, Organizational Learning in Health Care Networks and Inclusive Companies
This paper is about the educational potentials of an organizational learning practice that explores doubt in uncertain situations through co-creative inquiry. Drawing on pragmatic philosophy (Dewey, 1916, 1922, 1934), the paper relates to human beings as constituted by their transactional relations to the environment (Dewey & Bentley, 1949), and to organizations as functioning in and through interactions of human beings, work tasks, practices and experiences (Elkjaer & Huysman, 2008). Situated in this transactional standpoint, the paper will contribute to the idea of organizations as educational fields, as called for to the ECER 2021 by NW 32, Organizational Education. To the agenda of the conference, the paper contributes with perspectives of how can we retain our hopes in educational practices in organizations as a means to build up capacity to reflect and handle tensions and uncertainty caused by ambiguous and contractionary demands and prescription in daily work. With a purpose of designing “education that works,” scholars have been preoccupied with bridging educational settings and work practices in organizations for many decades (e.g. Thomas, 2007; Illeris, 2009; Wahlgren, 2013; Elkjaer & Simpson, 2011). Meanwhile, the transactional perspective on education recognizes as triggers for learning “the epistemic uncertainty of human action” (Farjoun et.al, 2015, p. 1789) and the “tension, competition, negotiation and exchange” caused by interactions (Elkjaer & Huysman, 2008, p. 173). The paper will from a real-life experiment explore experiences of “uncertainty” and “doubt” in human actions and show how uncertainty can evolve from a seemingly individual feeling of insecurity to a joint experience of doubt embedded in and triggered by specific situations. When sharing doubt, the paper argues, uncertainty is emerging as characteristic of a complex situation, not as merely intra-personal conditions. In these situations of work, professionals often experience that “ready-made” prescriptions and injunctions cannot serve as adequate answers to what is called for in the situation. In fact, prescriptions might cause tensions and leave the professionals in doubt of what to prioritize; the call of the prescription or the call of the situation. The paper argues that in order to know more about these situations and of how to deal with them, we need to venture out in a quest for the uncertainty in co-creative inquiry. The quest for uncertainty as material for organizational learning practices, the paper concludes, will reconnect the individual and the community in a professional inquiry of the uncertainty emerging when dealing with the complexity of the work tasks. A question to explore, as this paper shows, is how to practice co-creational inquiry and how to deal with vulnerability and ethics of uncertainty. From real-life experiments with a group of co-explorers practicing co-creative inquiry of uncertain situations, this paper explores the experiences of having to deal with doubt, vulnerability and ethics of uncertainty as appearing in micro-processes of joint inquiry.
The paper draws on a PhD project exploring learning across organizational boundaries in the field of community elderly care practice at nursing homes and related vocational education at a social and health care college in Denmark. The involved educational and organizational practices serve as the background for exploring caring, working and learning intertwined as learning practices of ‘collective knowledgeable doings’ (Gherardi & Rodeschini, 2016). Shadowing (Buchan & Simpson, 2020) the work day at nursing homes and at the college, as it went by for trainees, supervisors, care workers, managers, teachers, and consultants, allowed the researcher to engage in daily work practices observing the learning and educational processes in work. Shadowing as well made possible for the researcher to ask questions, share impressions and participate with the professionals in “in-the moment interpretations” (Buchan & Simpson, 2020, p. 10). Presenting real-life experiments, the paper considers the DesignWorkshop, established as a laboratory for practicing and studying co-creational inquiry of practice. The DesignWorkshop involves actors from the elderly care service, the social and health care college, and the university as partners in a joint knowledge creation. The joint inquiry seeks to practice an aesthetic attitude of abduction (Anderson, 2005), where situations and ideas are shared, experienced, seen, felt, and undertaken by the participants through observation, imagination, and receptivity, termed “dramatic rehearsals” (Dewey, 1922, p. 75). A wider type of emotional, sensual and response data is considered “transgressive data” (St. Pierre, 1997) identified as “stumble data” (Brinkmann, 2014) where the co-explorers “stumble” into something in situations that triggers an impulse and engages abductive reasoning, and thus ignites a learning process. With a narrative, the paper offers a glimpse from within the DesignWorkshop, of a situation where a trainee talks about a troubling situation from her time of internship in a nursing home. The narrative and analysis offer an up-close perspective of what happens as the group starts exploring the situation. It reveals an incident, where I, as researcher breaks with traditional qualitative research methods by revealing my impressions and preliminary analysis of what is going on. This method can be understood in line with Fine’s (1994) argue for revealing more of the researcher’s practice, Shotter’s (1996) claim of researcher’s withness and Van Maanen’s impressionist tales (1988).
When practicing co-creative inquiry, the study finds a challenge for the involved actors to acknowledge experienced uncertainty as a subject for joint inquiry. The tendency is to keep to oneself the sense of insecurity, and not to reveal to must of one’s experiences. When sharing however, it comes clear that the uncertainty experienced does not reside inside the individual or emerge as a consequence of merely intra-personal conditions. Uncertainty is a common and joint feeling. Listening to other people talking about their experiences of uncertain situations assists building an understanding and recognition of one’s own experiences. The listeners recognize the uncertainty of the situation, and experience their own stories more acknowledged and manageable just by assisting the exploration of one another’s stories. When sharing, self-judgements of being wrong, inadequate or incompetent, and feelings of solitude, seems to be reduced. Being involved in exploring doubt makes possible to experience that you are not alone in experiencing this kind of doubt, nor are you alone in finding suitable solution to a situation. Sharing triggers an urge to take care of the situation as if it were one’s own, initiating expectations of hope. By sharing experienced doubt, organizations can reduce privacy, solitude and ignite the development of a joint capacity to deal with the uncertainty in work, as educational practices for workplace learning. Sharing experiences about uncertain situations from a sensed, sensible and seemingly vulnerable point of view is required for the stories to resonate, however, it seems the hardest task to accomplish. It takes time, trust and practice to build up this kind of organizational learning practice. The experiments of practicing co-creative inquiry show that dealing with relations of power and with ethical considerations is inevitable.
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