Senge, P., Cambron-McCabe, N., Lucas, T., Smith, B., Dutton, J., & Kleiner, A. (2012). Schools that learn: A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents, and everyone who cares about education (Rev. ed.) (pp. 61-68). New York, NY: Random House/Crown Business.
Peter Senge, a senior lecturer in Leadership and Sustainability at the MIT Sloan School of Management (Senge, 2015), is the principle author of “Schools that Learn”; an award winning book that augments his seminal work, “The Fifth Discipline” on learning organizations and management (Senge, 2006, 2015). Senge, along with five contributing authors, provides a resource for people who work with and within schools. The fieldbook offers tangible methods, tools, and practical real-life stories aimed at helping people develop learning capabilities within their own institutions. Senge organizes the volume into four separate divisions creating a cohesive flare to the anthology. The divisions are: “Getting Started”, the “Classroom”, the “School”, and the “Community”; each section can stand on its own; but the reader would benefit most from assimilating it in its entirety, albeit one section at a time.
Information about Critical Thinking
One subsection under “Getting Started” is The School as a Living System (pp. 61-68). In the critical thinking vein of Paul and Elder (2009), the main purpose of this chapter is to show that schools are living things as compared to static machines. Senge starts with the key question, “What is this revolutionary living systems view all about?” (p. 62). He sets out to demonstrate that the nature of reality is similar to the process of autopoiesis suggesting that a living system can reproduce and sustain itself, unlike a machine that was created by someone or something. The organization known as ‘school’ is a living system because it is made up of living things – teachers, administrators, parents, students, and so forth. Just as human behavior is not predictable or controllable; the learning organization replicates the same characteristics. Humans and learning organizations can be influenced, but they are not fixed; both are able to create themselves or change and/or improve.
School as a Living System
Utilizing the tangible example of machinery versus humanness, Senge reveals that a learning organization is always evolving. Offering timely anecdotal and practical examples, Senge outlines the impact of adopting an “appreciation of the value of living systems rather than machines” (p. 63) in a vision for a school. He further theorizes that this mind-set would ultimately “assist, not supplant, [the] natural learning process” (p. 68) of the institution known as school. Moreover, Senge maintains that since each teacher is part of the system, the natural instinct is to inquire more deeply and ask further varying questions.
Connection to Capstone
Chapters in this section, as well as other sections of the text, could easily be included as a resource for an Action Research study as it allows the researcher to inquire more deeply. Additionally, it provides a framework that facilitates critical thinking about the researcher’s own institution and how she can brainstorm with other stakeholders, and then as a collaborative team impact the organization. Furthermore, utilizing the resource and its examples may also help the Action Scientist and her team begin to realize the true motivations in regards to their school and subsequently use the precepts as a starting point for improved change. Thus, a dissertation capstone, that creates conditions within an action study can cause meaningful and real learning and echo some of the tenants within Senge’s text; “making the school environment about learning for everyone concerned” (p. 65).
Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2009). The miniature guide to critical thinking: Concepts and tools (6th ed.). Tomales, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking. ISBN: 9780944583104.
Senge, P.M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday.
Senge, P.M. (2015). Faculty biography. MIT Sloan school of management. Retrieved from https://mitsloan.mit.edu/faculty/detail.php?in_spseqno=41415.