Making A Learning Community
Note: Although this paper proposes a theoretical model for
Kappa Omicron Nu as a learning community, application can
be made to any organization or institution.)
heralds a natural enhancement of the impressive history of
Kappa Omicron Nu and its forebears: Kappa Omicron Phi and
Omicron Nu. In this year of 1999 it is right and proper to
chart a course for the new millennium. During this past year
Kappa Omicron Nu sought input from its ownership and stakeholders.
A survey of active and inactive members and a survey of higher
education stakeholders provided insights regarding needs and
goals. Kappa Omicron Nu as a learning community is gaining
of the sub-title of this paper was chosen carefully.
implies an ever-changing, fluid, and dynamic state that
can undergo reconfiguration with new information, energy,
connotes ongoing action and perpetual curiosityengagement
and growing. The learning paradigm rather than the instruction
paradigm gives primacy to the learner and learning outcomes
over the teacher and instruction. This paradigm also extends
learning beyond the classroom and builds on students
interests, critical thinking, and problem solving skills
as the goal in undergraduate higher education. In addition
it strengthens the universitys focus on community
outreach and builds partnerships or bridges that assist
in solving societys problems (Mitstifer &
Miller, 1999, p. 16). The emphasis on learning also recognizes
that knowledge is gaining in economic value (Davis
& Botkin, 1994).
implies a group linked by common interests.
a Learning Community explores the development of people
who have learned how to learn and that of organizational systems
with the capacity for collective learning.
to DuFour & Eaker (1998), a learning community requires
a willingness to learn from its external environment,
and it is this willingness that most . . . [organizations]
have not demonstrated (p. xiv). Kappa Omicron Nu will
need to use insights from other organizations to struggle
with the following questions:
we clarify and communicate the mission and values of Kappa
we initiate, implement, and sustain a change process?
we provide strong leadership while we empower chapters
and those closest to the action?
we shape the Kappa Omicron culture and provide structures
that support the culture we seek?
we create collaborative processes that result in both
individual and organizational learning?
we foster an environment that is results-oriented yet
encourages experimentation and alternative paradigms?
(adapted from DuFour & Eaker, 1998, p. xiv)
of changing honor societies is a daunting one. The traditional
culture of honor societies on campus conveys little
beyond recognition activities. This culture has the effect
of making it incredibly difficult to change honor societies.
Although there have long been higher expectations at the national
leadership level of Kappa Omicron Nu, there has been little
impact on the institution. It is therefore incumbent upon
Kappa Omicron Nu to form collaborative partnerships with academic
units if it is to increase learning outcomes.
to the challenge and complexity of change efforts, lack of
clarity of intended results undoubtedly played a role in the
difference in expectations at the highest levels and reality
at the grassroots chapter level. Instead of the Kappa Omicron
Nu focus on content and processes, a new effort needs to generate
consensus on and articulate intended results. Senge et al.
(1994) refers to learning communities as deep learning
cycles. By this he means that the essence of members
and the community itself are changed in terms of awareness
and sensibilities, skills and capabilities, and attitudes
and beliefs. Results are achieved in the milieu of trust,
relationships, acceptance, and synergy.
the means of activating the deep learning cycle in his earlier
work: Today, I believe, five new component technologies
are gradually converging to innovate learning organizations.
Though developed separately, each will, I believe, prove critical
to the others success, just as occurs with any ensemble.
Each provides a vital dimension in building organizations
that can truly learn, that can continually enhance
their capacity to realize their highest aspirations
(1990, p. 6). Senge called them five basic learning disciplinesdevelopmental
paths for acquiring certain skills or competencies:
thinking - a conceptual framework for making full patterns
clear and for helping to see the whole.
mastery - the ability to clarify and deepen vision, focus
energies, and gain proficiencycontinual growth.
models - the internal pictures that influence how the world
is understood and how action is taken.
shared vision - shared goals, values, and missions bind
people together around a common identity and sense of destiny
- team learning starts with dialogue,
the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions
and enter into a genuine thinking together
five disciplines develop as an ensemble, three key ideas,
according to Senge et al. (1944), characterize learning communities.
First, relationships are more fundamental than things. The
community as a living system, a pattern of interactions, demonstrates
the primacy of the whole. Second, individuals
embody community in their nature. Human nature is not independent
of culture; the community nature of self prevents isolation,
loneliness, and loss of sense of place. The ubuntu
culture holds that the sense of self is found in "being
in relationship" to other people. This notion reinforces
the idea that individuals become more fully human in community.
Third, the power of language lies in its generative nature.
Instead of language describing an independent reality, its
power stems from its ability to help us interpret our experience
in a myriad of ways so that out of multiple interpretations
comes those that are most useful for the particular purpose.
in the new millennium will be characterized by unending transitions.
Kappa Omicron Nu has the opportunity to build upon its past
by using the wisdom of its members and stakeholders to move
toward the vision of a learning community. Although it would
be comfortable to have a map to the future, the insight of
Stacey (1992) should be heeded. Route and destination
must be discovered through the journey itself if you wish
to travel to new lands. The key to success lies in the creative
activity of making new maps, not in the imitative following
and refining of existing ones (p. 1).
map must expect uncharted waters, the unknowable. An innovative
organization must create, invent, and discover the destination
as it goes. Instead of a chief, teams need to question everything
and generate new perspectives. Rather than building on strengths,
they must develop new strengths and create their own environments.
(Mitstifer & Miller, 1999, p. 7)
they must develop their navigational principles, draw their
maps, as they go along. To do this, they must drop the stable
equilibrium mind-set and develop a new one that recognizes
the positive role of instability and the fact that long-term
futures are unknowable. (Stacey, 1992, p. 4)
question the legitimacy of exploring a learning community
because it might seem to imply that learning has not been
the objective. Thats not the case, but the challenge
is to institutionalize learningi.e., to define and build
the community capabilities and structures such as culture,
processes, systems, and skills (Hutchens, 1998). . .
. learning is a journey. It is not a skill or a technique;
it is a discipline. Its a way of looking at the world.
It is about growth and discovery (p. 61). Through the
learning community system, each individuals vital
force and the collective force are enhanced.
When learning is aligned and deliberate, Kappa Omicron Nu
can surpass our fondest expectations. Thus, the development
of a learning culture should become our highest priority.
MacKenzie (1996) warns about developing a model out of successful
It is common
history of enterprises to begin in a state of na´ve groping,
stumble onto success, milk the success with a vengeance
and, in the process, generate systems that arrogantly turn
away from the source of their original success: groping.
If an organization
is to choose vigor over an ultimate state of inert
uniformity, it must honor and support both the rational
exploitation of success and nonrational art of groping.
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