Organisational learning in the “knots”: Discursive capacities emerging in a school-university collaboration


Fenwick T (2007) Organisational learning in the “knots”: Discursive capacities emerging in a school-university collaboration. Journal of Educational Administration, 45 (2), pp. 138-153.

Purpose: Drawing from findings of a case study of inter-organisational collaboration, this paper employs organizational theory to examine the potential learning that opens between educational organisations. The focus is discursive practices. Two questions guide the analysis: What (unique) practices are implicated in the ‘knotworking’ of inter-organisational collaboration? What knowledge and capacities are learned in these discursive practices? Methodology/Approach: A case study was conducted of a collaboration between a university unit, school district, elementary school and parent executive board to govern a laboratory school. Documents were examined and seventeen interviews conducted and analysed inductively. Document analysis and second stage transcript analysis employed methods of discourse analysis. Findings: The case analysis suggests that collaborations open unique sites for organizational learning. Actors (teachers, administrators, parents) engage with various discourses in the ‘knots’ of inter-organisational networks. Those who thrive in the ‘knot’ of collaboration learn how to be flexibly attuned to shifting elements that emerge in negotiations. Further, these actors appear to develop capacities of mapping, translating, rearticulating, and spanning boundaries among the diverse positions of organizations. Research limitations: The case study is limited in scope in order to allow in-depth discourse analysis of the data. Originality/value of paper: The combination of theories employed here – a practice-based organizational learning theory called ‘knotworking’ and critical organizational discourse analysis - is unique in educational administration research. It is argued that together, these theories provide a useful analytic approach for administrators wanting to understand and work through the cultural and political complexities of inter-organizational collaborations.

inter-organisational collaboration; knotworking; university-school partnerships; Experiential learning; Sustainable development; Employees Training of

Journal of Educational Administration: Volume 45, Issue 2

Publication date31/12/2007