Schechter, C., & Feldman, N. (2010). Exploring organizational learning mechanisms in special education. Journal of Educational Administration, 48(4), 490-516.

 Phase 1: Introduction – The interview concerns the notion of organizational learning, which is how schools learn from their own and others’ experiences and the characteristics that foster or hinder productive learning.

* Explaining the importance of the interview and initiating rapport with the interviewee.

 Phase 2: Background information – Please describe the goals, working methods, and social atmosphere in the school.

* Gaining information about school life and easing interviewee into a mindset of reflecting on his/her work in school.

 Phase 3: Organizational learning – Individual learning becomes organizational learning when teachers/administrators learn and share learning with their colleagues (e.g. grade-level meetings). Do such processes occur in your school? Which processes in the school enable collective learning among staff members? Please explain and provide examples. Which of these collective processes are most commonly used? Specify their frequency. Who leads each learning process? Who participates?

* Introducing the notion of organizational learning and inquiring into the existence of OLMs, with limited use of theoretical terms (minimizing jargon and abstract terminology).

* Using follow-up questions/prompts to obtain detailed and concrete data about processes of sharing information with others, their importance, participants, and formalization.

Phase 4: OLMs – Describe to the interviewee the five phases of the information processing cycle (below) and ask for specific examples for each (in turn) in the school. Use prompts if desired by asking the interviewee to respond to the following descriptors:

  1. Collecting-Acquiring: Staff members receive professional and pedagogical reference materials.
  2. Analyzing-Interpreting: Staff members work together to plan educational activities; Discussion groups meet to deliberate on professional issues; Staff meetings are held to discuss school goals.
  3. Disseminating-Distributing: Evaluation reports on school programs/projects are circulated; Reports about professional changes and innovations are circulated.
  4. Storing: There is a resource room where achievement reports, procedures, pedagogical material, and the like are stored; Each curriculum/project has an updated instructional file.
  5. Retrieving and Putting to Use: Staff meetings make use of summary reports of previous meetings; Previous reports about learning and teaching are used for evaluative purposes.

* Looking for additional concrete evidence of OLMs, with emphasis on each phase in the information processing cycle. As the phases of information processing are cyclical, interactive, and interrelated, the interviewee is asked to indicate which phase (e.g. analyzing-interpreting) in the information processing cycle is at the center of each OLM already identified.

 Phase 5: OLMs’ effectiveness – Inquire into the objectives of each learning activity-structure (OLMs) identified so far, its importance, output, contribution to teachers’ professional development and student achievements, and the extent to which objectives and improvements are achieved (and why). Ask: Are the learning processes described productive? What needs to be changed in the learning process? Do these structures contribute to teachers’ professional development-knowledge and student achievements? Please explain and provide examples.

* Testing for productive learning and implicitly for hindering and facilitating factors.

Phase 6: Culture – Explain the concept of learning culture-values (continuous learning/inquiry, valid information/integrity, transparency, issue-orientation, accountability) and ask about the extent to which these learning values apply to the culture of each OLM described above. Ask: Do staff members feel sufficiently comfortable to openly report their difficulties and unsuccessful practices? Can each staff member share his/her thoughts and have an impact on the learning process regardless of status and/or seniority? Do staff members feel safe to expose their practices as a means of receiving authentic and valid feedback? Do staff members feel accountable for collective learning from their practices (failures, successes) and for implementing that learning in classroom practices?

* Testing explicitly for the existence of learning culture/values.

a Covering all learning mechanisms repeatedly in Phases 3-6 may be tedious; therefore, each OLM can be addressed separately for all its interview phases, before continuing to the next learning mechanism.

Figure 1: Integrating the structural and cultural facets of OL (adapted from Lipshitz & Popper, 2000)

Integrating the structural and cultural facets of OL