Organization Development

Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Organization Development (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



John Conbere; Alla Heorhiadi; Eleni Roulis


Organization learning has been included in the strategic plans of many organizations. These organizations typically take a prescriptive approach, seeking to emulate the “best practices” programs of identified learning organizations. Yet, the programming is typically task-oriented, often ignoring the human, socio-cognitive element that is central to the organization. As a result, the root process for how organizations learn remains unclear. Building upon Chris Argyris’ theory and integrating the role of culture and the work of notable authors such as Parker Palmer, Albert Bandura, and Edgar Schein, a socio-cognitive systems learning model was developed to explain organization learning. The model illustrates contrasting socio-cognitive processes: Model I and Model II. Model I is driven by self-oriented values that are veiled by paying lip service to espoused values that reflect cultural ideals. The self-oriented values produce divisive behaviors that result in dysfunctional outcomes, a vicious cycle perpetuated by single-loop learning. In contrast, Model II is driven by wholeness-oriented values, centered upon the desire to understand one’s true self and to understand others. The values shape behaviors and wholeness-oriented outcomes through double-loop learning, promoting transparency by testing assumptions. The Model II process illustrated in the socio-cognitive systems learning model was the focus of this embedded single-case study. The study found that Model I traps had crept into the Model II learning organization, creating growing dissonance that erupted in crisis. Staff members were faced with the choice to succumb to the Model I traps or to pursue productive learning and change through Model II. Recommendations are provided for future research to further test the socio-cognitive systems learning model and explain the culture of learning organizations.


learning organization, organization culture, transformative learning, socio-cognitive systems learning model, Argyris, positivistic case study

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.