Social capital, REACT, Trust – misc resources

This post is going to be a holding place for a range of resources that will be connected with my fuzzy thoughts around how to establish greater trust and reciprocity (maybe social capital) amongst academics and the staff who support them in developing their teaching.

Whitworth A (2005). The politics of virtual learning environments: environmental change, conflict and e-learning. British Journal of Educational Technology. 36(4): 685-691

Tacit knowledge/CoP from Weigel, 2005

If higher education is about anything, it must be about the furtherance of knowledge and wisdom, and this requires going beyond the limitations of what Michael Polyani (1966) calls “explicit knowledgeâ€?—knowledge that can be readily codified and shared with others—and venturing into the realm of “tacit knowledge,â€? or knowledge that is inherently bound to the experiences, skills, and judgment of a person. Explicit knowledge can be organized in a database or set forth in a document; tacit knowledge must be teased out in the exercise of skills, problem solving, or judgments of an associational or critical nature. Tacit knowledge is mined through conversation, not computers; it is inherently “messy,â€? requiring dialogue, observation, or storytelling to be shared with others (Davenport & Prusak, 1998, pp. 81ff.). It is not insignificant that when the World Bank undertook a major KM initiative, it began by setting up help desks and discussion groups that focused on sharing best practices, instead of attempting to catalog them in a large database (O’Dell & Grayson, 1998). Moreover, tacit knowledge, because it integrates experience with judgment, has the capability to generate new knowledge.

Social capital – outcome and aim

The following comes from ‘Lessons for Education: Creating a Learning System’ (Hargreaves, 2000). It talks about social capital and the role it might play in innovations in higher education.

In particular, I believe it has connections with the work on Webfuse and my thesis/ISDT (Jones and Gregor, 2006). Evidence for this is the following quote from a CQU staff member.

my positive experience with other Infocom systems gives me confidence that OASIS would be no different. The systems team have a very good track record that inspires confidence

To me it demonstrates that the design theory behind Webfuse and how it was implemented encourages the generation of social capital for the support team. This better enables it to do its job.

Potentially, this has connections with the aim of groups seeking to support academics achieve their goals, particularly around learning and teaching.

Social capital has been a growing concept over recent years. It can be defined as having two aspects

  1. Social – connections to other persons or organisations. High social capital implies you are embedded in networks
  2. Cultural – norms of reciprocity, mutual obligation and trust between people or groups

Trust plays a large part in increasing both these aspects. Trust encourages co-operation which encourages sharing and exchange of knowledge capital.

High levels of social capital within and between organisations thus supports
the kinds of exchange that characterise the process of knowledge creation
as described in the Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) model or the
transactions of knowledge transfer by people and organisations in networks.

Recent studies indicate that, as the above conceptual scheme would
suggest, high levels of social capital in companies are associated with high
levels of performance and successful innovation. This is argued at the theoretical
and anecdotal level, as well as the empirical level, and for social
capital operationalised and measured as trust or as networking (Burt, 1992;
Sako, 1992; Fukuyama, 1995; Kramer and Tyler, 1996; Shaw, 1997; Pennings,
Lee and van Witteloostuijn, 1998; Tsai and Ghoshal, 1998; Fountain, 1998).

There’s a web page that talks briefly about one approach to measuring social capital in a community.


David Hargreaves (2000). Lessons for Education: Creating a Learning System. Knowledge Management in the Learning Society. Paris, France, Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, OECD: 66-96

David Jones, Shirley Gregor, The formulation of an ISDT for e-learning, Paper presented at the 1st International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology

Adoption of innovations and the “not invented here” syndrome

A lot of educational innovations are reported to be prevented/plagued with the “not invented here” syndrome that prevents adoption. One perspective on this is that this is blame allocation by the producer of the innovator. i.e. it’s not my fault, but the fault of those recalcitrant adopters, they are rejecting my idea because of sheer bloody-mindedness.

Going through the book Knowledge Management in the Learning Society reveals (around pp 77) another potential explanation. An explanation that highlights all sorts of interesting lines of investigation.

A study in industry of 122 transfers of 38 practices in 60 companies by Szulanski (1996) is quoted as finding that “stickiness of new knowledge” is not prevented by conventional attributed causes including lack of motivation and resistance (“not invented here” syndrome).

Instead it finds that the three top preventative factors were

  1. Lack of pre-existing knowledge in the recipient suitable for assimilation of the new knowledge
  2. Ambiguity about what causes the new good practice to “work”.
  3. Difficulty of communication between the originator of the good practice and the recipient

This section finishes with a quote

As Szulanski suggests, unsuccessful transfer may occur “less because
organisations do not want to learn but rather because they do not know how
too”?. Were these findings to apply to educational organisations, there are profound
lessons for school improvers and reformers.

My lessons

  • That the REACT process may be a good way of enabling this.
  • I wonder if the radical change that some applications of ICT promise for higher education means that the organisational structures/services etc provided to support ICT are inappropriate – are missing some knowledge.

Misc other comments

Carmel McNaught, Supporting the Global e-Teacher, International Journal of Training and Development, 7(4), pp287-?

References a national study out of Australia, “was an investigation into the factors supporting the adoption of e-learning at Australian universities, used a multi-method approach, employing online surveys of institutional practice (28 out of 38 Australian Universities); a literature survey; and a case study of 5 universities”.

Three major themes emerged: policy, culture and support.

Culture incorporated factors such as collaboration within institutions, and personal motiviation of staff to use elearnign approaches, as well as particular aspects of funding, staff rewards and time, leadership, teaching and learning models and attitudes such as ‘not invented here’

References to chase

HIPPEL, E. von (1987), “Cooperation between rivals: Informal know-how trading”?, Research Policy, Vol. 16(6), pp. 291-302.

HIPPEL, E. von (1994), “Sticky information’ and the locus of problem-solving: Implications for innovation”?, Management Science, Vol. 40(4), pp. 429-439.

SZULANSKI, G. (1996), “Exploring internal stickiness: Impediments to the transfer of best practice within the firm”?, Strategic Management Review, Vol. 17(1), pp. 27-43.

Underpinnings for the REACT approach

Knowledge Management in the Learning Society is a book from the OECD that examines the issues in and around education due to the changes in society – the learning society.

On skimming through it there is a great deal that could be used to provide some theoretical underpinning for the REACT approach to staff development around learning and teaching

  • …the transformation of schools requires that teachers become more collaborative… p74
  • ..which requires a pedagogical transformation that has to be driven by collaborative professional effort rather than by pure research…p74
  • …not easy given their numbers, but networking could be a key element…p74
  • …by recognising existing networks, strengthening them and using them more systematically…p75
  • …transferring knowledge ….requires not just receiving knowledge but transformation and application to the personal situation…p75
  • …university education focuses on the acquisition of formal, explicit and codified knowledge in special segregated places arising out of formal programs taught be a pedogagicla expert — apprenticeship learning takes a very different form. Engineers and Doctors have used the apprenticeship model – but not teaching…theory of situated learning (Lave and Wegner)…p83…..REACT is essentially a CoP/apprenticeship model

…and many more.

This approach not merely rehabilitates the importance of apprenticeship
as a sophisticated form of teaching and learning, but potentially offers a better theoretical basis for many types of learning, especially informal and
incidental learning, which will characterise lifelong learning in knowledge economies
(Fuller and Unwin, 1998; Guile and Young, 1998).

Mao’s “four pests” campaign – problems with herding cats

The BBC has an article touching on Mao’s “four pests” campaign. A perfect example of the difficulty of top-down design and the unexpected consequence that arise from limited overall knowledge of a system.

In the 1950s China is seen to have four big evils – rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows.

The method for dealing with sparrows was

  • Send out the millions of villagers.
  • Get them to make noise to scare the sparrows so they take to the air and stay there.
  • Eventually the sparrows die from exhaustion

It worked. Lots of sparrows died.

The problem is that the sparrows are necessary to eat locusts. Without the sparrows, there is a plague of locusts and millions of people die.

A link with connectivism

Mao simply didn’t know the system well enough. Couldn’t see the unexpected consequences.

Was there anyone in the Chinese system, at that time, who could? I wonder if somewhere there were peasants with long term connections with agriculture that had this knowledge. Perhaps a biologist.

This sounds to me as an example of connectivism.

From the connectivism article

Realizing that complete knowledge cannot exist in the mind of one person requires a different approach to creating an overview of the situation. Diverse teams of varying viewpoints are a critical structure for completely exploring ideas.

Herding cats

EDS created a “cat herders” commercial for the 2000 Superbowl.

The phrase herding cats is often used to characterise the problems associated with implementing change and innovation within organisations, especially higher education.

The above is one example of why I think this metaphor is broken. Hopefully, I can expand on this and generate some useful publications, and more importantly some insight to help at work.