Book By: Adrianna Kezar
Review By: Jeffrey McClellan
Career and Academic Counseling
Utah Valley State College

Kezar maintains that although “the learning organization has been one of the most written about topics in organizational studies… higher education institutions have been less likely to apply these concepts to their organizational functioning” (p. 1). This may partially result from limited integration of these concepts into the literature of organizational theory in higher education. Fortunately, this book contains a series of articles that bridge the gap between the theory and practice of organizational learning and its application to higher education. Unfortunately, advisors and administrators seeking practical ideas may find many of these articles overly theoretical; however some are more application oriented and thus may contribute to the improvement of advisement in institutions of higher education. 

The first article provides an excellent historical summary of the theory of organizational learning and what the author considers the faddish notion of learning organizations. The fourth article challenges the narrow conceptualization of organizational learning, arguing that it should be expanded to include concepts such as multiple intelligences, creativity, intuition, and emotions. The fifth article addresses knowledge management within higher education. These articles are highly theoretical and thus have limited practical utility for advisors and advising administrators. 

The second, third, eighth, and ninth articles describe how organizational learning theory can be applied to committee work, partnerships with external entities, and diversity initiatives focused on improving institutional effectiveness. These articles provide valuable insights for administrators and advisors who engage in these activities. 

The sixth and seventh articles describe how various institutions have applied the concepts of organizational learning to facilitate change. Specific suggestions for applying these concepts are addressed which may provide guidance to divisional leaders regarding how to engage in organizational learning within their respective divisions. 

While this book greatly contributes to the theoretical merger of organizational learning with institutional development in higher education, it’s largely theoretical approach limits its practical utility for advisors not already familiar with the literature in this field. For those wishing to enter the field at a more practical level, Senge’s Fifth Discipline (1990) provides a good, foundational introduction to the basic concepts of learning organizations. For those who really wish to learn more about applying these concepts, Senge, et. al.’s Schools that Learn (2000) may prove useful, although it is more geared to teaching and administering, rather than advising, at the K-12 level. Other books and articles that address the notion of organizational/societal learning and knowledge management in higher education, at a broader level, include O’Banion (1997), Sallis and Jones (2002) and The Dearing Report (1998).

O'Banion, T. (1997). A learning college for the 21st century. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press.
Sallis, E., & Jones, G. (2002). Knowledge management in education: Enhancing learning & education. London: Kogan Page.
Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday/Currency.
Senge, P. M. (2000). Schools that learn: A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents, and everyone who cares about education (1st ed.). New York: Doubleday.
The Dearing Report. (1998). Higher education in the learning society. In S. Ranson (Ed.), Inside the learning society (pp. 170-176). London: Cassell.

Organizational Learning in Higher Education. (2005). Book By: Adrianna Kezar, (Editor). Review By: Jeffrey McClellan.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 136 pp. $29.00. ISBN # 0-7879-8265-2

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