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Organizational Development and Its Implications for Adult Basic Education Programs

Volume 2: Chapter Seven
Marcia Drew Hohn

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In this chapter, Marcia Drew Hohn provides an overview of organizational development theory for adult educators interested in applying the lessons of such theory to the strengthening of ABE programs and systems. She begins the chapter with a brief history of the development of organizational theory, noting the progression from a mechanistic perspective, expressed by Frederick Taylor in the early 1900s, to a more positive view of human nature put forth by Douglas McGregor in 1960 and beyond. Such a shift in thinking, the author explains, led to a new, more holistic view of organizations, as well as a conception of management away from controlling distinct processes to one that recognizes the capacity of individuals to interpret and transform their world and their work. In further tracing developments in organizational theory, Hohn discuss systems theory, which developed in the later part of the twentieth century and has led to the promotion of approaches such as Peter Senge's "learning organization" and G. Edwards Deming's Total Quality Management (TQM).

In applying these theories to educational settings, Hohn briefly discusses an example of the application of systems thinking in an adult literacy context in Tennessee, revealing both the challenges and the utility of using such a framework for rethinking the quality and effectiveness of the provision of ABE services. In addition, the author presents findings from a study of the application of TQM in higher education, noting the positive results and difficulties observed in the process. As Hohn suggests, the ideas developed in recent decades in organizational theory mesh well with the thinking of educators such as Knowles, Freire and Horton. However, as the author concludes, new ways of thinking about and moving ABE organizations away from traditional hierarchies will require training, strong and consistent leadership, and a capacity for reflection and comfort with the uncertainty involved as organizations work toward improvement.

Resources on Organizational Development
by Marcia Drew Hohn

In the second part of Chapter Seven, Hohn offers an annotated bibliography of key resources, including books, articles and essays, for those who wish to further explore and apply principles of organizational development as part of their efforts to improve ABE programs. For each entry, the author indicates the focus of the work, its recommended audience and a brief synopsis. In addition, where applicable, she notes on-line sources for obtaining the items noted. Works included cover topics such as organizational analysis, strategic planning, negotiation, leadership, discrimination and gender dynamics in organizations, organizational change and different frameworks for understanding organizations as systems. The works listed comprise theoretical overviews, as well as practical suggestions for putting organizational theory into practice.

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL