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Schools as learning organizations : how Japanese teachers learn to perform non-instructional tasks Maki, Wilma

Abstract

This study explores Japanese high school teachers' learning of the many non-instructional tasks that they undertake in their schools, and possible connections between the learning and organizational features and the values teachers assign to learning. The data from this study reveal that characteristics of and relationships among these three elements are consistent with those of learning organization theory. Questionnaires were designed to collect the needed data. Eighty-eight teachers in eleven high schools in Japan participated in the study. Results of the study were compared with Japan Ministry of Education and U.S. Department of Education surveys on teachers. The results show that learning is the principal goal held by teachers, organizational features facilitate their learning, and values they attach to learning are associated with the learning, characteristics that also define learning organizations. The teachers use experiential learning as the main means to learn their tasks, and a multifunctional structure to organize their tasks. The results also describe a unique teacher learning organization model in which the teachers' learning activities change over the course of their careers in four stages. Experience in tasks is characterized first by multifunctionalism, followed by repetition and supervision, and finally, by working regularly in school administration tasks. The stages are associated with shifts in the teachers' choices of learning methods. In the first stage, teachers prefer consultation with co-workers. In the second and third stage, they practise self-study the most. In the final stage, they demonstrate an increase in consultation with administrative school staff. Personal growth and problem-solving are the most important educational goals, and there is no fixed perception of how one learns. Comparisons with American teachers show characteristics that contrast with those found in the Japanese sample: American teachers tend to favour acquisition of basic skills and good work habits as important educational goals; formal training is the main source of knowledge for learning their tasks; and task organization is segmented. The study suggests that learner-directed learning has a variety of definitions and that there are many different learning organization models. The results have much to offer in thinking about schools as learning organizations for teachers.

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