Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Organizational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities Conference

Vivienne Bozalek, Wendy McMillan and I just attended the OLCK Conference in Milan at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore - a beautiful old campus. So old that some of the venues had relics on display, one even had a necropolis from the third century AD - I hope that is not a metaphor for the university today! The conference has a focus on organizational management and a theoretical underpinning of the conference was a practice based approach. It was extremely friendly and non-pompous, and one great feature during the parallel sessions was a series of symposia on a theme,

for example authorship, with three presentations and  after each presentation there was a respondent, before the discussion was opened to the floor. This worked particularly well.

A highlight was the second keynote by Silvia Gerardi, who spoke both on affect and on theorizing practice (Gerardi, S. 2012. How to Conduct a Practice-Based Study: Problems and Methods, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar). Her writing is very accessible for those who want to be introduced to theorizing about practices. There were several innovative ways of presenting and communicating at the conference, one of which was a talk artist, who drew on a large surface while Silvia was talking. (See at the beginning of this post.) Another was the conference dinner, where a pianist was accompanied by a percussionist and an artist. His completed work is also shown here.

I gave a presentation on the Structure, Culture and Agency (S, C, A) project. The paper was asking some questions about the kinds of theories we use in our research, how we go about choosing them,  whether theories can be combined, and how. I used the data from the project to illustrate these points, showing in the process that some issues are better explicated through a social realist approach, and some issues through a practice based/socio-material approach. However, there are aspects of these two approaches where they appear to be commensurate, and aspects where they do not appear as commensurate. I am hoping that these questions will receive more airtime in the future, as myself, Vivienne Bozalek and Peter Kahn are planning to edit a book on the question of theorising learning to teach and I am hoping that quite a lot of the data from the S, C and A project will be featured in the book.