Learning, Knowing, and Change

The course material is available from Graphic Arts. Supplemental readings and materials will be made available during the semester on SloanSpace. 


Class Participation: 25%
Course Reflection Papers (2 @ 10%): 20%
Group Assignment: 30%
Personal Report on Group Assignment: 10%
Final Reflection Paper: 15%

Course Overview

The course is structured around a core of fundamental concepts concerning how we view organizations, and the application of these concepts to basic domains of action crucial for contemporary businesses: sensemaking, learning, knowing, and change. We view organizations as enacted systems, wherein humans are continually shaping the structures that influence their action in turn. In other words, we create the systems that then create us.


This course is organized as a reflective practicum, weaving theory, group exercises, and living cases. The course is made up of two parts: an intensive 3-day workshop to immerse ourselves in the ideas of enacted systems, and six 3-hour sessions held every Friday during H1 to explore and experience the nature of enacted systems through a series of exercises and living case studies. Learning will occur through active participation in the workshop, class sessions, exercises, and reflection assignments.

Learning Groups:

You will each participate in a "Learning Circle" of six members. These groups will be important sites of learning during the class sessions, and for conducting the group assignment (see below).


Assignments for this course are both group and individual.

  1. Class Participation: Engaging in the class, in your learning group, and with the readings and exercises is the most effective way to learn. Coming to every session, as well as engaging actively and reflectively with the materials and your classmates is what we will be looking for in class participation, rather than a mere attendance count or score of comments made in classroom.

  2. Group Assignment: Each learning group will be given the opportunity to select a living case to share with the class. This should be a real-life example of an enacted system that one of the group members has experienced in the past or is currently experiencing. The group will be responsible for creating and leading an embodiment exercise of this enacted system in class. This embodiment exercise must be designed to engage the participation and learning of the rest of the class and should include an active debriefing of the enacted systems dynamics being illustrated as well as a discussion of some implications for action.

  3. Individual Assignments: Individual assignments include three Reflection Papers on the course experience and one Personal Report on the group assignment.

Reflection Papers are where you will have the opportunity to comment on your learning experiences in the course. Two reflection papers are due during the semester, each 2 - 3 pages long, and reflecting on your personal experiences with the themes/cases covered so far. A third and final reflection paper, 3 - 5 pages long, is due after the end of the course, and will allow you to reflect on your personal experiences with the entire course content and activities, and include some comments about the implications of these experiences for your learning beyond the course. 

A Personal Report on the group assignment is to be submitted by each member of a learning group after the group's assignment has been completed in class. This report (2 - 3 pages long) is intended to allow you to reflect and comment on your personal experiences of participating in the group exercise. For example, you might comment on the following: the group dynamics that were in play during the design, creation, and implementation of the exercise; the part you played in these group dynamics; the personal, interpersonal, and systemic elements that helped and hindered your effectiveness as a group; what you-individually and the group as a whole-could have done differently to improve your effectiveness; and why you think you did not do this.

Both the three reflection papers and the one personal report are intended to develop your ability to become aware of ongoing dynamics, be able to step back and reflect on them, and then potentially use the increased awareness and reflection to change how you think and act. To help you do this, we strongly encourage you to keep a regular journal of your immediate experiences, writing down-on a daily or weekly-basis what you notice is going on in the human systems in which you participate, and what your responses (thoughts, feelings, actions) are to those experiences. This ongoing record will be a great source of data for writing your reflection papers and personal report. Please write these reflection papers and personal report in the first person. We don't want abstractions, theories or conceptualizations that distance you from your own involvement in life. We are looking for your thoughtful descriptions of and reflections on your direct experiences, emotional responses, challenges and dilemmas, and opportunities for learning and acting differently.