structures which allow for reflective practice to integrate acquired knowledge and skills
into the workplace
"A learning organisation is an organisation skilled at creating, acquiring and
transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behaviour to reflect knowledge and
insights" (Garvin 1993).
The above quote refers to a new climate of professional development in which people
contribute not only to their own professional development, but also to the functioning of
the whole agency by adopting high quality reflective practices.
These times of rapid change, require rapid response times to integrate new programs and
developments into clinical practice. This is emphasised by Mink et al (1993)
Developing people in a short time frame
will be what separates the successful organisation from the unsuccessful organisation.
People need training and development in a variety of areas. To meet the challenge, each
person must become an expert coach and support the learning of others in the workplace.
The ethic here is to create a workplace which places a high value on all staff engaging
in reflective practices and employing strategies such as coaching to support individual
and organisational development.
Other reflective practices include action learning,
whereby a group of individuals (from all levels of the agency) come together on a regular
basis to progress a specific project, issue or topic of interest in the workplace. Action
Learning is a simple but disciplined method using an on-going cycle of plan - act - review
to achieve personal, professional and organisational goals.
range of learning opportunities both on-the-job and off site to update skills and
On-the-job learning can be opportunistic or
Opportunistic learning requires staff and organisations to be aware of learning
opportunities as they arise. Examples include; case discussions, informal dissemination of
new information, use of hard copy and electronic resource material as needed, casual
conversations with colleagues, and opportunistic consultancy support from clinical
specialists involved in shared case management.
Intentional on-the-job learning relates to scheduled time for clinical
supervision, case review, journal club, topic a month, guest speakers and
staff presentations at staff meetings, specific time allocated for access to resources
such as books, journal articles, web-sites or videos, and consultancy support from
clinical specialists from other fields.
Job aids, such as assessment instruments, treatment manuals, case summary sheets
and referral forms can enhance professional development and performance by "exerting
their influence as references when the need to know arises" Craig and Rossett (1996).
These authors refer to this type of support as just in time learning as
compared with just in case training. Job aids can assist learning by providing
standardised cues to key steps or domains of complex tasks. They are particularly useful
when there is a large turnover of staff.
Off-site knowledge &
Training events, should be tailored to the specific needs of staff as they relate to
work performance. Ideally, these needs are identified prior to training, couched in
measurable learning outcomes and negotiated with the trainer. Workplace follow-up is
essential to integrate and reinforce learning outcomes.
and supportive supervision to build a climate of continuous learning and support
Supervisors style should include a balance of support, feedback, problem solving
and instruction. They should promote team problem solving while also making clear that
therapists have primary clinical responsibility for their patients care (Budney
& Higgins 1998).
The USA based Project MATCH developed a brief, 32-item Psychotherapy Supervision
Questionnaire to evaluate the supervisory practices within the project (Click here to view). The
following areas in this instrument have been identified in the literature as important in
the supervision process:
Use of the Psychotherapy Supervision
Questionnaire, (Witte, et al 1997) will provide constructive feedback for supervisors.
ability to use both successes and mistakes as learning opportunities
Regardless of which methodology is used, an important feature of learning organisations
is how mistakes are managed. Richard Barrett (1999) put it this way: "Failures must
be redefined as collective learning opportunities. In visionary organisations everyone
learns from everyone elses mistakes as well as their successes."
Much of the welfare field tends to have an inherent negative feedback loop. That is,
clients deemed as successes are often not seen again while the failures
continue to return. The disciplined focus on success and learning opportunities will
improve professional and organisational growth, and promote a positive and energetic