Category: Professional practice
|Teaching and Learning Forum 2006 [ Refereed papers ]|
School of Management, Edith Cowan University
Andrew Blevins and Terry Taylor
Western Australia Police Academy
The paper focuses on the potential of learning partnerships to co-create knowledge that is relevant to specific 21st century industry and government needs. It is argued that these needs and the dynamic and complex environments in which they are framed, demand a new set of professional knowledge competences and a more integrative, cross-disciplinary approach to program design and supporting research activity. This reflects a long standing, but little heeded, critique in the academic and business literature, of the poor fit between dominant scientific approach to knowledge creation and dissemination offered in Australian Universities, through traditional business research and teaching activities, and the complexities of the working world. Opportunities to improve the quality of the industry/ government/ university knowledge nexus, are explored through brief discussion of successful partnership structures and precedents from the UK, USA, and Scandinavia. A profile of the ASPIRE Western Australia Police, officer development program is then presented as case example of creation of professional knowledge relevant to the challenges of policing in an increasingly complex, diverse societal and whole of government context. Following a discussion of the context and pedagogical design of ASPIRE and preceding officer development activity from 2002-2005, future development options for the ASPIRE program will be considered.
The critique of traditional scientific views of knowledge production and dissemination is well supported in the social sciences literature at an ontological, epistemological and methodological level. At the first two levels the case for recognition of new forms of useful or applied knowledge is advanced in Gibbon's (1994) discussion of Mode 1 conventional scientific or functional knowledge, and Mode 2 trans-disciplinary, reflexive knowledge. Gibbon argument is further developed by Leyesdorff and Etzkewitz's on the role of Universities within a fluid Triple Helix of institutional, market, and societal innovation and knowledge creation (Leyesdorff and Etzkewitz, 2001). The case for alternatives to positivist knowledge production methodologies is well supported in the action learning theory (Emery, 1994) and advanced in practice through innovative pedagogical designs for business and management courses (Mintzberg 2005; Tellefsen, 1999). However despite this evidence senior academic staff and business school management are often reluctant to depart from traditional, functionally based, designs for postgraduate business programs such as the MBA. This tendency has been widely criticised in recent academic and business literature as a formula for the perpetuation of industrial age practices and thinking, based on a mechanistic view of the organisational world. This provides a poor fit with the work environment of the 21st century professional knowledge worker, where generic skills and boundary spanning ability are at a premium for working with other managers and specialists on interdisciplinary projects, programs, or policy development frameworks. (Bennis and O'Toole 2004), (Richards-Wilson, 2002; Bubna-Litic and Benn 2003).
In response this changing work environment learning and development specialists such as Debowski (2006) and Mintzberg (2005) have focused on the need for the cultivation of a new generation knowledge competences through the development of appropriate work based learning programs, for managers and other practicing professionals. In her discussion of knowledge competences and authentic learning, Debowski (2006, p.256-260) cites Shell and Siemens as examples of companies which encourage cross- disciplinary and cross-functional collaboration, and re-use of knowledge in the work environment. Mintzberg (2005) presents a scale of learning 'authenticity,' for managers, with simulations and cases at the bottom of the ladder, and work based action learning and reflection at the top (Figure 1). This learning authenticity construct provides the focal point for discussion of the pedagogical design of the ASPIRE officer development program discussed later in this paper.
Figure 1. Management pedagogies on a scale of authenticity. (Source: Mintzberg, 2005)
From a teaching and learning point of view is will be argued that: 1) conventional university business programs are not well suited to the cultivation of such competences; 2) they demonstrate poor fit with the working environment of knowledge workers and managers; and 3) new generation action learning oriented programs are required order to achieve 'fit' through 'Praxis' - using theory (including academic and professional research) and reflection, to inform and improve practice and systems. This view of 'relevant' knowledge production will be now be argued with reference to examples of successful industry - university learning and innovation partnerships in the USA, UK, and Scandinavia, and the ASPIRE program which forms the core of the Western Australia Police - Edith Cowan University learning partnership in Perth, Western Australia.
In the UK a commercial orientation for many of the new universities was initiated in the early 1980s by the Thatcher government's 'rolling back the frontiers of the state,' where universities were forced to reduce their dependence on government funding and many former State entities such as utilities were privatised. As a result of these and subsequent changes over the past three decades, there are many examples of long term learning partnerships in the UK. Two of the more prestigious newer generation universities noted for science and business respectively: University of Manchester (Science Technology and Business divisions) and Cranfield University. These institutions provide long term examples of successful collaboration with a range of industry sectors to co-produce knowledge, through incorporation of multi-disciplinary research and pedagogical designs into action learning partnership processes and contractual structures.
Cooper (2002,p1) discusses the role of a commercial unit UMIST Ventures) within the University of Manchester as a "One Stop Shop", for combining internal research capabilities across a range of different departments and disciplines for knowledge transfer to UK and international client organisations and institutes operating in areas such as information technology, life sciences and environmental management. Whilst numerous research successes, awards, and high levels of graduate demand by employers are reported by (Cooper 2002), the "One Stop Shop" approach was also conceived as a means to coordinate applications for more traditional research grants. This led to problems relating to professorial politics, interdisciplinary rivalry, and competition for funds. In the event the successes of the unit within the old UMIST (Institute of Science and Technology Structure), did not guarantee its continued autonomy as the Institute which was recently re-incorporated into the core Manchester University bureaucracy.
The Cranfield approach to learning partnerships as reported by Tranfield, Denyer and Marcos (2004) appears to be more robust and sustainable within a business school context. The authors set out a more deliberate approach to combine action learning and research for co-production of professional knowledge. This includes: 1) Systematic reviews of work based research projects through a process supportive to a rigorous, evidence based approach to combining research and practice; 2) Collaborative professional development and academic learning program designs incorporating knowledge and feedback from industry partners and their clients on an ongoing basis; and 3) A structured knowledge sharing forum where different partners can generate and share mutually beneficial knowledge and innovative thinking. The principal partner organisation identified in the paper is Mouchel Parkman, an international management consultancy and services group with employing over 2000 staff in eleven countries. Using the Mouchel Parkman, Cranfield Centre as a focal point for co-production of knowledge, the partnership is reported to provide a basis for innovative services development and problem solving across the consultancy's portfolio of activities. These include management consulting, project management and construction design, and asset and infrastructure management for public and private sector clients. (Tranfield et al 2004, p381). Beyond this Cranfield has a long history of educational partnerships with police and other uniformed services offering useful lessons for the ongoing development of the partnership between Edith Cowan University and the WA Police, as discussed below.
Lyons (2003), offers a detailed overview of how the University of Portsmouth managed partnership based academic programs, incorporating a learning contracts and recognition of prior work based learning framework, with a wide range of organisations in the Communications, Manufacturing, Aerospace, and Defence industries. The major partnership collaboration discussed was with the Thalus defence group, through their international training centre - Thalus University. This partnership incorporates co-production of knowledge elements including: 1) Customised course design informed by knowledge transfer between University of Portsmouth academics and Thalus instructors; 2) A structured four tier, recognition of workplace based learning framework from Certificate to Masters level, with options on progression to a professional doctorate; and 3) Collaborative research inputs from the academic and industry researchers. This strategy of alignment with industry needs has been pursued over an extended period by other provincial UK universities such as The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, which through its commercial entity 'Univation Limited,' has established itself as a leading provider of education to the health and welfare sector in North East Scotland and the oil and gas industry worldwide. (The Robert Gordon University, 2003).
Whilst the cases cited from the UK based universities offer interesting variations on the learning partnerships theme, the most comprehensive embodiment of the co-production of knowledge and authentic learning ideas is reported by Gardner and Tellefsen (2002) in their comparison of the Norwegian School of Management and Edith Cowan University (ECU), approaches to business education. The Norwegian School of Management integral approach to market positioning, industry engagement, teaching and research design, reflected their need as a private business school to compete with the more established publicly funded institutions in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, and the strong tradition of action learning in Norway. The authors outline the successful model which underpinned the growth of the NSM in the 1990s in terms of size and geographical spread, student demand, revenues, and research prestige. They present a detailed framework for co-creation of knowledge through combining research, teaching and practice within a defined constituency or broader knowledge network. This approach using targeted client networks and partnerships as a positioning tool and conduit to tap into a dynamic industry knowledge pool is termed constituent market orientation or CMO. (Gardner and Tellefsen, 2002, p 1). A variation in this approach Stakeholder Relationship Management, (SRM), originated by Gardner (2002), has been used since 2003 within the Business and Law faculty at ECU to support and maintain Police partnership along with several other 'key accounts', and to inform the design of the ASPIRE program described below.
The timing and mix of academic and policing practice units varied over the ten years the course had run prior to ASPIRE, attracting mixed reviews, with some plaudits for moving agency thinking into a more strategic domain, and criticism regarding real life application of the learning experience, from senior officers and participants. The ODC also lacked a well-defined pedagogical model and articulation framework to other courses offered by the Academy and external institutions such as the Australian Institute of Police Management in Sydney, normally attended by officers seeking promotion to Superintendent. This changed in 2004 following the findings of the Kennedy Royal Commission, which introduced a series of key reforms in the Western Australia Police. According to Blevins (2004, p 9), the report found "clear deficiencies in supervision, management and leadership at all levels," in the organisation. Thus the Kennedy inquiry and other legislative changes and reports emphasising the need to develop policing as a 21st century profession in touch with the diverse needs and composition of Australian society, provided an impetus for management and leadership development within the WA Police. (Gordon 2003; APPSC 2003). In response to this staff at the Academy began to map clear articulation pathways for all policing and accredited academic courses with academic and policing components. The ASPIRE program replaced the ODC, offering a clearer pedagogy, improved supporting processes and articulated pathways for officer development within the WA Police.
Stage 1 in this process focused on conventional university learning where the cohort group of approximately 25 students assimilate management theories, principles and academic conventions, beyond the prescriptive or technical emphasis in previous policing and TAFE level studies. At Stage 2, basic knowledge of these principles are tested, and then applied to both industry case studies and exercises exploring and critiquing (relative to the participants operational experience) internal management, policies, processes, and documentation including the WA Police strategic plan, annual reports, agency, team and individual performance measures. This takes the learning into an authentic (internal) policing context combined with the simulated (external cases and exercises), which corresponds to the lower levels of Mintzberg's continuum. Stage 3 requires further application of management and strategic management tools and frameworks in a supervised (external) industry based project, including the production of a consultancy proposal and report and presentation of findings to both the industry client, and managers from the Police Academy. In two notable cases the client organisations, (a hospital and an airline) implemented significant changes to emergency response, and security systems and processes as a result of the recommendations which flowed from the action learning based exercises undertaken by ASPIRE participants. This team based action learning component supports the development of useful professional knowledge through systematic investigation of client issues and iterative problem solving, supported by regular communication with the client and feedback from academic supervisors across a three week period. (The industry project was added as a third ECU accredited unit in February 2005, with placements and presentations arranged in partnership with the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry). When combined with Stage 4 reflection on the entire learning experience, (captured in a journal to be submitted several weeks after returning to the workplace), it can argued that ASPIRE in its current format offers a tenuous foothold at the peak of Mintzberg's continuum of authentic learning (Figure 1, above).
At present ECU offers a blend of approaches and units which combined with the operational policing component of the program, is intended to present the best management learning experience available within an intensive mode, time compressed format. The course also provides a knowledge creation forum for a cross section of 20-30 front line managers drawn from a wide range of functions and portfolios within the agency. As front line managers the participants were also able to compare gaps between current management systems requirements and the operational realities encountered at their units. When compared to the action learning partnership models discussed above the ECU-WA Police partnership and ASPIRE have a long way to go as effective platforms for developing professional knowledge, relevant to the demands of 21st century policing.
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|Authors: Scott Gardner has over 15 years experience in academia, training, management and communications consulting in both the public and private sectors in Australia, the UK and SE Asia.|
Scott Gardner, School of Management, Faculty of Business and Law, Edith Cowan University, Pearson St, Churchlands WA 6018. Email email@example.com
Andrew Blevins and Terry Taylor are both senior trainers at the Western Australia Police Academy with significant input into training program design. They have substantial operational policing and front line management experience.
Please cite as: Gardner, S., Blevins, A. and Taylor, T. (2006). Co-creating professional knowledge through learning partnerships: The WA Police-Edith Cowan University, ASPIRE Officer Development Program. In Experience of Learning. Proceedings of the 15th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 1-2 February 2006. Perth: The University of Western Australia. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2006/refereed/gardner.html
Copyright 2006 Scott Gardner, Andrew Blevins and Terry Taylor. The authors assign to the TL Forum and not for profit educational institutions a non-exclusive licence to reproduce this article for personal use or for institutional teaching and learning purposes, in any format (including website mirrors), provided that the article is used and cited in accordance with the usual academic conventions.