Change and Learning in the Workplace: A Perspective Formed Through the Conceptual Frameworks of an Adult Transition Theory and an Adult Learning Theory




Parsells, Richard A.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Change is a commonplace occurrence in today's organizations. In order to survive in an extremely competitive marketplace, organizations and their employees undergo change frequently. The ability to manage change and to learn from this experience is now viewed as a key competency for sustainable competitiveness in most business markets (Conner, 1998). However, while change management processes are employed and followed, a high percentage of change efforts are judged to be unsuccessful by upper management (Cenek, 1995; Clegg & Walsh, 2004). This suggests the need to further investigate the capacity to accommodate change. Change has been closely associated with learning, which possibly suggests how one accommodates change may have some relationship with one's level of learning readiness. The purpose of this study was to explore the research question: How do people at varying levels of self-directed learning readiness (SDLR) describe their experiences during an organizational change? Sub questions were: Do people exhibiting varying levels of SDLR report experiences in organizational change that are qualitatively similar or different? If similar, what are these similarities, and if different, what are these differences? Using a case study approach nine individuals, with varying levels of SDLR as measured by the self-directed learning readiness scale (Guglielmino, 1977), were followed over a six-month period as they experienced a change in their workplace. Data were collected using interviews and critical incident reports. Four themes emanated from analysis of the findings: Thoughts and feelings about change were not expressed in distinct stages, rather they recurred throughout the length of the study; Those with higher self-directed learning readiness levels (SDLRL) used more direct problem-solving techniques rather than emotional avoidance; Those with higher SDLRL experimented more, took more initiative, and were more resourceful; Learning at work is a social process. Implications for practice and future research are presented.



organizational change, self-culture, preparedness, psychology of learning


Parsells, R.A. (2006). Change and learning in the workplace: a perspective formed through the conceptual frameworks of an adult transition theory and an adult learning theory (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


Rights Holder

Rights License

Rights URI