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Student Affairs Divisions as Learning Organizations: Toward a Conceptual Framework for Organizational Improvement

Scott Taylor, Michele C (2008) Student Affairs Divisions as Learning Organizations: Toward a Conceptual Framework for Organizational Improvement. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The American higher education system is in crisis and in need of reform in order to remain competitive in the 21st century (Commission on the Future of Higher Education, 2006). Given the calls for accountability and transparency by diverse stakeholders seeking improved fiscal, academic, and more importantly, student learning and engagement outcomes, a grounded understanding of organizational improvement is in order. This dissertation is a qualitative research study in higher education management and on student affairs divisions in particular. The purpose is to develop a conceptual framework for pursuing organizational improvement in student affairs divisions toward the distal goal of improving student learning and engagement outcomes. In doing so, the researcher re-appropriates the concept of a "Learning Organization," and uses it as the foundation upon which to develop the conceptual framework. The researches questions guiding the study instantiate elements of grounded theory methodology and also align with a social constructivist research paradigm. An extensive literature analysis and semi-structured interviews using a modified Delphi process were the primary data collection methods for developing, validating, and revising the conceptual framework. NUD*IST (N6) was used for systematic data analysis. Study results indicated that student affairs divisions face at least four major challenges: developing a professional identity, aligning diverging interests, understanding the changing student culture, and developing a global perspective for practice. Effectively addressing these challenges, while supporting a culture of risk-taking and learning, was reported as an indicators of a high quality student affairs organization. Findings also indicated that the revised framework should be practical when tested in student affairs divisions. Results of the study demonstrated that the framework will be practical to scholars seeking to frame critical dialogue and debate about the future direction of the student affairs profession and also found the framework to be a practical tool for encouraging dialogue in higher education and student affairs discourse. Practitioners seeking to improve student learning and engagement outcomes from an organizational perspective, found the revised framework practical for encouraging and pursuing a learning-orientated organizational culture. This research extends and deepens one's conceptual understanding of organizational improvement and culture in student affairs organizations, as well as frame practical opportunities for pursuing organizational improvement in the broader higher education community. This study contributes to the theoretical and practical discourses on organizational improvement in student affairs, and offers plausible directions for future empirical study.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Scott Taylor, Michele
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLewis, Consuellalewisc@pitt.eduLEWISC
Committee MemberFerketish, Jeanferkjean@pitt.eduFERKJEAN
Committee MemberWeidman, Johnweidman@pitt.eduWEIDMAN
Committee MemberBickel, WilliamBickel@pitt.eduBICKEL
Date: 27 June 2008
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 1 April 2008
Approval Date: 27 June 2008
Submission Date: 9 May 2008
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: conceptual framework; Delphi Method; Learning Organization; organizational improvement; Student Affairs
Other ID:, etd-05092008-152457
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:44
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:43


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