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Critical Reflection in Collective Knowledge Creation: A Mixed-Method Case Study of Middle Managers' Reflection and Interaction in a Public Organization Open Access

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Abstract of DissertationCritical Reflection in Collective Knowledge Creation: A Mixed-Method Case Study of Middle Managers' Reflection and Interaction in a Public OrganizationThis mixed-method, descriptive case study focused on individual middle managers' critical reflection and explored its relationship with collective knowledge creation within a state department of corrections agency. Specifically, it explored how outcomes of individual reflection in the form of sensemaking tensions can impact collective knowledge creation and how collective memory and meaning making serves as a medium for individual critical reflection. Individual critical reflection was understood as an element of Mezirow's (1991) transformational learning theory, collective knowledge creation was understood through the organizational learning systems model (Schwandt, 1993), and the levels of analysis were bridged through Stones' (2005) strong structuration theory. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected through the Organizational Action Survey (Johnson & Schwandt, 1998), focus group discussions, and interviews. In the context of collective knowledge creation, an organizational change process could be considered the critical incident that would require individuals to critically reflect. In this study, this critical incident was a state-enforced cycle of budget reductions that impacted the middle managers in different ways. The findings from this study revealed the simultaneous existence of process reflection and critical reflection by the middle managers during the budget reductions. It further revealed that while individuals undertook process reflection on the collective's values and assumptions, the critical reflection related to both the collective knowledge as well as individuals' unique perspectives, which often took dominance over the collective knowledge during this reflection. Additionally, reflection resulted in variations in individual perspectives from collective values and assumptions that possibly created tensions for the collective. At the same time, several similarities between insights at both levels of analysis indicated a certain invariance of meanings across levels, thereby suggesting that tensions created by reflection could impact the collective. Finally, the study highlighted the significance of the context, which could enable an understanding of the reflection-related findings of the study as informing a typology of reflection in such environments.

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