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Guided Reflection as an Organisational Learning and Data Collection Tool in a Gender Equality Change Management Programme, Vol. 16, Issue 1 (2016)



This paper presents a guided reflection (GR) framework compiled and used specifically in a gender equality change management programme. The programme involves seven partners (one being an evaluation partner) from across Europe, each partner implementing a change management programme in their university setting. A guided reflection framework, including verbal reflective discussions and written reflections, was devised and deployed to enable and facilitate the collection of narratives and stories on the experience of gender transformation within the university institutions. The resulting outcome so far has been a successful application of the GR framework, with emerging findings suggesting that participants found the opportunity to share and reflect useful. Both written and verbal reflection tools were effective within this programme, with lessons emerging around increasing and improving the journaling aspect of written reflections. The process findings illustrate how people in our organisations are very constrained for time for reflection within their busy work schedules, and therefore the applicability and usefulness of the GR framework has been in enabling a space for such reflection and thought, which in turn contributes to organizational learning and potential for change. © Common Ground, Uduak Archibong, Monica O'Mullane, Daniela Kállayová Nazira Karodia, Caitríona Ní Laoire, Ilenia Picardi, All Rights Reserved.
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The International Journal of
Organizational Diversity
Guided Reflection as an Organisational
Learning and Data Collection Tool in a Gender
Equality Change Management Programme
First published in 201X in Champaign, Illinois, USA
by Common Ground Publishing LLC
ISSN: 2328-6261
© 201X (individual papers), the author(s)
© 201X (selection and editorial matter) Common Ground
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The International Journal of Organizational Diversity
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The International Journal of Organizational Diversity
Volume #, Issue #, Publication Year,, ISSN 2328-6261
© Common Ground, Uduak Archibong, Monica O’Mullane, Daniela Kállayová
Nazira Karodia, Caitríona Ní Laoire, Ilenia Picardi, All Rights Reserved
Guided Reflection as an Organisational Learning
and Data Collection Tool in a Gender Equality
Change Management Programme
Uduak Archibong, University of Bradford, UK
Monica O’Mullane, Trnava University, Slovak Republic
Daniela Kállayová, Trnava University, Slovak Republic
Nazira Karodia, Bradford University, UK
Caitríona Ní Laoire, University College Cork, Ireland
Ilenia Picardi, University of Naples Federico II, Italy
Abstract: This paper presents a guided reflection (GR) framework compiled and used specifically in a gender equality
change management programme. The programme involves seven partners (one being an evaluation partner) from across
Europe, each partner implementing a change management programme in their university setting. A guided reflection
framework, including verbal reflective discussions and written reflections, was devised and deployed to enable and
facilitate the collection of narratives and stories on the experience of gender transformation within the university
institutions. The resulting outcome so far has been a successful application of the GR framework, with emerging findings
suggesting that participants found the opportunity to share and reflect useful. Both written and verbal reflection tools
were effective within this programme, with lessons emerging around increasing and improving the journaling aspect of
written reflections. The process findings illustrate how people in our organisations are very constrained for time for
reflection within their busy work schedules, and therefore the applicability and usefulness of the GR framework has been
in enabling a space for such reflection and thought, which in turn contributes to organizational learning and potential for
Keywords: Managing Diversity, Policies and Regulations, Professional Development
ix European universities have come together to address gender equality in research and
innovation by implementing change programmes in each of their settings. An additional
university team is evaluating this implementation. This activity is being conducted within
GENOVATE, an EC funded action-research project. The change programme in each university
centres on a specific and unique (created within each institution) Gender Equality Action Plan
(GEAP). These action plans seek to address the structural, organisational and institutional
environments which shape, maintain, and reinforce gender inequalities in academic/research
career development and advancement. In line with current thinking on how best to address these
issues, GENOVATE takes a “structural” rather than “individualist” approach to gender equality
action (see for example: EU 2012; Seedhouse 1998). This reorientation toward the “bigger
picture” and focus on structural and operational influences means that more sustainable and long-
term policies can be formulated ensuring more supportive environments for researchers and
academics in European universities.
This article aims to explore the use of guided reflection as a learning tool in this change
management programme on transforming organizational culture for gender equality in research
and innovation. It seeks to illustrate how guided reflections can be used to document the
experiences of, and to elicit narratives on the process of change within institutions over a period
of four years in total (at the time of writing, the project is in its third year, and the data presented
here are from the first two years of the project). Guided reflections are being applied within
institutions where cultural differences (national, organisational, gender mainstreaming, and
scientific background) are relevant: in these contexts knowledge exchange is a fundamental step
for the institutional change process and the use of Web 2.0 technologies could efficaciously
support this process (Lorenzi and Riley 2003). There is an online forum created for the project
using such technologies that allows for online dialogue and sharing of experiences to take place.
The written reflections analysed for this paper were uploaded onto this online forum and all
partners (including the team analysing the reflections) were able to view all reflections, read
about other experiences and so on. As referred to later in the paper, online tools are part of the
modern solution to help organisations increase and improve means for collaboration and
learning. These reflections will be used as part of a process of building a social model of gender
equality implementation. The reflections discussed in this article were conducted in the first two
years of the project. The guided reflections have taken both written and verbal form, allowing
participants to reflect in these two ways.
In the current climate of high intensity and increased scope of change in many organisations,
there is a need for processes to be put in place to ensure conscious and systematic learning at
both individual and institutional levels (Lam 2000). Organizational learning researchers
recognize the constructivist principle that people learn by actively structuring experiences
through the personal attribution of meaning (Fosnot 1996; Eyler and Giles 1999; Eyler and Billig
2003; Eyler et al. 1999; 2001). There is acknowledgement that learning in organisations occurs
through individuals who learn by reflecting upon experiences (Marsick 1988). This implies
removing individuals from the constant mental stimuli of a demanding academic environment in
order for them to have the space for sense-making (Richtel 2010). Creating the space for
reflection is key to awareness-raising within organisations and can contribute to making visible
the previously unspoken or unacknowledged structures and norms that give rise to unequal
gendered outcomes (O Grada et al. 2015). One of the essential core competencies that set
organizations apart from their competitors is their ability to learn better and faster. Learning is
crucial to organizations’ surviving and achieving competitive advantage on a sustainable basis.
From this perspective the learning organization is an ideal state which organizations have to
evolve towards in order to be able to proactively respond to the dynamics of the business
environment (Finger and Brand 1999). Though what constitutes a learning organization is
debatable, it is widely acknowledged that it is recognizable externally by its agility in responding
to changes in its internal operations or external relations.
This learning process can be strengthened when more organizations work simultaneously in
a collaborative project aimed to change management programmes and where innovative
knowledge exchange procedures are implemented.
Guided reflective practice has rarely been used as a learning strategy in a change
management environment—where reflective practitioners or change agents are assisted by a
guide or change facilitator in a process of self-enquiry, development, and learning through
reflection in order to effectively participate in the change process.
Approaches to managing change in organizations in the past have had some shortcomings
but over time organizational researchers and psychologists have propounded theories and
processes towards effectively implementing change (Acker 2006; Lorenzi and Riley 2003; Ely
and Meyerson 2000). Today, it is generally accepted that organizations with a structured change
management process and an organizational change management competency have the capability
to learn and adapt faster with greater results (Wilder 2013). In a structured change management
approach, it is acknowledged that learning is key to organisational change, and change in itself is
defined as the individual and collective learning required toward transforming organizational
practices and processes (Belias and Koustelios 2014).
Adoption of organisational learning principles has led to growing interest regarding
interactions between organisational outcomes and organisational learning culture. Reflection is
acknowledged by many as an important element in organisational learning (Procee 2006; Finlay
2008). For organisations to learn from reflection, as a critical learning process, it is argued that
managers, through the support of facilitators, require a structured learning process (Boud et al.
1985; Hedberg 2009; Marsick and Watkins 2001). Specific strategies or tools are necessary to
promote the success or institutionalization of change efforts, such as, change readiness surveys,
risk assessment of change, among others. However, Guided Reflective practices have rarely been
used as a deliberate learning strategy in a change management environment—where reflective
practitioners or change agents are assisted by a guide or change facilitator in a process of self-
enquiry, development, and learning through reflection in order to effectively participate in the
change process. Furthermore, organisational structures are not always supportive of reflection
(Senge 2006). However, it can be argued that reflection plays a fundamental role in learning and
therefore there is a need for a guided and structured process to facilitate this learning (Zilberstein
As a tool, reflection is mainly associated with educational organisations and is used by
educators to develop and improve their own practice (Reiman 1999). Reflection, as a key
component of learning, is also viewed as a link between experience and learning. It is widely
recognised as an invaluable tool which can enhance management learning (Boud and Walker
1991; Boud 2001). Managers often undervalue reflection, seeking action instead (Daudelin 1996;
Renner et al. 2014) and this does not necessarily lead to organisational learning. However
instead, reflection could be viewed as a precursor to action (and the process of action leads to
further thinking and reflexive processes) (Gray 2007, Høyrup 2004). Reflection necessitates the
“active application of concepts in practice” (Marsick and Watkins 2001) and the process of
“periodically stepping back to ponder the meaning of what has recently transpired to ourselves
and to others in our immediate environment” (Raelin 2002, 66).
Development of a Reflection Framework in a Gender Equality Project:
Our Methodology
For some time, social researchers and activists mobilizing for social improvement have been
conscious of the powerful resource of reflection both as a source of qualitative data and the basis
of social and organisational change. The roots of this lie in interpretive and critical sociology, as
well as in phenomenology, which is the study of how we experience consciousness. In the
application of these theoretical positions, the research methodology of Action Research has given
us the tool of Guided Reflection as an effective process for facilitating organisational learning
and change.
Guided reflection is a powerful and effective process for facilitating organisational learning
(Ash and Clayton 2004). Our project, GENOVATE, has adopted a Change Academy Model
(CAM) (Jackson 2004) approach to transforming organizational culture toward gender equality.
As part of this, we have used reflective and reflexive conversations (referred to in this study and
paper as verbal reflections) (Schön 1987; 1991), reflective dialogues (Isaacs 1993; Jacobs and
Heracleous 2005; Mirvis and Ayas 2003; Schein 1996), reflective journals (reflective journaling
is part of the purpose of written reflections) (Bolton 2001; Uline et al. 2004; Varner and Peek
2003) and concept mapping (Deshler 1990; Kinchin and Hay 2000; Novak 1993; 1998) as
reflective tools. These reflective process tools have generated rich qualitative data in a reflexive
narrative, which highlights key issues for facilitating organisational learning in gender equality in
research and innovation.
The project is self-reflexive, in that we, as the project team, the action-researchers who are
involved in promoting and implementing Gender Equality Action Plans (GEAPs) in six different
partner universities, designed a Guided Reflection process to provide us with a methodological
structure through which we could capture and document our own reflections on the process of
promotion and implementation, on an ongoing basis throughout the project. This Guided
Reflection methodology is coordinated by two of the partners and involves a number of different
reflective tools, both oral and written.
Reflexive Conversations and Reflective Dialogues
Schön (1987; 1991) refers to reflective conversations as reflections-in-action and set within the
context of a “practicum,” which equates to the notion of being in the world in search of new
meanings, options and perspectives without really being part of it. One key challenge in the
workplace is how to deal with the pace and demands of the workplace which leave very little
time and space for reflection (Raelin 2002). Embedded within reflective conversations is
storytelling which provides a powerful means by which reflectors can seek to explore and
understand their values, ideas and norms (Gold and Holman 2001). The verbal reflections are
facilitated through a guided, semi-structured ‘reflexive conversation’ between two partners (one
“facilitator,” one “reflector”) in this study.
Reflective Journals (Written)
These verbal reflexive conversations (referred to as verbal reflections) are supplemented by a
guided journal-writing process. It has been maintained by Atkins and Murphy (1994), that there
are essential elements to the reflection process. They note that in the reflective process, an
awareness of uncomfortable feelings and thoughts is followed by a critical analysis of both the
feelings and the experience. They assert that it is through this analytical process that the
reflective practitioner develops a change in perspective (Plack et al. 2005). Journal-writing
activity is designed to summarize how our ideas are developing about the research we are
conducting as part of our project (Guba 1989). It is defined as a learning exercise in which
participants express in writing their comprehension of, response to, or analysis of an event,
experience, or concept. Journals provide a vehicle for learners to reflect on action and practice
(Chabon and Lee-Wilkerson 2006). In our project, journal-writing provides a mechanism for
partners to describe their experiences and begin to use the reflective and analytical or critical
thinking processes to extract deeper meaning from those experiences. Critical reflection is part of
an action research cycle whereby thoughts and actions are constantly reviewed both in terms of
the contextual situation and the individuals’ place within the situation and journaling offers a
powerful medium for helping with this process (Lowe et al. 2013). Developments in Information
and Communication Technology (ICT) have prompted organisations to utilise emerging
technologies such as social networking applications generally referred to as Web 2.0
technologies. These social networking tools are transforming the way people learn and share
knowledge and ideas with each other (Usman and Oyefolahan 2014; Darwish and Lakhtaria
2011). A range of solutions of online collaboration tools for co-constructing knowledge in group
project work are discussed in literature (Dave et al. 2009; Allen et al. 2007; Siakas et al. 2010;
Chu et al 2011). For an increasing number of organizations, online collaboration tools have
become an effective means to collaborate and learn. Reflective journals could be kept
electronically (Shuman et al. 2005; Armstrong et. 2004) and some studies have analysed the use
of the blog as a platforms for learning reflection (Lin et al. 2006, Hsua et al. 2008).
Application of the Reflection Principles [Framework] to GENOVATE:
Our Methods
Verbal Reflections
The reflective tools to be employed in our project needed to fit with the workplace demands and
time pressures of participants from across a wide range of university institutions. Two rounds of
reflections were conducted, seven participating institutions in each of the two rounds of
reflection. The same participating institutions (partners) were included in all the reflection rounds
(verbal and written). Many of us noted this aspect of the workplace challenges, and it is
somewhat illustrated in the following statement by one participant in the 2013 round of
(There’s an) overemphasis on the business so to speak and…increased workloads
because, you know, not providing more people to do the work, they’re just creating
more work. (Reflector number 2)
Due to this, the guided verbal reflections were scheduled along the four-year timescale to
occur at planned junctures. At the time of writing, the first two reflections have taken place (for
verbal and written reflections). Participants were contacted by the facilitator and dates, times and
space were set up for the verbal reflections. These dates were organized with enough flexibility
as to fit with participants’ working schedules and daily demands. Topic guides were sent to the
reflectors in advance, and they could respond with any questions or comments before the
discussions, which took place through the medium of Skype. Reflectors and the facilitator also
signed a consent form. So far, two rounds of verbal/oral reflections have taken place with seven
partners participating in each round. In some cases, the online verbal conversation with the
facilitator involved more than one ‘reflector’ from the partner institution in question; in other
cases team members in the same partner institution reflected on the topics together in advance of
the conversation. On the whole, reflectors seemed to have enjoyed the allotted space with the
facilitator in discussing, exploring and teasing out the contextual issues raised within the semi-
structured topic guide. For instance, one reflector in the 2013 round alluded to this:
Actually it’s a very good opportunity for us to make a reflection to the, how
GENOVATE project is going on in (name of partner country) obviously and what we
have done, how we have done all these things. (Reflector number 6)
The following section outlines how the verbal guided reflection tool was developed and how
it was used in practice in order to enable and facilitate participants’ reflections within this action-
research project focusing on organizational change management.
How It Was Developed and How It Was Used: The Verbal Guided Reflections
The topic guide (or protocol) was built primarily on the project’s working document for the
programme of work being carried out that included the reflective discussions. This working
document has undergone a number of rounds of revisions by the partners, and all partners have
had a meaningful part to play in determining how the reflective discussions would be conducted,
in terms of both structure and content. As the tools designed for facilitating process and outcome
change in the institutions were informed meaningfully by us, as project participants, facilitator
and reflectors, we were particularly concerned to ensure that the topic guides reflected key
aspects of the change management project itself, such as the action-research and CAM aspects.
The goal of the verbal reflections was to stimulate self-reflection, at a snapshot point-in-
time, through a two-way dialogue, on the process of implementation of Gender Equality Actions
Plans in the six universities, and on the experiences of taking a Change Academy approach to
GEAP implementation within an action-research project. There were six sections within the topic
guide (arising initially from the working document) as shown in Box 1:
1. Current situation
2. Hindering and enabling factors, in implementing the
GEAPS, at micro and macro institutional levels
3. Reflections of modes of good practice in implementing the
GEAPS, at micro and macro institutional levels
4. Reflections of modes of good practice in implementing the
work packages, at micro and macro institutional levels
5. The role of the Change Academy Model in implementing
change in the institution
6. Ideal scenario/Wish-list for the future
Box 1: Topic Guide Used in the Two Rounds for the
Verbal Discussion Protocol (2013 and 2014)
The first and last sections of the topic guide comprised of open ended prompts, giving
freedom for the reflector to describe their experiences: the opening question asked about the
current situation of the project in the institution, and the last question enabled the reflector to
think about their aspirations for their institution, for organisational change management to occur.
This final question allowed reflectors to dream and “think big,” and illustrates the importance of
such reflection in the midst of busy schedules and work timetables, where such thinking and
dreaming may never have been even prompted or raised before. Sections 2 and 3 of the topic
guide facilitated the reflectors to explore and discuss how their work was being implemented. For
section 4, reflectors were asked to describe their current story of change management
implementation with reference to the project’s visual representation of an action-research cycle.
This iterative cycle, which presents the stages of action research from “reviewing and refining
action plans” to “mapping actions,” “implementing actions,” and “reflecting and evaluating
action,” right back around to the “reviewing and refining” stage, was a useful visual aid to enable
reflectors to think visually and openly on their experience. It also reinforced for us the nature of
the action-research project, in which the work is occurring in an iterative, and often complex
way, and is not linear or seemingly rationalistic. This topic guide has been used in two reflective
rounds thus far, with no difficulty in posing the prompts and eliciting experiences. However this
is always open to change and discussion, and at the end of the verbal reflections (and often
throughout them also) reflectors raised related issues which had not been anticipated. This has
been part of the semi-structured design of the discussions. Data analysis was based on Ritchie
and Lewis (2003) principles of qualitative analysis. This approach was chosen given the large
volume of transcripts and wealth of data arising from this qualitative data collection.
Written Reflections
The verbal reflections have been complemented by written reflections. The project’s online
platform has been used for this purpose, with targeted calls for written reflections at different
moments during the project (there have been two rounds so far, which included fourteen
participants; seven of the same participants in each round). In collaborative projects learning by
reflections could be supported by knowledge sharing process using Web 2.0; the Web 2.0
technologies are a strategic knowledge management initiative, clearly communicating its
benefits, providing the necessary training and finally, rewarding participation (Shang et at. 2011 ;
Paroutis et al. 2009).
The goal of the written reflections is to gather information on each institution’s narrative of
change and on the barriers and facilitators to change in each institution. Round 1 focused on our
experiences of the project’s “Stop-and-Share” sessions, one year into the project. The “Stop-and-
Share” sessions are online internal workshops or webinars for project participants, which provide
a space for sharing experiences of implementation of GEAPs or for sharing knowledge and
expertise on specific aspects of GEAP implementation across the consortium. A Stop and Share
session took place early on in the project in relation to Change Academy model, which was then
asked about in the written reflections from participants (as referred to in the questions in Box 2.
A series of guided questions provided a process and structure for the written reflections. The first
round of written reflections in 2013 were highly structured (with tightly defined questions and
points), as seen in Box 2.
A. How did you find the Stop & Share sessions generally?
B. Did the Stop & Share sessions answer your queries and uncertainties
around CAM?
C. Were they helpful for applying CAM in your institution?
D. Think about how you might apply CAM in your institution. In this
point, you may wish to reflect on the tasks that have been set up at the
end of the first 3 sessions.
E. Any further queries/comments/thoughts regarding CAM in your
institution and in informing the Social Model of Gender Equality
Box 2: Questions for Participants for the First Round of Written Reflections (2013)
The second call for written reflections, which took place one year later, asked some similar
questions (Box 3), and also sought to capture some of our reflections on developing a Code of
Practice for Gender Equality in Research Excellence (a shared work-package task). The purpose
was to examine the positive and negative aspects of our learning, as well as our related thoughts
and feelings in relation to the, adoption and implementation of CAM.
Box 3: Questions and Prompts for the Second Round of the Written Reflections (2014)
The reflective journals were examined in order to assess their utility for facilitating the
development of a contemporary model of gender equality implementation iteratively guided by
the Change Academy Model (Jackson 2004). We have applied reflective journal principles in our
evaluation of changes using the Change Academy Model. In analysing the written reflections, we
have defined some themes derived from reflectors’ first round of written reflections. Data were
analysed by open and axial coding (a several times data reading was follow up by process of
creating tentative labels for part of data, creating themes or categories by grouping codes, or
labels given to words and phrases). Data analysis was based on Huberman and Miles’ (1994)
principles of qualitative analysis. We used the same analysing procedure in the second round of
written reflections in 2014.
Emerging Findings from Application of GENOVATE Reflection Framework
The Verbal Reflection Process
The tools of the reflective process have provided a wealth of qualitative data within the reflexive
context. Some emerging findings from an initial anal ysis of the verbal/oral reflective
conversation transcripts (for both years, 2013 and 2014) are presented here. For ease of writing,
we refer to partners according to their coded numbers as assigned during the analysis. The most
prominent finding in terms of the workability and necessity of the verbal guided reflections was
how little time participants had for reflection. The reflective space provided by the verbal
discussions was an integral part of the process of reflection regarding the organisational change
programme in each institution. The following quotes illustrate the full timetables, work pressures
and busy schedules participants had and discussed during the guided reflections:
We recognise that it was very, you know, overloaded for us as a work and for example
each week there were meetings for the commission’s platforms or each month’s hours
and hours we were spending for the workings of the commission’s platforms and the
boards. (Reflector 6, 2013)
It’s massive and it’s a busy project, complex and a challenge. (Reflector 5, 2013)
Also I suppose for us a challenge is I think involving the team outside of meetings, you
know involving them in the activities more, because you know of time pressures, but
also because of the nature of you know running a project there has to be always a central
coordination I suppose and it kind of ends up then that you know the core people you
know end up kind of running with stuff and it’s difficult for others then to get involved,
but we have a team that is really enthusiastic and really you know have a huge amount
to contribute and so we are thinking about ways that we can harness that I suppose.
(Reflector 4, 2013)
Obviously the time pressure aspect of this work particularly for team members and other
people you know remains an issue, because the whole question of work within [our
institution] remains a very live one and you know people taking on anything that might
be perceived as being additional work, certainly probably wouldn’t go down that
terribly well, but I think we have tried to address that particularly. (Reflector 4, 2014)
Yeah, I think it’s still a big time issue, with time, because GENOVATE like most
structural projects are funded with staff time. People haven’t been given additional time
to do GENOVATE. GENOVATE is part of what they do and is not accounted for in
workload, if you know what I mean. So the Deans are saying to colleagues “Oh just get
on with it” but the other colleagues in the school are saying “You still need to do your
marking. You still need to…,” so you find that people are doing this on top of
everything else, so time and workload is a real challenge. (Reflector 2, 2014)
A participant in the guided verbal/oral reflection raised the issue of needing ‘head space’ or
time for reflection and thought in the course of the project work, evidencing again the busy
schedules of participants and the awareness that time for reflection was needed and difficult to
In reality we will get our new staff member and that will help in terms of capacity, its
more about head space, rather than focusing on operation issues and firefighting, with
head space it is more fun and less problems, more time to think. (Reflector 5, 2013)
The very practice of doing the verbal reflections also helped us in different ways for example
as one reflector shared:
Every step is very huge effort for [us]. We are very happy with having given this report
[given during the verbal reflection], because we are learning, and we are much more,
you know, confident of our jobs when we are doing these things. (Reflector 6, 2014)
In relation to busy workloads and timetables, one reflector made an interesting analysis of
this, pointing to the gendered nature of busy schedules and workloads:
I don’t know whether it’s going to be a positive thing for me to even use the workload
attribution to GENOVATE as a gender equality issue because majority of the people
actively in GENOVATE are women and for me it goes to show some of the things that
you find in the literature around women doing the tasks that men do not often want to do
and those tasks are not given the right status in academia. So GENOVATE is not blue-
sky research, it’s an action research project and the people who are actively involved are
women and they are not given proper workload time to do it. They are doing it on top of
everything else. (Reflector 2, 2014)
The benefits of applying the guided reflection methods in this gender equality change
management programme are evidenced here in terms of how participants engaged openly and
willingly with the guided reflective tools. The verbal guided reflection tool, as opposed to a
verbal open unguided reflection, or a verbal structured reflection tool, was a balanced means of
providing a space for participants to reflect on the experience and process of change in their
institutions, whilst also providing some gentle steerage in the discussion of certain topics. All
participants in both rounds (2013 and 2014) have engaged very openly and whole-heartedly,
evidenced in the lengthy discussions and richness of data that has emerged.
Reflexivity and Action in the Reflection Process
As a result of the first round of the verbal guided reflections, when it became clear that we were
not as comfortable with the Change Academy Model (CAM) as we might wish to be, a “Stop and
Share” series was organised in November 2013. This involved four weekly hour-long
workshops/webinars whereby partners could learn more about CAM, particularly from the
experience of one project partner who had experience at an institutional level of using the model.
(Round 2 of the written reflections included a reflection on this series). This illustrates the role of
the Guided Reflection tool in highlighting potential problems or difficulties in GEAP
implementation, and pointing us towards areas where action was needed at consortium level.
In addition to highlighting potential problems to be addressed at consortium level, the
Guided Reflection tool provided us with the space to articulate where we felt we were atin the
GEAP implementation process at different points in time. This act of articulation served a
number of functions: firstly, it directed our attention to what we were doing in our institutions,
how we were doing, and most importantly, why we were taking particular courses of action. By
talking about the “what” alongside the big picture of “why” and “how,” we began to really reflect
in a deep way for the first time on our experiences of seeking to mobilise change in our own
organisations, and to theorise from our experiences. Secondly, the act of articulation was part of
a process of documenting the experiences of GEAP implementation, that is, of building an
archive of reflections in a longitudinal sense—captured at different points in time during the
four-year project. This archive is a bank of data which enables us to make sense of how and why
we have implemented actions in the way we have done—a crucial step in developing a social
model of gender equality implementation.
For example, two rounds of written reflections have helped to identify changes in the
partners’ organizations in relation to the adoption and implementation of the Change Academy
model. Reflective thinking here is about understanding and adapting to organisational contexts.
In general the written reflections reveal that participants found the CAM “Stop-and-Share”
sessions to be very useful and they enjoyed the online sessions. The main benefits were
connected to our satisfaction with understanding the content and philosophy of the Change
Academy Model at a theoretical level as a result of the Stop-and-Share sessions, despite the
challenges described in the first round of written reflections.
“We found the Stop & Share sessions clear and useful.”
“I absolutely enjoyed sessions immensely. They helped clarify everything that I didn't
understand regarding CAM.”
“The Stop & Share sessions have certainly helped me to understand how we are
approaching institutional change within the project.”
The written reflections suggest that partners are moving from a description of their
experiences to more reflective and analytical or critical thinking processes to extract deeper
meaning from those experiences in the next phase, which is adopting the change.
“We really enjoyed sharing comments and challenges with the other partners.”
“I believe that not only did we share what we had done, I also learnt from partners based
on their response to the tasks that had been set.”
“Based on previous and current experience of using CAM, we are confident that this
approach will inform the development of a social model of gender equality
implementation. We are in a prime position to compare CAM use in different change
programmes in our institution as well as other HEIs that have used this approach in
managing institutional change.”
The findings suggest that action-research projects can benefit from using reflective tools,
such as written reflections. In addition to encouraging reflection which can lead to shared
learning and reflexive action, guided reflections also perform a crucial role in documenting
project thinking longitudinally. Analysis of the guided verbal/oral discussion transcripts
alongside an analysis of our institutional progress reports for 2013 and 2014 (Brazinova and
Polakovicova 2015) reveals the connections between our hopes and worries at particular points in
time and our subsequent actions. For example, Reflector 1 mentioned in the verbal discussion in
2013 that they were keen on inviting and engaging more with the student population, which was
then evidenced by their organization of a “gender studies graduate student congress” and training
sessions for graduate students in 2014. Reflector 4, during their discussion in 2013, mentioned
their hope in establishing a Guarantee Board (which would focus on equal opportunities and the
promotion of well-being in the workplace) which has happened. In 2013 this partner mentioned
difficulties in engaging with colleagues throughout the university, which seems to be addressed
by the numerous activities in cross-institutional meetings, World Cafes, and a piloting of a
mentoring programme. In particular, Reflector 5, in their reports, mentioned the guided reflection
framework as time and space to think creatively and develop a major change initiative, which
illustrates the importance of the guided reflections tools for this partner. They also discussed
cooperation with external stakeholders in their discussions, which is then clearly evidenced by
much activity in their reports, in particular in contributing to local, regional and national
strategies and plans, for example, the Gender Equality Plan for Regional Growth, 2013/2014. For
reflector 7, in 2013, the reflector highlighted the novelty of cross disciplinary and cross
institutional working in their university. Activity in meeting with senior management in Faculties
and with the University President, as well as organizing World Cafes in other Faculties shows
their activity in meeting with the challenge of new professional ways of working in a university
setting. In short, the transcripts of the verbal discussions provide a valuable documentation of the
thinking behind many of the actions undertaken as part of the GEAP implementation in the
different institutions—they document our hopes, fears and anxieties at specific points in time,
and in retrospect, they enable an understanding of the contexts in which particular decisions were
made and particular courses of action were taken. This is crucial to our development of a
contextualized social model of gender equality implementation.
Discussion: Integration of Project-wide Learning Objectives
The verbal guided self-reflection process was developed by a particular group of people involved
in an organisational change management programme: academics and researchers working in
European universities with busy schedules and heavy workloads. In that light, a key aspect of the
process was that that specific times and dates were set aside for a reflective space. This was to
enable reflection around a number of key issues and prompts whilst maintaining the narrative
One of the commonly cited limitations of using reflective practice as a form of action
research relates to the critical component (Sambrook and Stewart 2008). Do we use journaling as
an effective critical reflection tool or mainly as a descriptive tool? We have found that one of the
key limitations of the verbal reflection application has been, at times, a greater focus on the
“facts” instead of a critical reflection and sharing of a narrative. This is partly due to language
issues (many participants prepared detailed written notes for the verbal discussion) and also a
tendency for discussions to be more structured than had been initially envisaged. A future study
may seek to improve the “reflective quality” of the research endeavour. Other future studies and
further research may also examine the gendered aspect of change management programmes
further, and a longer term study could focus on the way in which work organizations reinforce
gender inequality, such as, as pointed out by one participant, the fact that there was a high
number of female team members on the project (and therefore involved in this study) who were
working with limited time as a result of other work obligations (notably those which were not
materially or promotionally rewarding) which were not shared by their male colleagues.
Regardless of these limitations, the guided reflection has proven very useful and responsive to
our needs as action-researchers, given our busy timetables and work schedules. In complex
projects, such as this organisational change project, a space for reflection is necessary and needs
to be tailored to the needs and workload requirements of the participants. The guided reflection
framework was designed so as to draw people out, by prompting them to share the stories of
change ongoing in their institutions. The findings illustrate the difficulties we all face in being
able, given time and work constraints, to reflect. A theoretical underpinning of the guided
reflection framework has been that people do not have a lot of time to reflect, thus ensuring the
tools for reflection have been adjusted to our own needs.
Reflection is a way to promote organisational learning, an essential link to the essence of the
organisational change management project. For instance, the first and closing prompts in the
guided reflections were very open and gave room for discussion and reflection on the part of the
reflector, allowing for such open and reflexive learning. Organisational learning within the
GENOVATE project is based on the capacity of partner institutions to maximize learning
through the guided reflections framework and share knowledge both within and outside the
consortium. The performance gains which result from such increased learning in organisations
can have significant practical implications for participating organisations.
The verbal reflections and written reflections (gathered as blog forms on the online community
platform), designed and applied as a Guided Reflection tool, enabled the sharing of experience
and institutional stories by participants implementing action plans in a Gender Equality Change
Management Programme on transforming organizational culture for gender equality in research
and innovation in Europe. This learning tool illustrates the importance of such structured points
in time for reflection, given the heavy workloads of participants and our identified lack of time
generally for reflection in our work. The process findings illustrate the workability of such a tool,
and in the verbal reflections we witnessed the reflexive learning ongoing in the work of
participants. The verbal and written reflections have provided us with valuable space for
reflection on what it is we are doing and why, connecting our everyday project activity with
long-term goals for gender equality, not least highlighting problems to be addressed and allowing
us to document and understand processes of change, but most importantly, enhancing the
capacity for reflexive learning to contribute to ongoing organisational change. As the programme
continues, the Guided Reflection tool will continue as a tailored approach in facilitating key
reflections from participants in enabling organisational learning.
Our many thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments, and to Dr. Saima
Rifet for her most appreciated assistance.
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Prof. Uduak Archibong: Professor of Diversity and Director, Centre for Inclusion and Diversity,
School of Health Studies, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK
Monica O’Mullane: College Lecturer, Department of Public Health, Trnava University, Trnava,
Daniela Kállayová: Researcher and Lecturer, Department of Public Health, Trnava University,
Trnava, Slovakia
Nazira Karodia: Associate Dean (Student Recruitment), Director of STEM, and Senior Lecturer ,
Department of Chemical and Forensic Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK
Caitríona Ní Laoire: Lecturer in Applied Social Studies, University College Cork, Ireland;
Scientific Coordinator, GENOVATE Project, University College Cork, Ireland
Dr. Ilenia Picardi: Associated Professor, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy
The International Journal of Organizational Diversity
is one of four thematically focused journals in the
collection of journals that support the Diversity
knowledge community—its journals, book series,
conference and online community.
“Managing diversity” has emerged as a distinct agenda
in the business and economics of diversity. This focus
encompasses organizational diversity in private, public,
and community organizations, including workplace
culture, recruitment and promotion, human resource
development, team work and relationships with diverse
clienteles. This journal includes analyses of the impact of
government and regulatory policies on the workplace. It
explores the local and global diversity, as well as the full
range of issues of diversity arising in workplaces, from
gender, to sexual orientation, to culture and language, to
As well as papers of a traditional scholarly type,
this journal invites case studies that take the form
of presentations of diversity practice—including
documentation of socially-engaged practices and
exegeses analyzing the effects of those practices.
The International Journal of Organizational Diversity
is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.
ISSN: 2328-6261
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... It will show a way of getting new insights into existing diversity management issues. Diversity management includes a broad range of different aspects depending on the context in which people are living and working (e.g., Mazur 2012;Langholz 2014;Kupczyk et al. 2015;Archibong et al. 2016;McConatha and DiGregorio 2016). For example, managers in German companies face different diversity challenges depending on the industry, the strategy, and human resources policy their company follows compared to managers in other countries or companies. ...
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Systemic Constellation describes an approach that enables practitioners to examine and address typical issues in diversity management from a different, relational perspective. Systemic Constellation utilizes the human ability to recognize the qualities of relationships between two or more people from their spatial alignment to each other (transverbal language) and the capability to illustrate inner pictures by placing humans or objects in a room as representatives (representative perception). Systemic Constellation originated in the field of family therapy and counseling, but through research, guidance work, and teaching activities over the last two decades, it has developed into a generic, structural, constellation logic with multiple methods of application. It has been adapted to a variety of topics and issues, and a number of constellation formats. This article serves as a starting point for the transfer of Systemic Constellation into diversity management. It appears that conventional approaches taught in traditional management classes (such as focusing on tools, setting targets, planning measures, and offering incentives) are of limited use when trying to deal with problematic situations in diversity management. Preliminary trials show that new solutions and insights into deeper underlying dynamics can be gained on personal and institutional levels when applying Systemic Constellation. Participants find the application of the model as very beneficial. Systemic Constellation is grounded in personal experience and particularly in a person’s own experience of the consistency of representative perception. This viewpoint can only be conveyed rudimentarily in a scientific article. Readers should feel encouraged to apply Systemic Constellations themselves and use it in their work, experimentally and professionally. To harness the full potential of Systemic Constellations in diversity management, further research needs to be done.
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Why does the institutional response of higher education institutions to a ‘potentially institutionally transformative’ gender equality programme such as the Athena SWAN (AS) Charter matter? If a higher education institution seeks and attains the AS award, then the institutional response would be to embed the Charter’s action plans thoroughly without resistance or variation across higher education institutional contexts? These are the initial and broader reflective questions underpinning and inspiring this article. The reality is that the Athena SWAN Charter actions and commitments are not simply installed into the technical rules and procedures of higher education institutions, resulting in the organisational and cultural change it seeks. It is argued in this article that applying a feminist institutionalist lens, which deals with the exchange between formal and informal rules, norms and practices, and the roles played by actors working with the rules – the micro-foundations of gendered institutions – will inform our understanding of how a change programme such as Athena SWAN can instil institutional change- if any change. This article details a theoretical framework, drawing from the FI perspective, which will be applied to an empirical study exploring the institutional responses of higher education institutions to the Athena SWAN process in Ireland.
This paper argues for recognition of the constitutive role of context in shaping the dynamics of the policy‐practice interface in the field of gender equality in universities. Using a comparative and reflective case‐study approach, we draw on our experiences, as action‐researchers, of developing and implementing Gender Equality Action Plans (GEAPs) in four universities in four different European countries and we explore the role of national and local context in the mediation and translation of the GEAP model. Drawing on the concepts of gendered organisations, dialogic organisational change and policy mobilities, we argue for the need to be critical of approaches to gender equality in higher education (HE) that presume policy measures and good practice models transfer unproblematically to different HE organisations in different international contexts; instead, we draw attention to the contingent ways in which uneven gender relations articulate and manifest in different contexts, shaping possibilities for, and obstacles to, gender equality intervention. Thus, we argue that context plays a crucial constitutive role in the interpretation, enactment and impact of gender equality policy in HE. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
This article highlights three major outcomes from global employability surveys about the topic of gender diversity. Students and graduates of two master programs at ESB Business School of Reutlingen University in Germany were asked about their study programs, their expected and their realized career paths, and their individual well-being. This article highlights selected gender differences that were discovered in the analysis and underlines results on specific gender issues. The three major outcomes are: firstly, men and women work in different industries, functions, and leadership positions; secondly, there is a potential for unfulfilled expectations of young managers regarding their achievement of certain positions and the realization of their private goals; thirdly, by looking at the graduates' career paths in combination with their well-being, a low level of satisfaction with work-life-balance and high levels of stress could be identified. The results give valuable insights into the conceptual world of students at the beginning of their career and as future managers. Looking at gender differences and gender issues leads to interesting findings which can be used for further research and discussions at ESB Business School. By contrasting the outcomes of the alumni survey with outcomes of the student survey, significant differences between the awareness of students and the reality of the graduates concerning gender diversity issues were discovered. The disclosed gap between students' expectations and the real-life situations of the alumni indicates further areas for discussion. One major question is how students can cope with these challenges and issues of gender diversity management in future management positions as (female) managers while taking corporate social responsibility into consideration. © Common Ground Publishing, Lyuba Mutovkina, Carmen Finckh, Mona Gall. All Rights Reserved.
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Purpose – This paper aims to seek to contribute to current debates about the effectiveness of different types of gender equality interventions in the academic context. This paper presents an argument for the need to move beyond an individual-structural dichotomy in how such interventions are perceived. Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on an action-research case-study, the Through the Glass Ceiling project, to challenge the idea that “individual”/single-actor interventions serve only to reinforce underlying inequalities by attempting to “fix the women”. Findings – It is suggested that actions that support women in their careers have the potential to achieve a degree of transformation at individual, cultural and structural levels when such actions are designed with an understanding of how individuals embody the gendered and gendering social structures and values that are constantly being produced and reproduced within society and academia. The case study highlights the benefits of supporting individuals as gendered actors in gendering institutions and of facilitating the development of critical gender awareness, suggesting that such interventions are most effective when undertaken as part of an integrated institutional equality agenda. Originality/value – By calling attention to the ongoing mutual construction of actors and practices in organizations, this paper seeks to make both a conceptual contribution to how we understand the (re)production and potential transformation of gender relations in academia and to influence wider policy dialogues on diversity at work.
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In October 2011, five selected Western Australian teachers took part in a teacher mentoring project in Tanzania. The teachers spent a month embedded in local primary and secondary schools, working collaboratively with their Tanzanian counterparts. As a strategy for making sense of their experiences, each teacher was asked to maintain a reflective journal, using the Harvard Visible Thinking Routine of 'see, think, wonder' as a critical structure for guiding their journal writing. The purpose of this article is to discuss the effectiveness of journaling for teachers in challenging teaching situations, and the usefulness of the Harvard approach in structuring the reflective process as part of an action-based reflective model. As such, the article examines not just the role of critical journaling in helping the participating teachers make sense of their African experience, but the potential of this approach in general in helping teachers faced with challenging or confronting teaching contexts.
The term project consists of a journal keeping activity from which summaries of the “state of the student’s mind” about evaluation is derived about halfway through the term and again at the end. The class jointly derives criteria by which these statements can be assessed; they are also asked to write a one-page self-assessment of their constructions based on those criteria. The intent is to get the students started on developing their own unique construction of evaluation, and get them in a posture to continue seeking out improvements.