The role of interpretation in learning practices, in the context of collaboration

Hibbert, Paul and Siedlok, Frank and Beech, Nic (2014) The role of interpretation in learning practices, in the context of collaboration. Academy of Management Learning and Education. amle.2014.0004. ISSN 1537-260X

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Abstract

Collaboration is increasingly used to solve complex management, research and societal problems, but it presents particular learning challenges. The existing literature has developed theories of how practice learning occurs within bounded communities, typically through assimilation into an agreed set of meanings, skilled practices and legitimated judgements (or taste). But less is known about the interpretive nature of learning during collaborations that cross community, organization or disciplinary boundaries. Through a longitudinal, participant observer study of a collaborative setting concerned with interdisciplinary research, we develop an understanding of the interpretive dynamics of learning in collaborative contexts. From these findings we develop insights on the outcomes associated with two interpretive modes of engagement - instrumental collaborative exchange and curiosity-driven dialogue - enacted through three learning practices: exploring limitations; developing connections; and developing shared interpretive horizons. We conclude that the consequences for learning can vary with the interpretive approach and articulate the implications for interpretation theory and management education that arise from this.