Corporate Classrooms

A striking feature of late capitalism is the emergence of the corporate class­room. The trend is for many companies to create their own training and edu­cation systems. Major actors in this field are multinational consulting firms that have their own training facilities, where all newly employed consultants must go to get an understanding of the corporate culture and to learn the tools of the trade. It seems only natural that these company classrooms spread, because this structuring of education closely matches the way these consultants will work as they “educate” and advise their clients. In the United States, more than 20 years ago, it was already estimated that more hours of class were taught in classrooms created by and for major private sector corporations than in the 3,000-plus institutions of higher education in operation at the time (Eurich, 1985).

Diverse subjects are covered in these classrooms. Many areas involve tech­nical training and retraining; others involve human relations, management education, accounting practices, self-development, and health care. Increasing numbers of such learning opportunities are available to employees off-site, through advanced information technology.

There are many different kinds of corporate classroom, and they are open to many possibilities. One interpretation is that the formal educational system does such a poor job of preparing employees that further education is neces­sary for them to function properly in a profitable business. Another view is that the corporate world is so dynamic and challenging that all organizations must become “learning organizations” if they are to compete effectively (Senge, 1990). It is also clear that corporate classrooms can be structured to serve the purposes of socializing and ideologically disciplining employees to the com­pany view of the world.

This is not a small or economically insignificant activity. It is estimated that it involves $30-$50 billion spent on formal employee education in a year and more than $180 billion on less formal, on-the-job education and training (Nash & Hawthorne, 1988). How this learning is structured and imparted has not been a focus of AR work in the United States, perhaps because so few action researchers are inclined to work within the corporate environment or are even aware of the change possibilities inherent in such large and well- financed programs.

Source: Greenwood Davydd J., Levin Morten (2006), Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change, SAGE Publications, Inc; 2nd edition.

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