re: double-loop learning

Magnus Larsson (
Fri, 1 Nov 96 14:41:56 +0100

Hi Dev!

Thanks for your interesting and very clarifying letter. I would like to make
a few comments.

First an excerpt from your letter:

>But what _does_ strike me as very relevant to the present discussion is
>that double-loop learning, if the wretched concept is to mean anything at
>all beyond being yet another re-description of stuff we know very well,
>becomes useful if we see the "second loop" as being a way of "talking
>about", "making sense of", "being capable of selecting among", states of
>the "first loop" in a learning system.

welll, as I understand the concept, one of its most iteresting features it
that it implies the _existence_ of a second loop, in situations and in
relations where we act as if only a single loop exists. The first point, as
I see it, is not to choose among different functions (as understand as
"strategies" in Argyris terms, quite commonsenical), but to focus attention
to and become aware of the _existing_ strategy. It is about beginning to
_see_ the system, and thus learn about it. Then, the next step is to find,
invent etc alternatives. And then, the very difficult thing to implement=

But first: awareness of the second loop. For the participant.=20

In that way double loop learning is about a learning process, more than
about a monitoring process, to me. (ok, Argyris seems to mean that learning
is a monitoring mechanism....)

Further on:=20

>Well, I find it useful to remember the Organisation Corollary and all that
>stuff about some constructs being in a superordinate relationship to
>others. Particularly, that it is in the nature of values (core constructs)
>that they govern the ways in which subordinate constructs are deployed in
>given circumstances; and that you can't effectively change peoples' core
>constructs but, in order to bring about the major changes involved in
>therapy, counselling or training, one way is to engage in
>experiments-with-life in which the client is encouraged to generate and
>explore new, alternative (lower-level) constructs which provide expression
>to existing core constructs _in different ways_. Management development and
>organisation development are surely ways of doing that: they're not
>attempts to change personal values. (Are they?)

I see that the idea of core constructs, and costructs organized
hierarchically, is similar to Argyris' view. What I do not see here, or have
any clear understandig about, is the idea about theory-in-use and espoused
theory. One of the main points with double loop learning is to discover the
strategies and values I actually act upon, regardless of whether they are my
espoused values or not. The point becomes to become aware about
inconsistencies in my construct structure, as I see it, between espoused
constructs and enacted constructs. But perhaps that point is too trivial
here - I feel my knowledge of PCP is too limited to be able to judge. In
fact, ine reason for my participation here was to learn more about pcp, and
I find this way very rewarding.=20

I become a bit unsure about how you see the learning process in the person.
For all the benefit of the metafor with the finite functionmachine, I
believe it hides important ascpects of the learning process Argyris is
focusing. One of the main points in his later works is that we act in ways
that inhibit our learning. Double loop learning is something we constantly
avoid, if not special conditions are fostered, and we actively reflect on
it. Yhe conditions are mainly interpersonal (Model-1 behvaiour and

Have a good weekend!


Magnus Larsson
Department of applied psychology Adress: Exercisgatan 5
Lund University 211 49 Malm=F6
Sweden Sweden