Exploring nonformal adult learning in a business school leadership programme: a case study of the nexus programme.
Spooner, Vivienne Susan.
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This study examined how participants in a business school nonformal leadership programme, Nexus, learn. The nature of learning as reported by Nexus participants and programme managers was explored, as well as how participation on Nexus impacted the leadership practices and broader lives of programme participants. Nexus is a programme in which there is no curriculum nor are there marks awarded for assignments. There is no examination or portfolio of evidence as assurance of learning. Participants are awarded a certificate of attendance at the conclusion of the eight month long programme. There is minimal theorising of this particular form of adult learning, especially within a post-apartheid and fractured South African context, and within a business school environment. The impact of this type of learning has also not been theorised. Using transformative learning theory, and drawing on leadership literature, the study links how this transformative learning experience can lead to re-humanising leadership. It also examines the length, breadth and depth of transformative learning outcomes. This case study of the Nexus programme collected data from focus groups and semi-structured interviews with past Nexus participants, semi-structured interviews with the programme managers of Nexus, extensive document analysis and observations of two Nexus events. Using an inductive data analysis approach in this qualitative research, the nature of learning showed that philosophically there is a need to acknowledge such learning takes time and requires multiple viewpoints, but that the structure and processes of learning must create a safe space to explore the contested socio-historical context of post-apartheid South Africa. In contrast with learning in formal settings, participants reported a sense of being ‘forced to’ learn about themselves and others. Data were also deductively coded using transformative learning theory. The impact of learning through participation in Nexus speaks to the many ways in which boundaries are broken down and blockages are removed. A 4 P Model of learning (Prescribed process, Participation, Profound transformative learning, and Praxis) is proposed.