Team Learning and Senge: Definition, Lesson & Quiz

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Shawn Grimsley

Team learning is one of the five disciplines outlined by Peter Senge in his book 'The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization' (1990). In this lesson, you will learn about team learning, its core concepts, and why it is important. A short quiz follows the lesson.

We also recommend watching Groups, Mobs & Teams in Organizations and Team Conflict and the Work Process

Why Is Team Learning Important?

According to Peter Senge, team learning is a necessary discipline an organization and its members must develop in order to build an effective learning organization. A learning organization is an organization that encourages and facilitates learning so that it can adapt and transform itself to achieve its goals in an dynamic and competitive world.


Peter Senge is a Senior Lecturer at MIT's Sloan School of Business. He has popularized the concept of a learning organization with his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Team learning is a skill developed for group problem solving and learning.


Team learning requires the following components to be effective:

  • Discussion. Discussion is a process of exploration taken by the team members. Each member presents and defends his view on the issue or problem facing the group.
  • Dialogue. The next step in team learning is dialogue. Dialogue, in its simplest terms, is a conversation. It's important to emphasis that dialogue in this context is not a debate. Team members are not attempting to successfully impose their view on their fellow members when engaging in dialogue. Instead, team members are attempting to go beyond each of their individual understandings of the issue presented and explore the issue creatively from many different points of view in order to make the best decision.

There is an important interrelationship with team learning and the other four disciplines. In order for you to engage in team learning, you should have developed a commitment to the truth that is found in personal mastery. You should also understand and be able to apply system thinking, which is the ability to see patterns and interrelationships - the big picture.

Additionally, you must be able to effectively recognize, test the validity, and improve upon your mental models, the generalized way you view the world. You will also need an understanding of the organization's shared vision so that solutions presented are in harmony with the vision. These skills are necessary to effectively help your team in discussions, dialogues and in finding creative solutions to problems facing your organization.


Let's say you are the chairperson of the economics department at a small college. You have just be advised by the dean of the business school that your budget for the next school term will be reduced by 15% because of state and federal government grant cutbacks and a reduction in student enrollment. You must find a way to save 15% and still maintain the high quality of education and research that your department prides itself upon. You send out an email to all members of the department explaining the situation and ask them to meet with you in three days to discuss possible solutions at an all department faculty meeting. You ask them to come prepared with possible solutions.

At the meeting, you explain the issue facing the department and give each member an opportunity to present their suggestions to solve the problem. After this exploratory phase, you invite dialogue reminding the team that they are not to debate and argue but rather explore the ideas presented together to find a creative solution to the problem. After several hours and pots of coffee, the team has been able to synthesize some of the best ideas together for a plan of action that should permit the department to maintain its high standards of education and research within the budget authorized by the college.


Team learning is one of the five disciplines required for an effective learning organization. The two primary components of team learning are discussion and dialogue. Effective team learning also requires that members of the team understand system thinking, have a commitment to the truth, understand the organization's shared vision, and be able to effectively manage mental models.

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