Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 697–713

Practicing What We Teach in Teaching Systems Practice: The Action–Learning Cycle

  • Bob Zimmer

DOI: 10.1023/A:1013126311580

Cite this article as:
Zimmer, B. Systemic Practice and Action Research (2001) 14: 697. doi:10.1023/A:1013126311580


Respect for autonomy is a powerful tool for managing complexity. It lets natural, mutually supportive order emerge. In Western culture, though, much order is imposed. This causes conflict, which only increases complexity. This conflictual pattern has an antidote in systems practice: the systemic action–learning cycle. When used reflectively at the level of second-order cybernetics, this cycle embodies respect for autonomy. The UK Open University course "T306: Managing Complexity—A Systems Approach" teaches this action–learning cycle, and uses the cycle in its own teaching. In particular, it uses the cycle in its online conferences, to invite participation and dissolve conflict. This paper shows how.

reflective practicerespect for autonomyaction–learning cyclefirst-order cyberneticssecond-order cyberneticsthird-order cyberneticsonline conferencingteaching and learning

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bob Zimmer
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Educational TechnologyOpen UniversityMilton KeynesU.K.