What Workplace Educational Programs Need to Know About Behavioral Change: Tapping the Work of Kurt Lewin: Gershwin Mary Crabbe

Topics: Change management, Kurt Lewin, Change Pages: 12 (3552 words) Published: November 7, 2010

Review of article: What Workplace Educational Programs need to know about behavioral change: Tapping the work of Kurt Lewin: Gershwin Mary Crabbe

The purpose of the article is to evaluate Kurt Lewin’s paradigm of change, and its implications for workplace education programs. I chose the article because it relates to my current work place situation, which has undergone major changes in the past two years, as well as some changes I have attempted in my personal life. I will demonstrate throughout the discussion related personal experience of how I find common ground with Lewin’s theories, and finally, deliver some criticism.

Abstract: The focus of the article is on the current move towards on-site instruction of basic skills and tailored instruction to new employees in order to gain higher productivity and to help workers to become more flexible and more teachable. This notion is derived from research on reading, which led to an emphasis on task analysis and the development of contextualized basic skills instruction. Organizational communication could be utilized to solve many workplace issues encountered by such programs, but it has been neglected till now. The author focuses on Kurt Lewin’s study of organizational communication, and the prospect of using it in workplace education.

In his Field Theory, Kurt Lewin asserts the shortcomings of trying to comprehend human conduct in isolation from the environment in which the person functions. Lewin states that the environment forms the basis of people’s perceptions, feelings and actions. He criticizes viewpoints that analyze behavior into separate units, consequently disregarding the whole person. He proposes a field theory which uses the situation, environment or setting as a starting point, and then moves on to an examination of other aspects of people‘s lives. This theory is based on the assumption that a person’s behavior is a function of the interaction between the person and the environment, hence B= f (P, E). The person and the environment are interdependent variables, so in order to understand or predict behavior, the person and the environment have to be regarded as one group of interrelated criteria. Individuals and groups function in dynamic fields in which all aspects are interrelated with the others. Forces in the field causes behavior, hence the term forces field theory.


The author illustrates field theory by using an example of a workplace situation which needs to be changed. The interplay between driving forces and opposing forces brings about new behavior. Every system has a status quo, or is in equilibrium, which is the steady state balance between these forces. Change signifies an interruption of equilibrium.

An employee who needs to learn how to speak English more fluently, could be in equilibrium between

- the motivation to change in order to be more effective in the workplace, to be able to communicate with colleagues, as well as being aware of the opportunities available to bilingual staff, and

- The forces that inhibit change, for example fear of ridicule, lack of competence and opportunity to speak English. To initiate change, the driving force should be stronger than inhibiting forces. Conventional education reform initiatives have focused on the individual’s willingness to make changes to behavior, and to obtain new skills. For example, companies setting up English classes to improve competence in English or group dynamics training sessions to facilitate conflict resolution, disregard a larger group of forces that may cause behavior.

Field theory facilitates the analysis of behavior while taking into account the following aspects:

An escalation in the extent of a driving force, and the supplementation of new incentives, can lead to change. For example, a business with an influx of immigrant workers, adds a new incentive by offering English classes for the...
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