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Dr Mary Johnsson

Biography

Mary Johnsson is a lecturer within Adult Learning in the School of Education within FASS. She teaches a variety of business and education subjects for undergraduate and postgraduate courses that focus on organisational learning, work, employability and professional practice and human resource development. She has also contributed to several ARC research grants as well as supported the development of the Centre for Research in Learning and Change’s strategic plans.

For 2014, Mary was the BAOL and BAOL/BAIS course coordinator for the School of Education. The BAOL program comprises a business and education shared subject portfolio and is designed for those students pursuing a specialist degree in organisational learning. The BAOL/BAIS dual degree program develops further expertise in international subjects from the School of International Studies. In 2015, this responsibility has transitioned to Dr. Donna Rooney.

Prior to working for UTS, Mary spent over twenty years working in corporate executive and management consulting positions for multinational organisations based in the USA. She led major change transformation projects, strategic change initiatives and performance improvement programs in a variety of industry sectors focusing on financial services, telecommunications and manufacturing.

Professional

Mary is a Certified Professional (designation: CAHRI) with the Australian Human Resources Institute and a Member of the Australian Association for Research in Education.

In a prior professional role as a strategic planner and senior manager for a major financial services organisation, Mary served as Program Chair for the Greater New York Strategic Leadership Forum and on the Board of Advisors for both Lucent/Octel (a telecommunications multinational) and Compaq Computers prior to its acquisition by Hewlett-Packard.

Casual Academic, University Casual Academics
Cert IV Training & Assessment, B.Sc (Hons), Grad Cert HETL, M.Ed, MBA (Wharton), Ph.D (UTS)
Senior Member, Australian Human Resources Institute
 
Phone
+61 2 9514 3836

Research Interests

Mary obtained her Masters of Education and Doctor of Philosophy in Education from UTS.

Mary's doctoral thesis on collective learning has earned recognition for the quality of its doctoral research through a 2010 Chancellor's List award at UTS and the 2010 Beth Southwell Award for outstanding thesis by the NSW Institute for Educational Research. 

Her current research interests focus on collective learning in the workplace, relational practices and the development of cross-sector partnerships between industry and higher education. She is interested in how learning emerges; the influence of time, space and materiality in shaping learning practices and how learning contributes to business success and outcomes.

Mary coordinates and teaches multiple subjects within the Adult Learning program suite at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. In the past, she has also taught offshore postgraduate students in Hong Kong.

Recent teaching areas include:

Professional Practice:

  • Professional Practice 1 Organisational Learning 
  • Professional Practice 2 Organisational Learning 

Organisational Learning:

  • Learning and Change
  • Leading Learning in the Workplace 
  • Organisational Learning - both undergraduate and postgraduate
  • Organisational Learning and Change: Local and Global

Human resources and work:

  • Work and People
  • Strategic Human Resource Development

Chapters

Johnsson, M.C. 2015, 'Terroir and timespace: Body rhythms in winemaking' in Green, B. (ed), The body in professional practice, learning and education: Body/practice, Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 71-88.
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Johnsson, M.C. 2012, 'Sensing the tempo-rhythm of practice: The dynamics of engagement' in Hager, P., Lee, A. & Reich, A. (eds), Practice, learning and change: Practice-theory perspectives on professional learning, Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp. 51-65.
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Researchers have conventionally used objective, discrete and linear assumptions of time and space when constructing metaphors such as acquisition, transfer and progression to theorize learning and change. This chapter offers an alternative starting point. It suggests that the notion of practice-based learning and change is better conceptualized as dynamic patterns of human actions and materialities that are often comfortably familiar, yet paradoxically novel leading to possibilities for remaking those practices. Building upon philosophical and postmodern understandings of time and space, I introduce the concept of tempo-rhythm to highlight attention to the significance of practice dynamics for learning and change. Tempo-rhythm is a metaphor borrowed from the dramatic arts (Stanislavski, 1979) that describes how actors incorporate speed, intensity and variability into their movement and speech actions to engage the audience in the shared experience of character-building and performance. I illustrate how the tempo-rhythm of chefs engaging in practice together goes beyond what can be observed, experienced or designed to be purposive in vocational learning. This focus on practice dynamics suggests that learning of an engagement kind requires practitioners to interact in emergent ways that add novelty, variety and intensity to work practices, shaping meaning and commitment to the changing patterns of practice in everyday work life.
Hager, P. & Johnsson, M.C. 2012, 'Collective learning practice' in Hager, P., Lee, A. & Reich, A. (eds), Practice, learning and change: Practice-theory perspectives on professional learning, Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp. 249-265.
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The social and, often, collective character of practice challenges the strong tendency of learning literature to focus exclusively on individuals. The relatively neglected topic of collective learning is the major concern of this chapter. We deploy findings from recent Australian research with three diverse vocational groups to theorize collective learning from a âpractice turnâ perspective. We discuss how groups learn contextually and dynamically using their patterns of interactions formed with others. This patterned, relational and emergent character of learning challenges conventional theories of how groups learn by, for example, analyzing group properties or outcomes, as in theories of team performance; linear progressions of competence as in communities of practice; or through resolving contradictions in activity systems using activity theory. We conclude that collective learning is a holistic relational complex that is irreducible to the sum of its parts whilst drawing on specifiable and non-specifiable aspects that are only obtained through engagement in practice.
Halliday, J. & Johnsson, M.C. 2012, 'A MacIntyrian perspective on organizational learning' in Scott, D. (ed), Theories of learning. Volume 2: Models of learning. SAGE Series of Educational Thought & Practice, SAGE Publications Ltd, London, pp. 123-140.
This article examines the meaning of organizational learning (OL) from a MacIntyrian perspective. Key MacIntyrian terms such as practice, institution and relational dependence are explained and related to OL. It is argued that much of the literature concerned with OL, including that concerned with Communities of Practice, misses the moral and relational dimensions of organizations. An alternative MacIntyrian perspective considers the enduring nature of practices which transcends both individual and organizational interests. The notion of relational dependence extends practical involvement to consideration of what is in the collective interest even where people fundamentally disagree. Such dependence involves generosity towards others and the recognition that conflict is inevitable and desirable. The article concludes with an outline of what OL might be and some indicators of success. Originally published in Management Learning 41(1): 37-51.
Price, O., Johnsson, M.C., Scheeres, H.B., Boud, D.J. & Solomon, N. 2012, 'Learning organizational practices that persist and perpetuate: A Schatzkian view' in Hager, P., Lee, A. & Reich, A. (eds), Practice, learning and change: Practice-theory perspectives on professional learning, Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp. 233-247.
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In this chapter, we connect and challenge two conventional assumptions in workplace learning research and organizational change research: that learning can be understood isolated from its interrelationship with work and that managing change is a process to revert organizations back to desirable forms of stability. We believe the nexus of learning and change in organizational work lies in unpacking the apparent paradox between how work practices regularly get carried forward (persist and perpetuate), yet also adapted (change) by workers to achieve the purposes of work. We draw significantly from the theoretical writings of Schatzki and argue that practice theory has much to contribute in conceptualizing more dynamic views of organizing, work and learning. We illustrate our use of Schatzkian concepts by discussing how workers at an Australian utility company using safety practices to learn how to become new kinds of safe workers.
Crump, S.J. & Johnsson, M.C. 2011, 'Benefits of Cooperative and Work-Integrated Education for Educational Institutions' in Coll, R.K. & Zegwaard, K.E. (eds), International Handbook for Cooperative and Work-Integrated Education: International Perspectives of, World Association for Cooperative Education, Inc., Lowell, Massachusetts, pp. 287-294.
Discusses the early learning experiences of the University of Newcastle's strategic approach to deploying a 'whole of the institution' approach to work-integrated education. The strategic rationale, market drivers and the implications for graduate employability, curriculum development, staff development and resource management are discussed.

Conferences

Johnsson, M.C., Price, O.M. & Manidis, M. 2014, 'Re-organizing Australian public sector work: Conditions for innovating-in-practice', Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration, pp. 29-50.
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Price, O. & Johnsson, M.C. 2009, 'Through the practice looking glass: Re-viewing workers as practitioners', 23rd ANZAM Conference 2009 'Sustainability Management and Marketing', Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management Conference, Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management, Crown Promenade Hotel, Southbank, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 1-16.
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This paper argues for adopting a practice lens to organisational research as a complementary balance to contemporary managerial views of work and workers. It utilises Schatzkian theories of practice and illustrates these concepts using two case studies from two separate ARC Discovery projects.
Price, O., Scheeres, H.B. & Johnsson, M.C. 2009, 'On practices that persist and perpetuate: learning work in an Australian utility', Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning, 6th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning, Roskilde University, Roskilde University, pp. 1-10.
This paper applies Schatzki's conceptualisation of practice to challenge conventional notions of organisational change as target stable phenomena. It illustrates practice concepts by analysing research findings from an Australian utility company.
Hager, P. & Johnsson, M.C. 2009, 'Understanding learning at work: judgement and the goods of practice', Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning, 6th International Conference on Researching Work and Leanring, Roskilde University, Univeristy of Roskilde, Roskilde, Denmark, pp. 1-10.
This paper extends earlier models of informal workplace learning as highly contextualised and sensitive to social factors, judgements and the tacit elements of practice. It comments on the usefulness of MacIntyre's account of practice by referring to case study findings from a recent ARC Discovery project.
Johnsson, M.C. & Hager, P. 2007, 'Navigating the wilderness of becoming professional', Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning (RWL5), International Conference on Researching Work and Learning, Division for Lifelong Learning, University of Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa, pp. 473-479.
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Conceptualises the informal learning of developing musicians at work as an embodied constructed process with others in context, that involves a process of identity formation across multiple roles and selves
Johnsson, M.C. 2005, 'Internal versus external goods - a useful distinction for understanding productive workplace learning', Proceedings of the AARE 2005 International Education Research Conference, Australian Association for Research in Education, University of Western Sydney, Parramatta, Australia, pp. 1-10.
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The goal of productive learning is self-evident in most workplaces, yet the process and method depends on contested notions of learning, context and practice. In this paper, I build from MacIntyres framework of moral philosophy in examining concepts of practice, internal and external goods and link them to related concepts of judgement and context as recently examined by Beckett, Hager, Halliday and Athanasou. To review whether this theorising of practice is useful to understanding learning across workplaces, I compare two cases in literature one in education, the other in sport that highlight the internal/external goods distinction. In considering business workplaces, I challenge a provocative view articulated by Dobson, that the very nature of business requires a pursuit of only external goods without any virtuous foundation. Finally, I raise some research questions that problematise the internal/external goods distinction for enhancing productive learning. These questions are currently being tested in fieldwork.
Johnsson, M.C., Athanasou, J. & Hager, P. 2005, 'Judgements as a basis for informal workplace learning - preliminary research findings', Proceedings of 4th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning RWL4 2005, International Conference on Researching Work and Learning, OVAL, UTS, Sydney, Australia, pp. 1-10.
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Informal learning can be broadly characterised as learning found in everyday opportunities where learners interact with the world around them. It can be distinguished from formal learning where the purpose, structure and content for learning are imposed on the learner. When informal learning occurs in the context of work or organised settings, factors such as performance, practice, sociocultural dynamics and situational context influence its nature and quality. Previous research by Beckett, Hager and Halliday (Beckett, 1996; Beckett & Hager, 2000, 2002; Hager, 2001; Halliday & Hager, 2002) asserts that productive informal learning is better characterised as a growing capacity to make contextual-sensitive judgements - a discretionary and discriminating process that involves holistic and embodied knowing. Our paper reports on progress in an Australian Research Council funded Discovery project designed to test this judgement-as-learning approach. Detailed case studies of critical incidents in a range of workplaces are being constructed and the learning or otherwise by key players involved in these incidents is being elucidated and analysed. This empirical investigation provides a means of analysing significant workplace events in order to develop a model of informal learning and an associated theory of practice. The paper outlines the overall project rationale and discusses findings from one initial case study. Additional findings from other case studies developed after submission of this paper, will be presented and discussed at the conference.

Journal articles

Johnsson, M.C., Price, O.M. & Manidis, M. 2014, 'Re-organizing public sector work: Conditions for innovating-in-practice', Offentlig Förvaltning : Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 29-50.
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Public sector organizations continue to re-organize in response to reform imperatives but are they more innovative when they transform to market or customer orientations? This paper examines what we call innovating-in-practice in a hospital emergency department, a local government council and a corrections centre by analyzing how work organization dualities are negotiated using a practice theory lens. In public sector work, work dualities and tensions are often created when reform initiatives are introduced, requiring existing work practices to be challenged and changed. Our empirical illustrations expose the messiness and enmeshing of various practitioner interests, relations, materialities and purposes of practice in ways that restrict or embrace innovation. Innovating-in-practice 'troubles' the structural limitations of conventional approaches to organizing or designing for innovation, suggesting in contrast, the value of more fluid processes for reinventing work that emerge from accommodating work organization dualities and interrogating the complexities of practice-based accomplishments.
Johnsson, M.C. 2013, 'Practitioner meets philosopher: Bakhtinian musings on learning with Paul', Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol. 45, no. 12, pp. 1252-1263.
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The relationship the author had as doctoral student to Paul Hager as supervisor is analysed and theorised using three Bakhtinian concepts of dialogism, answerability and ideological becoming. The paper raises the value of dialogic engagement as an emergent relational process. In thesis making, the nature of researching (workplace) practice is not only about delivering the thesis. it is also about the transformative process of becoming a researcher that simultaneously transforms interactions and working relationships among those who are implicated in their own evolving process learning their practice.
Johnsson, M.C., Boud, D.J. & Solomon, N. 2012, 'Learning in-between, across and beyond workplace boundaries', International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management, vol. 12, no. 1-2, pp. 61-76.
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Challenges conventional theories underpinning HRD that typically focus on the objects of learning - individuals, jobs, training. Discusses two case studies (public utility and winery) of learning across boundaries through, for example, the organisational practice of 'acting up' and identifies implications for HRD practice and practitioners.
Johnsson, M.C. & Boud, D.J. 2010, 'Towards an emergent view of learning work', International Journal of Lifelong Education, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 359-372.
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The purpose of this paper is to challenge models of workplace learning that seek to isolate or manipulate a limited set of features to increase the probability of learning. Such models typically attribute learning (or its absence) to individual engagement, manager expectations or organizational affordances and are therefore at least implicitly causative. In contrast, we discuss the contributions of complexity theory principles such as emergence and novelty that suggest that learning work is more a creative and opportunistic process that emerges from contextualized interactional understandings among actors. Using qualitative case study methods, we discuss the experiences of workers in two organizations asked to 'act up' in their managers' role to ensure work continuity. We believe the differences in how workers take up these opportunities result from a complex combination of situational factors that generate invitational patterns signalled from and by various understandings and interactions among actors doing collective work.
Hager, P. & Johnsson, M.C. 2009, 'Working outside the comfort of competence in a corrections centre: toward collective competence', Human Resource Development International, vol. 12, no. 5, pp. 493-509.
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Qualitative case study of the collective learning of staff working in a corrections centre under conditions of rapid organisational change. Conceptualises the notion of collective competence that is emergent and relationally constructed.
Halliday, J. & Johnsson, M.C. 2009, 'A MacIntyrian perspective on organisational learning', Management Learning, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 37-51.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
This article examines the meaning of organizational learning (OL) from a MacIntyrian perspective. Key MacIntyrian terms such as practice, institution and relational dependence are explained and related to OL. It is argued that much of the literature concerned with OL, including that concerned with Communities of Practice, misses the moral and relational dimensions of organizations. An alternative MacIntyrian perspective considers the enduring nature of practices which transcends both individual and organizational interests. The notion of relational dependence extends practical involvement to consideration of what is in the collective interest even where people fundamentally disagree. Such dependence involves generosity towards others and the recognition that conflict is inevitable and desirable. The article concludes with an outline of what OL might be and some indicators of success.
Hager, P. & Johnsson, M.C. 2009, 'Learning to become a professional orchestral musician: going beyond skill and technique', Journal of Vocational education and Training, vol. 61, no. 2, pp. 103-118.
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Describes a qualitative case study of orchestral musicians who experience study and work simultaneously. Compares and contrast their learning experiences in workplace and educational contexts. The article draws some implications for theories of workplace learning and the Australian performing arts vocational education and training context in general.
Johnsson, M.C. & Hager, P. 2008, 'Navigating the wilderness of becoming professional', Journal of Workplace Learning, vol. 20, no. 7/8, pp. 526-536.
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This paper aims to examine the nature of learning discovered by recent graduates participating in a symphony orchestra-initiated development program that is designed to nurture them through the transition to becoming professional orchestral musicians.
Hager, P. & Johnsson, M.C. 2008, 'Working outside the comfort of competence in a corrections centre', Australasian Journal of Correctional Staff Development, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 1-11.
A qualitative case study of learning under a corrective services context of rapid organisational change. Suggests utility of integrating theoretical concepts across Human Resources Development, Organisational Change and Workplace Learning domains