People, Practices, and Patterns: Transforming into a Learning Institution


  • Bill Heinrich Michigan State University
  • Breana Yaklin Michigan State University
  • David J. Goodrich Michigan State University
  • Jessica L. Knott Michigan State University



organizations, systems change, spacial development, self-reflection, capacity


The Challenge: Organizational transformation takes time, energy, and patience. Intentional change was engaged by an academic-administrative unit, The Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology (the Hub). The Hub aspires to help Michigan State University (MSU) “reinvent itself as a learning institution” by transforming ourselves so that we might transform others. The authors, all current employees of the Hub, provide an in-depth look into the challenges and triumphs of purposeful organizational change.

Potential Consequences: Without change, MSU would maintain existing gaps on measures of student success among different demographic groups. The key audience of these efforts are learners in the university while considering the surrounding system of faculty, staff, administrators, curriculum, assessment, and student engagement efforts.

Description/Analysis/Methods: The Hub catalyzes innovative ways to collaborate, learn, research, and impact learning. We design new opportunities that take advantage of skills and connections across the disciplines. The Hub adapted work practices that can sustain transformation. The Hub also built a physical space reflective of these strategies.

Rationale/Reflection/Replication: Initial practices resulted in a series of careful, bold learning pathways focused on new capacity and professional development for stakeholders. We extrapolated experiences, practices, and findings for other transforming university, business, and organizational contexts.

Author Biographies

Bill Heinrich, Michigan State University

Bill Heinrich is the Director of Assessment in the Hub at MSU focused on assessing things that are hard to assess. He earned a Ph.D. In Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education from Michigan State University with scholarship centered on outcomes and impacts of experiential learning and the mindsets that individuals carry about assessment work. Bill’s background in student affairs and outdoor education help him translate research into practice for greater impact on institutional cultures and practices.

Breana Yaklin, Michigan State University

Breana Yaklin is a Learning Experience Designer for the MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology and for Teaching and Learning Technology with IT Services. She supports faculty to design strong student-focused learning experiences, and has been conducting interviews with undergraduate students to gather student voice and better inform curriculum design. Lately, she has been working closely with academic advising units to support proactive advising and student success change initiatives.

David J. Goodrich, Michigan State University

David J. Goodrich is an educator and learning designer who began working at Michigan State University in 2012. Dave works in The Hub for Innovation for Learning & Technology where he collaborates with faculty to develop new courses, redesign existing courses, and consult on instructional learning object projects. He also enjoys facilitating faculty workshops and being a guest instructor from time to time for MSU’s College of Education.

Jessica L. Knott, Michigan State University

Jessica L. Knott is the Learning Design Manager for MSU Information Technology and the MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology. She holds a Ph.D. In Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education from Michigan State University. Her research interests include the effect of human-centered design and Agile processes in higher education, workforce development, and the impact of cross-institutional collaborations on staff and student experiences.


Aronson, D. (1996). Overview of systems thinking. Retrieved from

Argyris, C. & Schön, D.A. (1996). Organizational learning II. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Beck, K., Beedle, M., van Bennekum, A., Cockburn, A., Cunningham, W., Fowler, M.,...Sutherland, J. (2001). The Agile Manifesto. Retrieved from

Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2013). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bresciani, M. J., Todd, D. K., Carpenter, S., Janosik, S., Komives, S., Love, P., & Tyrell, S. (2010). ACPA/NASPA professional competency areas for student affairs practitioners. Washington, DC: American College Personnel Association, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Brown, T. (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June(1) Retrieved from

Cranton, P., & Carusetta, E. (2004). Perspectives on Authenticity in Teaching. Adult Education Quarterly, 55(1), 5–22.

Fulmer, R. M. & Keys, J. B. (1998). A Conversation with Peter Senge: New Developments in Organizational Learning. Organizational Dynamics, 27(2), 33-42.

Graves Wolf, L. (2016, August 18). Eight Lessons (We Learned Yesterday) for Running a Design Thinking Workshop [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Highsmith, J. (2009). Agile project management: creating innovative products. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Holland, J. H., Holyoak, K. J., Nisbett, R.E., & Thagard, P. R. (1986). Induction: Processes of inference, learning, and discovery. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Jones, S., Lefoe, G., Harvey, M., & Ryland, K. (2012). Distributed leadership: a collaborative framework for academics, executives and professionals in higher education. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 34 (1), 67-78.

Kreber, C. (2004). An analysis of two models of reflection and their implications for educational development. International Journal for Academic Development, 9 (1), 29-49.

Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Liimatainen, L., Poskiparta, M., Karhila, P., & Sjögren, A. (2001). The development of reflective learning in the context of health counselling and health promotion during nurse education. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 34(5), 648-658.

Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 1997(74), 5–12.

Rands, M., & Gansemer-Topf, A. M. (2016). Phenomenography: A methodological approach for assessment in student affairs. Journal of Student Affairs Inquiry, 1(2), 1-22.

Senge, P. M. (1996). Leading learning organizations. Training & Development, 50(12), 36-37.

Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Currency: Doubleday.

Sheridan, R. (2013). Joy, Inc.: How we built a workplace people love. New York, New York: Penguin Group.

Taylor, E. W. (1997). Building Upon the Theoretical Debate: A Critical Review of the Empirical Studies of Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory. Adult Education Quarterly, (48)1, 34-59.

Turnali, K. (2013, April 16). What is design thinking? [Blog post]. Retrieved from