Contradictions in Project Based Learning: A Qualitative Study of Three City Development Projects

Lizet Kuitert, Thijs Willems, Leentje Volker, Marleen Hermans, Alfons van Marrewijk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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In complex product system industries such as construction, innovation and explorative intra-project learning are critical aspects for developing and delivering complex and customized products. Some research has, however, demonstrated that it is difficult to utilize learning from development projects in the permanent organisation. Hence, the project learning paradox explains that the unique and discontinuous character of project-based activities creates intra-firm boundaries that hinder the transfer and use of valuable knowledge gained within particular projects.
In this paper we aim to gain further understanding of the obstacles in project based learning in a public client organisation by illustrating the impact of the learning paradox on daily practices in complex urban area development projects. This paper is based on the data from three qualitative case studies at a large Municipality in the western part of the Netherlands. We present results of a set of 15 semi-structured interviews with different actors representing the project organisation and the permanent organisation. Each interview was individually analysed on the basis of an analytical framework based on layers of knowledge governance and were then further analysed within the project team.
The results indicate six contradictions; three contradiction in the learning structure of project organisation and permanent organisation, and three contradictions in transferring and capturing knowledge by project organisation and permanent organisation. This contributes to unravelling the complex phenomenon of organisational processes of knowledge governance in PBO’s since the temporary versus permanent dichotomy appears to problematic in its pervasiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 16th Engineering Project Organization Conference (EPOC 2018)
Subtitle of host publicationBrijuni, Croatia
EditorsBryan Franz, Iva Kovacic
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventEPOC 2018: 16th Engineering Project Organization Conference - Brijuni, Croatia
Duration: 25 Jun 201827 Jun 2018


ConferenceEPOC 2018: 16th Engineering Project Organization Conference


  • Construction client
  • organisational learning
  • project based learning
  • urban area development


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