Research Output

A conceptual expansion of critical human resource development: insights into practice in a healthcare organisation

  This study was stimulated by the recent emergence of Critical HRD (CHRD) and its resonance with the transformational role that the HRD function is called to play within the changing context of a local healthcare organisation, referred to here as HealthServ. The purpose is twofold: (i) to expand the emerging yet elusive concept of HRD from a Critical Theory (CT) perspective and (ii) to use it as an analytical lens to investigate HealthServ’s HRD function (given the name of HealthServ.Learning) and develop, on the basis of the findings, a framework for improving the conditions for CHRD practice within HealthServ. This is accounted for by the two key components of the study: one theoretical, and the other empirical.

The theoretical component involves an unmediated approach to the conceptual expansion of CHRD, which revisits four central themes in the CT of the Frankfurt School. The main feature of this exercise is the location of CT’s project of human emancipation at the heart of CHRD and the development of a conceptual framework integrating 12 key CHRD roles, which is primarily targeted at academics and researchers. Its aim is not only to reinforce the current conceptualisation of CHRD but also to attach new meanings and responsibilities to it in an attempt to enhance its emancipatory potential. A model is then developed to show how these 12 key CHRD roles can be effectively delivered through Critical Action Learning Sets (CALS) enriched by the precepts of CT. Importantly, the model draws upon the notion of constructive wave interference to elicit thinking about the necessary pre-conditions for organisation-wide and sustainable CHRD practice.

The empirical component entails the adoption of a case study strategy which combines a range of qualitative data collection methods and a dialectical mode of investigation to probe HealthServ.Learning as the main unit of analysis. An explanatory critique (consisting of a negative followed by a positive critique) is developed to both expose and reconcile the internal contradictions of HealthServ.Learning in light of a CT-enabled concept of CHRD. The research findings suggest the following: although HealthServ.Learning displays a nascent emancipatory intent and bears some resonance with the precepts of CHRD, it is primarily driven by a strong strategic focus and deep-seated performative values – and would thus struggle to live up to the standards and principles of a CT-enabled concept of CHRD. A framework aimed at HRD practitioners is then developed on the basis of the findings in an attempt to improve the conditions for CHRD practice across HealthServ.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    24 January 2011

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    HD28 Management. Industrial Management

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    658 General management


Ramdhony, A. A conceptual expansion of critical human resource development: insights into practice in a healthcare organisation. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from



Critical HRD; Human Resource Development; Critical Action Learning Sets; constructive wave interference; emancipation; strategy; performance;

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