Development of the adult learners' management philosophy through critical management studies courses
Monaghan, Catherine Heatherman
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Adult education addresses many issues from a critical perspective in both content and pedagogy. Critical Management Studies (CMS) uses a critical perspective in management education questioning the underlying assumptions of power and privilege inherent in capitalism. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to understand how CMS courses affect adult learners’ management philosophy. The research questions guiding this study were: 1) how do CMS courses affect the adult learners’ management philosophy and 2) what factors in a CMS course contribute to the development of the adult learners’ management philosophy? The primary means of data collection were semi-structured interviews with eleven learners in two CMS courses in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method. The findings indicate that adult learners enter CMS classrooms with two different management philosophies: mainstream and critical. The course moved two participants to a more critical management philosophy. However, for most of the participants the course simultaneously reinforced their different, even opposing orientations at the same time. Two primary factors emerged in response to the second research question. One factor centered on the way participants linked their prior educational and life experiences to the course content, using prior experience as a guide for the usefulness and validity of the course content. The second factor revealed the importance of the instructor and the role of discussion in the development of the adult learners’ management philosophy. The instructor’s ability to encourage the learners to develop their own beliefs about management was instrumental. The discussion was another important element in helping learners to engage with the course, providing them with other viewpoints that both challenged and affirmed their philosophies. The results of this study revealed that (a) a CMS course can impact the adult learners’ management philosophy in multiple ways within the same course, (b) the outcomes from a CMS course derive from the intersection of course content, course process, the instructor, and the learner’s prior experience and identity, and (c) there can be a contradiction between the use of course content and a pedagogical process in a CMS course.
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