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Exploring Critical Pedagogy in Executive Education

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Sharon MavinORCiD, Dr Joanne James, Dr Nicola Patterson, Dr Amy Stabler, Dr Jenny Davidson, Dr Lucy HattORCiD


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This paper explores a critical pedagogy employed by an Executive Education Team in a university business school and advances understandings of critical management education (CME). The critical pedagogy underpins two MSc programmes, Strategic Leadership and Coaching and Mentoring, and informs the Executive MBA. Two of the programmes, Strategic Leadership and the Executive MBA are mapped against the Level 7 Senior Leadership Apprenticeship (SLA) in collaboration with the CMI. These programmes are designed for employees to study while working, aimed at individuals who are currently in, or moving into, strategic roles. The MSc Coaching and Mentoring appeals to qualified coaches or mentors or those seeking to develop their skillset. All three programmes combine personal and professional development with a focus on utilising learning in the workplace. All combine world-leading research with thought-leadership from consultancy and practice and combine part-time blended learning with monthly on campus study blocks. What makes these programmes of interest is the underpinning critical pedagogy alongside the tensions of delivering the required governmental norms and competences of the SLA. In outlining our understanding of critical pedagogy in CME we draw upon Reynolds (1999), who summarizes four generally shared principles of critical pedagogy: i) questioning taken-for-granted assumptions in the theory and practice of management; ii) making explicit power and ideology in institutional and societal practices; iii) confronting claims of rationality and objectivity and how privileged interests benefit from these claims; and, iv) working towards an emancipatory ideal. In developing these initial principles, Reynolds and Vince’s (2004) framework for CME includes: emancipation; the realisation of a more just society; employing a social rather than an individual perspective; questioning assumptions and what is taken-for-granted; and, an analysis of power relations. Perriton and Reynolds’ (2018) critical pedagogy is one of difference, power and privilege and one which cannot be achieved in a single module; CME needs learning over space and time. They argue that it is ‘difficult to see a moral or educational case for not engaging with difference in the management curriculum. Difference, therefore, ‘remains key to collectively re-evaluating the foundations of CME’ (Perriton and Reynolds, 2018: 531). When analysing their 27 papers in Management Learning (1971-2021), Reynolds and Vince (2020) organise their critical work into the following themes: competing perspectives on democracy; the emotional here and now of the classroom; power, learning, CME; critical reflection and, reflexivity. They comment ‘we cannot imagine a scholarship of management learning that fails to connect with the emotional, relational and political context within which learning is implemented, or its capacity to unsettle and challenge’ (Reynolds and Vince 2020: 138). The paper will outline the critical pedagogy underpinning the two programmes and informing the third. We draw upon illustrative data from qualitative interviews with facilitators and their reflexive diaries to advance what we know about contemporary CME in UK business schools. We highlight how we have ‘rearticulated and reinvented CME in order to respond to the specific nature of contemporary challenges and to connect directly with contemporary academic lives’ (Reynolds and Vince, 2020: 138).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mavin S, James J, Patterson N, Stabler A, Davidson J, Hatt L

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: UFHRD 2022: Mind the Gap; Bridging Theory and Practice in the Post-Covid Era

Year of Conference: 2022

Acceptance date: 02/03/2022