Back to school

19 July 2004

And so semester two has started. I’ve quiet a heavy teach load on Mondays. From 9:00–12:00 I have Management Theory & Practise (MGMT 301), after that the team has a debriefing meeting from 12:00–1:00, from 2:00–3:00 its Business Policy & Strategy (MGMT 302), and finally I have Organisations & Management (MGMT 101) from 5–6. It makes it a long day– but, generally, you know when it has worked well because you come away energised. Typically, when a class doesn’t work it sucks the energy right out of you. Anyway–today was a good day.

I’ll think I’ll talk about my day in reverse order.

MGMT 101 went well. Having listened to them talk about their favourite movies, it seems that they are a more eloquent and talkative group than many 101 classes would be. They seem to be willing to participate, and they enjoy a laugh. Thinking about what went on today, I’m not sure that I spent enough time on what my role in the class and in 101, in general, is. With regard to my general role, in the 101 teaching team I work with Joe (who has responsible for the course) and the other lecturers (Sanjay and Nigel) to shape the content of the course and the format of the assignments. Joe, besides doing that too, is heavily concerned with the processes in course– making sure the mechanics work. Joe is quiet skilled at managing the 1,000-odd students who are doing 101 at any one time. My role is the classroom is not about delivering content–it is showing the students how to think about the material. This is hard–it is much easier just to do a brain dump of information; but how to think about the material–that’s a different matter altogether. Given a situation, why (and when) is it better to treat it as, for example, a problem of motivation, and when might it be better to consider it as a matter of discipline. These are important distinctions. Furthermore, what are the limits to “our” managerial “knowledge? How much do we really know, and how much is transferable between context, e.g. why can you tackle some organisational issues one way –say in a car dealership–and why won’t those same, successful, approaches fail in a not-for-profit, such as Greenpeace (and what learning can be transferred).

I’m always struck with the demographic split in MGMT 101. There are so many students there who attend because they have too–it’s a mandatory core paper in the BCom–rather than because they are interested in the subject (I’m making a bit of a leap here, but I think it holds). This presents some interesting challenges to the lecture, as the two groups want (and need) different things. I wonder if this would be worth while bringing up in class for discussion–it makes an interesting management issue. Actually, one of the things we (the department) has discussed, for time to time, is “Should there be two stage I courses for management?” One course for those who need to do it as the core (much in the same way as we created the successfully SCIGEN 201 course for the BTech students), and a separate course geared towards those people how intend to progress on in the management arena. It works for the BTechs, because it is quiet clear where their interests lie (in science and technology). However, with students doing a BCom, we’ve never been too sure about how fixed they are on their major (and being typical managers, we don’t want to close off options early–either theirs or ours).

MGMT 302 started really well too. It wasn’t too long before some of the students were openly disagreeing with me and putting forward their positions quiet solidly. There were even some people who explained quite well the benefits of my stance. This all bodes well for the class–it’s good to have people who can think for themselves. Talking of demographics, it is interesting to see the number of students in the class who have done the IB paper Foundations of strategy; having so many of them at the same time will make a difference to the dynamics of the class. I’ve had the occasional IB students (who have always done well), and they always bring a different type of approach to the cases. I’m looking forward to Friday and seeing how they will do with the cases.

So my day started out with MGMT 301. I was a little surprised, that I ended up doing most of the talking. But, then again, I had taken it upon myself to do some a ‘deck’ of slides for the class, so I suppose it was natural for me to most of the talking (as I was most familiar with where the slides would take us). Emma’s video was good. After class, she reminded Darl and I how much of a defining moment the class had been for her. It will be interesting to see who is affected similarly in this cohort. As I looked around the room, I kept wondering “Which one of you will be taking on Emma’s role in couple of years?“, is there another “David Thomas” in the class?“. Who, at the end of the semester, will we be tapping on the shoulder and saying “We think you should consider Honours or a Masters degree”?