Blog post

Educating for responsible management: putting theory into practice

Jennifer Leigh

is Professor at the Nazareth College of Rochester, NY, USA.

To equip and empower our business leaders of the future, we need to educate for critical thinking, ethical behavior and questioning minds. While many academic journals, websites, conferences and teaching resources testify to growing interest in Responsible management education (RME), attention has been focused on the initiative itself rather than how management educators prepare themselves, their students, the learning environment and their teaching resources for this arena of learning.

The forthcoming book Educating for Responsible Management: Putting Theory into Practice aims to provide comprehensive and detailed coverage of innovative pedagogical approaches being used around the world, drawing together leading thinkers and management educators in this field, to share their practice, primary research and scholarship on this topic.

Three contemporary meanings of responsibility

In exploring three contemporary meanings of responsibility, we follow Harmon’s ideas:

  1. First, responsibility as agency, i.e. freedom of will makes people authors of their actions) supports the notion of students being responsible for taking action and for their own learning;
  2. Second, responsibility as accountability, i.e. people answer for their actions) refers to students responding for their decisions and actions within a world-view that considers issues beyond shareholder value maximization;
  3. Third, responsibility as an obligation, i.e. action corresponding to external principles and standards) alludes to students’ contributions to their teams and the course.

Emergent themes about responsible management teaching

RME requires us as educators to utilize more experiential and engaged approaches to help guide our learners and emerging leaders. We believe we must begin with the problem or responsibility focus, which then leads us to the appropriate teaching approaches, instead of taking RME and inserting it into our normal teaching protocols.

Developing students as responsible leaders

Valuing responsibility all along the course should set the stage for interactions. Our working hypothesis is we should: (a) encourage students to take greater responsibility for their own learning (i.e. agency); and (b) help develop students as more responsible leaders, initially accountable and obliged to course standards (i.e. obligation and accountability) and to society.

As teachers, we should have corresponding notions: as agents, we should act to create the needed frameworks, materials, processes and environments; we should be responsible for ensuring students are motivated and engaged and are obliged to uphold principles and quality standards. More importantly, our responsibility as teachers is not only to make sure students learn but also to help them apply their skills and knowledge for the benefit of society.

The above is adapted from Educating for Responsible Management: Putting Theory into Practice, due to be published by Greenleaf Publishing in July 2016. To access the publication, go to Greenleaf’s website.

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