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This issue of CDTL Brief features the teaching practices of some 2006/2007 Annual Teaching Excellence Award (ATEA) winners.

October 2008, Vol. 11 No. 3 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Engaging the Phenomenon
 
Associate Professor Audrey Chia
NUS Business School
 

When I first joined NUS as a senior tutor, I was fearful of having students who were more senior than me. How was I, barely two years after my graduation, going to be credible enough to teach these business executives about the business world? 20 years later, I relish going to a class where many students are my senior. These executive MBA students in the UCLANUS MBA programme not only keep me feeling young, they are also the highlight of my teaching every year. I call them my opportunity to engage the phenomenon.

In research, academic distance is desirable but from the perspective of business education, I would argue that academic distance is a bad thing. Imagine listening to a palaeontologist who makes claims about a particular species of dinosaur but has never had a close look at any fossils or remains of that species. We cannot help but question the credibility of such a person. Now imagine a classroom of business executives with a professor conducting a class on leadership or change (my areas of teaching). The audience may be skeptical if they are not convinced that the professor has interacted with leaders of organisations, kept abreast of business news on companies and knows the pressures (e.g. mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, costcutting, globalisation of business, the rise of BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] economies) they face on a daily basis.

As a business educator, it is both imperative and beneficial for me to be familiar with the business world. This means keeping close contact with a large network of friends or executives from different industries who can update me with the latest in the business world, scanning the business news every day and skimmingpractitioner-oriented publications like McKinsey Quarterly to know what executives are reading and thinking.

I have also found it important to conduct executive education programmes or do consultation work for companies, so that I can learn more about organisations and gain credibility among business students. In addition, it is enriching and satisfying to hear about and experience the concepts and constructs which we discuss in the classroom. It is one thing to read about models on change management, but quite another to talk to merger survivors and integration managers, or advise companies going through mergers. Engaging with the business community not only gives me ideas for research but also insight into how best to collect data for certain topics. For instance, if I were interested in studying emotions among business executives, it would be clear (from my interaction with business executives) that a study on people who experience emotional extremes at work (e.g. stock or currency traders), would be an interesting area for research.

The act of engaging the phenomenon actually completes the virtuous cycle of:

• Cognition from an academic distance
(theories, research, thinking)

• Experience (engaging the phenomenon)

• Reflection (using experience to enrich and critique theories, research and thinking).

All these three activities are, I believe, essential for constructing a good educational experience in management and organisation.

 
 
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Inside this issue
A Teaching Re-evaluation
   
Close Reading as Critical Thinking
   
Small-group Teaching for First-year Law Students—Thoughts from a Tutorial Taskmaster
   
Teaching: A Learning Process for Towards a Student Driven Pedagogy
   
Engaging the Phenomenon
   
Thai Language Teaching at NUS
   
Learning from Failures
   
Learning Through Teaching