2017-Paul Ellwood

Relational Management Education: Embedding the Practice of Scholarship Within the Everyday Practice of DBA Graduates

Dr Paul Ellwood, University of Liverpool

Co-Investigator: Prof Lisa Anderson, University of Liverpool


Abstract: Debates that have taken place over a number of years have emphasised the separation of management research and practice and there is a growing scepticism about the extent to which research is able to impact on practice. However, there is evidence to suggest that research in business schools can positively influence the practices of organisations and this ongoing study examines how senior managers  operate as scholar-practitioners and integrate research into their practice. One means of achieving this is through relational management education based on the view that learning should entail a disruption to thinking in an environment where both academics and students can reflexively and collaboratively question issues.  

The sample for our study comprised six senior managers drawn from different sectors and international locations, each of whom has a DBA qualification. They were asked to select a “wicked” problem on which they were working in their organisation and we set out to capture different facets of their use of academic scholarship as they work to understand and solve the problem. Data were collected using an initial action learning-type discussion, semi-structured interviews, a scholarly practice diary and two participant observation/work shadowing visits to DBA graduates in Germany and Mozambique. We re-designed the diary to take account of the fact that 3 of the participants did not complete it and a further round of participant recruitment is ongoing.  

Preliminary findings show that these senior managers/scholarly practitioners draw on a number of forms of evidence  and knowledge as part of their day-to-day practice. They problematise wicked issues in the workplace and draw on such evidence to come to  conclusions, reach judgements and decide on appropriate actions, more often than not, in the company of others. Our emerging model of the scholar-practitioner emphasises the deployment of approaches to inquiry that were learned and honed during doctoral studies and subsequently adapted for use in the workplace.