2019-Ian Stewart

Beneath the surface in experiential education – evaluation of the real costs in a large-class, international, Higher Education context

Principal Investigator: Dr Ian Stewart (University of Manchester)

Project summary: A debate has long raged as to whether managerial activity can be learned in a classroom, or only through experience. With a move towards the latter, ‘experiential learning’ has gained popularity in management education. Research around pedagogic simulations, gamification and other ‘experiences’ in management education have argued advantages in building practical knowledge, enhancing student engagement and soft skills. However, in the drive to be seen as ‘current’ and delivering these benefits in the teaching settings of today, the true organisational and human costs and risks of these activities for academics and students alike are ignored or otherwise rationalised. Developing and deploying a simulation or experiential activity for use in large classes of entirely international postgraduate students (a context now de rigueur in UK Higher Education) consumes time, physical resources, emotional energy and money – of academics and students. The experiences of both ‘sides’ (particularly the academic side), in terms of the work of developing and participating inexperiential education at scale and the ensuing interactions is under-researched and under-theorised. In this research, a case study goes behind the scenes of an apparently successful project management postgraduate degree, which annually graduates between 220 and 420 international students, to identify the categories of cost in experiential education from the academic and the student-side and evaluate the learning experience observed, or claimed, by the innovating academic – does it cost-effectively hit the learning outcomes? Ultimately, this research intends to be useful, supporting decision-making regarding the deployment of simulations and experiential education in this specific context.