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Collaboration in management education and development

Vivien Martin
Open University Business School
Open University, United Kingdom

The inquiry was focused by these initial questions:

These questions shaped the review of literature and defined the categories in which data were collected. A further question seemed to lie beneath some of the issues emerging that related to the extent to which theory informed practice. It seemed important to consider whether there was a connection between the degree to which a practitioner was aware of theoretical perspectives and their ability and preparedness to consider collaboration and working within different and potentially contradictory frameworks. As this question became clearer it seemed that it also linked with the extent to which managers as learners were able to understand and make sense of the diversity in the field of management education and development.

These questions and the emerging issues are first discussed separately and then in terms of the implications and other issues arising.

What is the extent of diversity of perspectives and approaches in the field of management education and development?

The two influential 1987 reports (Handy and Constable / McCormick) outlined the extent of provision of management education and development in Britain and the ways in which this differed from economically competitive countries, presenting a range of concerns about the implications of this situation for future competitiveness. Management education and development in the UK was seen to be incoherent as there were few links between the many different types of provision. This led the authors to propose that the field should become more coherent and should offer more integrated provision.

It was noted that very few managers had formal qualifications and that many were trained and developed within their posts, often without formal programs of development. It was proposed that the situation would be improved if more managers were involved in formal development and that this should involve collaboration between providers to address the performance of managers in the workplace and not only the analytical study of management issues. The Management Charter Initiative was formed in 1988 in response to these reports and instituted a series of actions to address the recommendations. The first set of standards for management performance were developed by 1990, piloted and set into an National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) framework with the first NVQ qualifications for managers awarded in 1992. By 1994 the review of progress (Watson, 1994) reported these developments but again asked for a more coherent infrastructure of provision. The NVQs were seen to offer a potential of 'ladders and bridges' to link accreditation, but there was no link between these performance standards and the traditional academic awards for business and management.

The diversity in the field had been increased by the introduction of these new awards and educational providers had also responded to the earlier criticism by developing wider and more flexible provision. NVQs had been developed for delivery within the workplace but the rise in franchising of academic accreditation meant that any organisation in any sector could offer both NVQs and academic qualifications to its workforce. Not only was the range of types of provision greater but also the range of potential providers was greater.

The educational provision was complex, dominated by the business schools in Higher Education but including undergraduate, postgraduate and post-experience programs, many of which were also provided in Further Education institutions. Contributions to these programs came from many disciplinary sources and there was often an emphasis on application of ideas and concepts to workplace practice. The number of potential choices contributed to the diversity as there is not one common curriculum for the provision of management education and development but many different possible components from which any provider must select.

From an educational perspective, the curriculum provides a framework within which a program is designed, delivered and evaluated which ensures that the key decisions are explicitly justified and related to the wider framework of educational provision. This is thought to reduce the potential for ideology and indoctrination to shape delivery by providing challenge to the assumptions underpinning proposals. Management education and development provision leading to academic awards is subject to scrutiny of this nature. However, the framework of vocational qualifications differs in that it is based on generic statements of standards with descriptions of approved performance for a role which thus provide the development goal. In addition, programs of development within organisations do not have to include accreditation of any sort and are often designed primarily to address the perceived needs of the organisation. Therefore, the range of target outcomes from any program might include a number of different and possibly contradictory elements. The process of design and delivery in management education and development is very complex.

There are a sequence of stages involved in design and delivery of a program. These include conception, clarification, decision to proceed, program planning, program administration, participant recruitment, learning experience, evaluation and production of recommendations for revision. At each of these stages there are a set of decisions to be made and there are constraints and influences on those decisions. The stages are not independent of each other and decisions made in the early stages affect subsequent ones.

The decisions that have to be made could be made by one controlling authority or could be very collaborative. The potential influences might be considered more or less important in different settings. It is possible that the implications that arise from these decisions are not fully recognised in settings where control is assumed and accepted. The extent to which managers might be expected to comply with expectations of learning and development as an essential part of their workplace performance is not widely discussed. In addition, there is potential for programs of education and development to be either completely controlled by employers or providers or for programs to be managed with collaborative decision making. These issues of style and philosophy may or may not be explicit in any episode of provision. Coherence in design and presentation of a program may depend to some extent on the choices made in this sequence and the extent to which the decisions at each stage are shared and explicit.

The differences in conceptualisation of a program of education or development contribute to the diversity within the field. There are different approaches within education to the relationship between teachers and learners and the extent to which the teacher takes responsibility for aspects of provision. The attempts to balance perceived needs with expressed demands have challenged educational traditions and led to some diversification to accommodate different perspectives. There have been attempts to respond to perceived failings, particularly in provision of education and development intended to improve employability. The influence of adult education theory has been evident in the extent to which some provision now recognises and builds on experience. Access to programs and to qualifications is now possible through accreditation of prior learning and recognition of learning from experience.

Development of managers as reflective practitioners has become an expectation in some sectors. However, there is a tension between aiming to develop people able to make critical and creative challenges to existing structures and assumptions and development which seeks to encourage performance within existing defined frameworks. The latter type of provision is sometimes aligned with training in that it seeks to develop participants to a pre-determined outcome. If there are necessarily aspects of education, development and training in development of effective managers (as proposed by Mumford, 1989) provision must be broad enough to address these different purposes and directions. Ways in which practitioners attempt to recognise and incorporate learning from experience into formal programs reflect different views about the nature of experiential learning (Warner-Weil and McGill, 1989). Some provision also reflects the frenetic nature of management activity in adopting fragmented and intermittent presentation.

This wide range of provision reflects the wide range of expectations that are raised by the various different views held about management education and development. There were, and are, a number of differing views about the nature of management and of managers. These have led to a number of different approaches to development of managers arising from differing perceptions of needs. Management education and development is not one homogeneous field of practice but a group of heterogeneous fields of practice (Hales, 1993) which raises many different expectations of provision from the different perspectives of individual manager, a purchaser of programs, and a provider of programs.

How has this arisen and do the traditions have implications for contemporary practice?

The literature in management education and development has provided a rich description of the nature of the field and of the traditions underpinning the diversity that has been identified. Practice draws from many disciplines and fields of study. Theoretical perspectives emphasise differences more clearly than practice where common processes are used. However, traditions of ways in which managers have been developed do not always involve study and often derive from workplace experience and expectations of performance.

There are two very different traditions of management education and development, one in the field of education and one in workplace practice. Educational provision recognises both theoretical and practical concerns although some educational provision focuses entirely on theory. Workplace traditions are focused on performance and although they may include some theoretical material, theory is rarely used to inform decision making or evaluation. It has also been suggested that managers are better able to link theory and practice in order to evaluate potential choices if they develop research skills that enable them to understand and accommodate complexity (Easterby-Smith et al., and Gill and Johnson, both 1991).

The Chain of Response model (Cross, 1981) demonstrates that personal experience has a significant effect on expectations that influence motivation. Former experience of education is important in how individual managers approach education as adults. If the former experience has been unsatisfactory in some way there is a natural reluctance to engage in similar activities voluntarily. Those without academic qualifications might expect to fail in further education and managers undertaking management education and development risk their jobs if they are seen to fail in programs commissioned by their organisations. Many managers prefer to study in open programs which do not report progress to their organisations, but these programs are less able to link learning with workplace concerns.

Managers are often expected, and expect themselves, to be able to act confidently when they make decisions. This leads to discomfort in developmental settings when the emphasis is on identification of weaknesses or gaps in knowledge, skills and experience. There is an important congruity between self and ideal self that may be difficult to align with a learning setting. Programs delivered in a pedagogical style may be offensive to managers if their expertise in practice appears not to be recognised and an expert in a field of studies proposes ideal but unrealistic solutions to only partially understood problems. The traditional teacher and learner roles present problems for management education and development unless there is an area of content where management experience and expertise are required and recognised. There are different roles for those with appropriate knowledge and experience in offering overviews of theoretical domains and options for learning processes. There are different levels of consciousness of the implications of teaching or facilitating and little understanding of the extent to which a practitioner may choose to adopt a role rather than assume themselves to have been cast in a given role.

Learning has to happen within a learner. The roles of others in trying to support and encourage learning are complex and informed by many different theoretical approaches. Reflective re-framing and perceptions of coherence are linked. Theory may have a role in provoking thinking which may lead to reflection and development. Such reflection may be provoked by recognition of dissonance and disjuncture, "when individuals' biographies and their current experience are not in harmony" (Jarvis, 1995, 13). In this case, the ability to recognise such a challenge is crucial. To do so requires a reaction of curiosity rather than the assumption that any challenge to the status quo should be subdued. For potential learners who are managers in organisations there may be difficulty in aligning a personal recognition of a need to learn with acting in an appropriate role in the workplace setting. Organisations that have bureaucratic practices that encourage stability rarely welcome challenges from managers. When organisations commit to management development the purpose often includes an intention to develop the variety of ways in which their managers think and act. However, there is often great difficulty in ensuring that these managers are supported to put their new ways of thinking and acting into practice in their work.

The many differences in practice in management education and development arise from strong traditions. There are opposing poles in many of the differences, suggesting not only that the fields of practice present diversity but that there are conflicts and areas of significant disagreement. Many of these differences arise from the traditions of theory and practice. These differences might be helpfully expressed as a set of dimensions:

1)didactic teaching----------------------------------------------facilitating learning

This continuum represents the differences in approaches taken by practitioners to the learners in a setting. The extreme of didactic teaching is the position of the expert who presents information to the learner who is judged to need and want this information. The facilitative position is that of the practitioner who is able to support the learner in his or her quest for further information when the need is identified and if support is requested. There are positions along this continuum in which practitioners may take a provocative or challenging role intended to help the learner to recognise gaps in knowledge or understanding. Some practitioners are able to move along the continuum to adopt different positions according to their judgement of the progress and position of the learner. This is evident where practitioners take roles in the same program as learning set advisers, workshop facilitators or as expert presenters of a content area. This is linked to another continuum:


This dimension is well known to practitioners in management education and development as much of the debate about curriculum revolves around perspectives held by individuals about the relative importance of each of these dimensions and the ways in which they link. When there is an element of delivery there has to be something delivered and there has to be a way in which it is done, thus the two are inextricably linked. However, there can be significant differences in the emphasis on either content or process. A content rich delivery often takes a didactic approach in which a practitioner plans to present and explain a range of theories and techniques. A process rich delivery might focus on the issues brought by participants and might use a process agreed by the group to share concerns and develop understanding of the implications. A middle ground might be one in which the practitioner poses a situation or problem and offers some information about relevant theories or techniques to help the participants who then plan and agree their own approaches to address the issues.

3)teacher----------------------------------------------fellow learner

These are extremes of the positions which may be taken in teacher / learner relationships in which two adults adopt positions or are cast in roles which carry expectations of behaviour. The role of teacher implies more than expertise in a subject or process, implying authority and power which some consider inappropriate in adult learning settings. It is acceptable for a practitioner to claim to be a fellow learner because everyone has opportunities to learn from every experience. However, there are difficulties if practitioners taking this position are in a role as teacher, tutor, facilitator, expert, developer, or some other role that implies that they are bringing some significant contribution to the setting, particularly if there is an element of payment and contracting of services. There are other issues in the relative responsibilities and expectations of those participating in learning settings and many practitioners make explicit reference to negotiating and understanding these dynamics at an early stage in an encounter. There are also implications in this dimension of a teacher viewing a learner as a pupil who should learn from the teacher whereas a learner / learner relationship recognises a peer relationship in which each has potential to learn from the other. The nature of these relationships may be influenced by the extent to which individuals recognise the expertise of others. A skilled and experienced management educator and developer working with experienced managers might successfully adopt this position but it would be less convincing if there was a significant gap between the perceived experience of practitioner and program participant.

4)teacher----------------------------------------------supporter of learner

This links with the previous dimension. The teacher can adopt a position of claiming process expertise as well as subject expertise. Supporting learning may take many forms but the concept is one of giving to a recipient rather than maintaining an equal relationship. There may be some management educators and developers who would be uneasy to be in a paid position and not to have an offer prepared to give to program participants. This dimension may be one which some adopt until a learner is confident in adopting a position in which they are able to make informed choices. A dimension of teacher.....facilitator is similar to this dimension, again implying that the facilitator has process skills rather than subject expertise. It is sometimes seen as a less directive role than one of supporting learning. It may include a counselling role as an aspect of learner support.


This is linked to the previous continuum and represents the range of issues which arise when there is a specific focus on the purchase of management education and development and the provision of what is purchased. There are issues of developing sufficient understanding to be explicit about the nature of provision (content and processes), those who will provide, where and when it will be provided and issues about how the provision will be monitored and evaluated. With increasing emphasis on the workplace performance of managers, there may be an element of partnership between provider and workplace managers, who may or may not be part of the purchasing agency. This continuum represents a range of different positions in which identities may have several aspects and interests are difficult to identify. When the learning manager is also paying for the program of study there may be a tension if learning is challenging and not always a comfortable experience.

6)generic provision----------------------------------------------unique provision

This represents extremes of provision. Generic programs are developed with an intention of meeting a wide range of common learning needs and are based on the assumption that most learners will have some needs in most of the areas. Unique provision is designed to address needs identified in a unique situation by developing new approaches as a new intervention. Many interventions claim to be close to one or another of these poles. In practice, much provision contains elements of each dimension.

7)accredited----------------------------------------------not accredited

Accreditation has an essential generic aspect in that provision has to fit into the framework of the accreditation offered. If provision is not accredited there is no predetermined framework and nothing to inhibit planning or delivery choices. Difficult issues arise if programs are planned to meet what are thought to be unique needs and then accreditation is sought.

8)purpose of intervention----------------------------------purposes of participants

There may be significant differences between the purpose of the intervention as prescribed by whatever authority caused the intervention to be provided and the purposes of those who participate in the learning setting, be they in the roles of management education and development practitioners or managers learning. This dimension relates to the issues raised of whether a program aims to develop people to review and re-construct existing ideas or whether the aim is to develop people to conform to fit an existing framework.


The time scales of a program are significant as they influence review, revision and evaluation. There is often a need to re-consider in long-term provision and the procedures involve reviews and monitoring. Short-term provision may be considered as a unique event with immediate needs but with no requirement to improve on the original conception. Long-term provision implies greater investment on the part of the practitioner and the teams who deliver established programs.

These dimensions indicate very different perspectives, if not opposite viewpoints. There are significant implications for contemporary practice in that the diversity of provision includes all of these perspectives and positions between the polar extremes. Where the poles are contradictory or opposite there is little likelihood of collaboration. The closer the positions on each of these dimensions, the more likely it would be that providers could collaborate. It might be possible to use polarities like these to discuss the perspectives of those intending to work together as a partial preparation which would allow some of the issues which may arise to be discussed before they are experienced. Any individual practitioner might identify his or her position on any of the continua in respect to a program or set of programs in a particular setting. Some practitioners may find it possible to change their choice of position to accommodate or respond to particular characteristics in a context. The ability to adopt different positions on some of the continua in different settings may reflect the extent to which a practitioner is aware of making choices and it is possible that those who are less flexible are less able to practice successfully in different contexts. However, the extent to which a practitioner insists on maintaining a fixed position in any continuum may either indicate either a strong commitment to a philosophy, ideology or model of practice, or may simply indicate that alternatives have not been considered.

There are groups of practitioners who share broadly similar perspectives because of a common belief or philosophy. Practitioners who share a view of managers as adults who make choices are likely to respect the autonomy of managers in learning and development settings. Practitioners who perceive their provision to rest on their subject knowledge and expertise may adopt roles as experts and might also take didactic pedagogical approaches.

Is a more coherent and integrated approach possible?

The previous discussion of dimensions indicated the extent to which there is disagreement and difference in approaches to management education and development. If individual practitioners or individual providers have similar perspectives there is potential for them to collaborate without significant disagreement. If there are very different perspectives and these are contradictory there would still be a possibility of collaboration if the differences were accepted and explained in some way to the participants. This may be more achievable if those with respect for adult learning conditions are the dominant providers.

Collaboration between providers does not lead directly to presentation of a more coherent offer or of an integrated program. Coherence is perceptual and involves recognition of elements that fit together in a way that makes sense. This differs from integration, which implies that a new complex pattern has been developed from former disparate parts.

The notion of integration has influenced attempts to achieve a curriculum in which the subject areas have sufficient attention but do not have boundaries to compartmentalise knowledge. This, however, implies that subjects have a similarity in knowledge types and structure that would enable links and relationships to be made to provide an extended network of related knowledge. This, however, cannot be done, as each discipline and field of studies has developed its own internal structure of positions and relationships that reflect a viewpoint that is epistemologically and ontologically unique. The bodies of knowledge relevant to the field of management studies reflect many different perspectives that may only coincide in their focus on issues related to management. The hope that all knowledge might be mapped into a convenient framework is not realisable and integration of that nature is not possible.

Collaboration between practitioners may assist a learner to appreciate the multiple viewpoints from which an issue might be approached. Problem solving approaches adopt this strategy and attempt some integration of the implications of different viewpoints. An inter-disciplinary inquiry might acknowledge differences in a similar way and might use these to strengthen the process and the interpretations drawn. The different epistemological perspectives can be respected without attempting to synthesise or to merge them into a collective view.

There are implications in the language of integration and fragmentation that the former is a 'good' thing and the latter a 'bad' thing. Proposals of integration imply moving towards a wholeness whilst fragmentation implies that something whole has split into parts which have lost relationships with each other. There is an implicit suggestion that the quality of provision would improve if there were to be more integration and that fragmentation offers less than high quality. If diversity is conflated with fragmentation there are many more implications in this use of language. The extent of diversity has been seen to relate directly to the diverse needs and wants evident in the fields of practice. The existence of different fields of practice might be seen as evidence of very high quality provision if it is highly differentiated and specialised.

Knowledge contributes to skills and it is often an aspiration of management education and development to integrate skills with knowledge. Learning of skills has often been described as sequential in which the steps are learned separately before a smooth and skilled performance can be achieved. However, Burgoyne (1981) pointed out that achievement of a skilled performance requires more than knowledge and skills, including involvement of feelings, values and moral beliefs. Integration of this nature is only possible from the perspective of the individual who is attempting to bring together all these aspects of experience and understanding as personal learning. The role of the management educator or developer may be more about enabling the range of separated experiences to be acknowledged and facilitating the individual to develop understanding alongside practice. The fully skilled performance that integrates understanding and practice would need to be robust enough to be adaptable in different settings. Therefore, a fully skilled performance requires sufficient knowledge, skill and understanding to enable the manager to perform fluently in different circumstances. This performance may well require transferability of skills to the extent that the frameworks are partially dismantled and re-constructed. It is doubtful whether fully skilled performers can be developed without recognition of complex patterns of multiple perspectives and the ability to learn in new situations in order to progress confidently in a world that does not comply with mechanistic forecasts.

There was a proposal in 1994 (Raelin and Schermerhorn) that the field of advanced management education was experiencing a paradigm shift which was evident in two dominant positions. One was based on the positivist approach of searching for objective knowledge and the newer one was the qualitative interpretative approach. It is possible that the latter could encompass objective approaches as contributory parts but the positivist approach cannot encompass the interpretative one. It may be significant for practice in these fields if the related field of studies is undergoing a paradigm shift as the basis for practice in any theoretical framework becomes less secure. There may be a difference in the potential of providers to collaborate related to their interest and use of theoretical perspectives. There may also be implications for managers learning and developing in terms of their degree of understanding of the theoretical debate. It may be important for managers learning and developing to be aware of the tensions in the theoretical field relating to their learning, development and practice as managers.

Mezirow (cited in Jarvis 1995) linked development with realisation of reframing and restructuring which implies that the outcome might only be recognised once the process is complete. This presents a problem for those who would like to set targets and agree outcomes. In reframing and restructuring understanding the individual is at the core of the experience in making a biographical review that leads to new understanding which incorporates and builds on past understandings. This may be considered an integrative process leading to a momentary integration of understanding, but this can only ever be temporary as the context in which any individual learns in also in continuous change. Understanding is relative to a position in a setting and the culture of the setting.

The Experiential Learning Cycle (Kolb and Fry, 1975) offered an approach which might improve perceptions of coherence in that the process requires the learner to take a broad perspective and organise their thoughts before acting and reviewing actions. The recognition of different learning styles is also important for some learners as it offers an explanation for a tendency to be successful with some approaches and less so with others. However, the use of a reflective process is not necessarily sufficient to achieve an integrated understanding. Mezirow (in Jarvis, 1995) identified seven different types of reflection including theoretical reflectivity which he proposed was essential for perspective transformation. This implies that appreciation of the theoretical frameworks relating to personal circumstances are important in clarification of perspectives and in transformation of outlook. The theoretical frameworks in management education and development vary widely and it may be difficult for individuals to approach changes of perspective which bring challenges to their working lives. Ideas of coherence and integrity relate to expectations that include current frameworks and consideration of possible different frameworks brings the potential of incoherence and fragmentation.

It would appear that there is a possibility of occasional perception of coherence and integration within the field of management education and development, but that a totally integrated provision is not possible because of the pressure to respond to diverse needs and demands.

 Is a more coherent and integrated approach desirable?

If it had been seen to be possible to provide a more coherent and integrated approach, it may not be desirable. The notions of integration and coherence seem only to apply usefully to individual understanding and not to the range of provision in the various fields of practice. Many advantages have been shown to occur from the disintegrated fields of practice. As integration seems to be only momentary and may be more important as a part of a process it seems that integration would not be a helpful educational goal. The potential of disintegration to challenge and provoke choices and possible learning is important as a more coherent field with less diversity would reduce the need for choice and the considerations necessary to make choices, thus reducing the potential learning from having to make such choices.

There were potentially specific issues arising within each cluster of practitioners in education settings, in business settings and in personal development settings in relation to the management education and development curriculum. Where practitioners from each of these areas work together there would be issues arising from the different traditions that might affect the relationships between and among practitioners.

In any adult learning settings there are issues arising from the relationship of practitioner and learner when both are adults with particular characteristics and roles identified within a specific learning setting. It was anticipated that some of the differences in learning settings would arise from different beliefs and philosophies of learner managers and of management education and development practitioners. Learners in the roles of managers are influenced by their different organisational environments and also by the ways in which management work is organised in relation to management roles and practices in each setting. It was anticipated that this might present some issues for managers learning that were different from issues arising normally in any adult learning situation. As managers are adults learning the issues that arise for any adult learner may impact on the learning setting and the practitioners taking roles in supporting managers as learners.

All of these concerns are potentially ones that have implications for the purpose, content and processes of the management education and development curriculum and inevitably for those who practice as management educators and developers. The inquiry had two focal areas, the curriculum of management education and development and the relationships between practitioners in this field. Different modes of inquiry produced different types of information. The literature review provided further information relating to the curriculum of management education and development and illustrated influences on the changes in emphasis over time. The empirical research focused more on the detail of learning settings and the relationships of those intimately involved in the processes.

The inquiry succeeded in addressing the questions posed in that each area of concern was further explored. However, there are no definitive answers and there is a sense of the context being so much influenced by changes in how managers and management are seen that the curriculum must always have a wide range of choices from which each initiative may be planned. The constant in any setting and in any time scale is the certainty that anyone in the role of a manager will encounter considerable change throughout his or her working life. A manager will either develop an ability to learn and re-frame as new situations are encountered or will fail to evolve with his or her organisation.


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Cross, P. (1981). Adults as Learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Easterby-Smith, M., Thorpe, R. and Lowe, A. (1991). Management Research: An Introduction. London: Sage.

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Hales, C. P. (1993). Managing Through Organisation. London: Routledge.

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Mumford, A. (1989). Management Development. London: Institute of Personnel Management.

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Please cite as: Martin, V. (2001). Collaboration in management education and development. In A. Herrmann and M. M. Kulski (Eds), Expanding Horizons in Teaching and Learning. Proceedings of the 10th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 7-9 February 2001. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2001/martinv.html

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