Business and Management INK

Challenging, But Worth It: Overcoming Paradoxical Tensions of Identity to Embrace Transformative Technologies in Teaching and Learning

March 27, 2024 394

In this article, Isabel Fischer and Kerry Dobbins reflect on their work, “Is it worth it? How paradoxical tensions of identity shape the readiness of management educators to embrace transformative technologies in their teaching,” which was recently published in the Journal of Management Education. Their reflection appears below the paper’s abstract.

At a time when emerging technologies increasingly transform the workplace and society overall, management educators seem reluctant to fully embrace emerging transformative technologies in their teaching. In this conceptual essay, we argue that this reluctance stems from paradoxical tensions
of identity of management educators and students. The case is made that, currently, management educators tend to display their expertise to meet students’ reductionist curiosity. We recommend that management educators move beyond an initial reductionist curriculum to harness the opposing forces created by the paradoxical tensions of identity, which means embracing vulnerability at the same time as stimulating students’ expansionist curiosity. Our pedagogic recommendations are based on our experience of integrating generative and non-generative artificial intelligence, as well as esports and virtual reality as a preparation for the metaverse, into our curriculum. The essay concludes by proposing a sequence of three steps that might guide management educators in their preparation to integrate emerging technologies in the classroom in a way that empowers students to envision shaping the unknown future in an innovative and responsible way.

As we regularly spend a significant amount of time updating our curriculum to include innovative technologies – we even developed an AI-based formative feedback tool for students – we are often disappointed that our students do not show the same enthusiasm as we do towards those new technologies. While contemplating why this was the case, we came across three articles that allowed us to make sense of it: First there was Huang et al.’s (2022) concept of expansionist versus reductionist curiosity. The second article was Will’s (2022) findings on the professors’ predicament of a constant need to display expertise. The third article that provided the link between the first two articles was Smith & Lewis’ (2011) work on paradoxical tensions.

As part of our research we found that there is currently an equilibrium between students and professors: Management educators are able to display their expertise to meet students’ reductionist curiosity and mindsets. As part of our work we suggest that management educators now need to move into the domain characterized by expansionist curiosity and mindsets… but… and this is really important… only after they have demonstrated to students that they are experts who belong to the community of expert academics. Only once management educators have fulfilled the students’ preference to first (passively) listen to seasoned experts, can management educators become guides and facilitators and move students into the realm of expansionist curiosity and mindsets.

Our journal article was part of a special issue that explored technology as a tool, topic, and differentiator in management education. We extended the view of Allen (2020) and Allen et al. (2022) and explained that even more important than functional knowledge and innovative content, is the embedding of these with a pedagogy that harnesses the dynamism of opposing forces of paradoxical tensions of identity… in what seems the right sequence and at the right time for students.

Isabel Fischer (pictured) is a Reader in Information Systems at Warwick Business School. Her research interest is at the intersection of technologies, education, and environmental and social responsibility. Prior to joining academia Isabel worked for over 20 years in senior positions in digital payments. Kerry Dobbins is a Senior Academic Developer at the University of Warwick. She is an experienced pedagogic researcher with expertise in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Her research interests include values-based teaching, incorporating inclusivity and social responsibility.

View all posts by Isabel Fischer and Kerry Dobbins

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