As this is part of the documentation of the Unconference and will be shared among the mainly English-speaking conference participants, this review will be in English.
The Research on Management Learning and Education (RMLE) Unconference took place at the Copenhagen Business School from June 30 until July 1, 2014. About 50 participants from 10 countries took part. The RMLE unconference is an initiative from a small group of researchers, above all Amy L. Kenworthy from Bond University in Australia where the first unconference on this topic had taken place last year.
The format of an unconference is similar to an open space; however, the topics and groups were pre-structured based on proposals so that everybody had a starting point within the unconference. Unlike other conferences, every participant of the conference had contributed an abstract with questions, ideas, concerns (QIC) which was circulated among all participants beforehand. Instead of writing a paper or abstract on ‘finished’ research, the mission of the conference was rather to think about new research ideas or directions that research could take in the future. The conference started with a brief introduction to the unconference (above all ‘the rule of two feet’ – meaning that you are allowed to leave your group and take up a different topic at any time). The different sessions started immediately and were each ended with 2-minute presentations from each group in a plenary with all participants. In alignment with the scope of the conference, participants needed a few sessions to get into the groove of the conference and to find their common ground. For instance, I started out with a group talking about a very broad variety of topics:
- the purpose of the business school,
- the gap between what universities claim with regard to teaching and the way how teaching is valued,
- students’ expectations from their education at business schools and
- the goals we want to achieve with management education.
The scope of our discussions remained necessarily rather abstract and broad. However, with every summary the topics of interest became clearer such that new groups emerged.
At the end of the first day, I had an intense discussion about the need for research on assessment. In the group, it became clear that individual assessment methods targeted at grading students and giving feedback to them can be distinct from assessment with the purpose of evaluating study programmes (as in the logic of accreditation procedures such as AACSB with its assurance of learning process). The two levels can be combined if individual assessment methods (such as essays or multi-choice questions) provide the basis for programme-level assessment but this is not necessary the case.
Finally, on the second day, I joined a group on faculty development which will now start research on the state-of-the art of faculty development in different countries. Additionally, we generated research ideas with regard to faculty evaluations and on how to introduce different educational discussions (e.g. about conceptions of teaching) into the community of management educators.
The unconference provides an unusual format that helps to surpass the usual boundaries of our research. It remains to be seen whether we are successful to bring the energy and enthusiasm on the ground and to enhance further research on management education. For now, it was fun to be part of the unconference – thanks to the organizers at CBS and around the world!