Positive Impact Blog

Thought provoking insights for change makers

Guided reflection

An element dearly missed in traditional field work so far is guided reflection. There is little value in having participants take part in hands-on field work, if their experience is not thoroughly and professionally reflected. Such reflection includes the following:

  • What have I concretely learned in terms of skills and competences?
  • How have I learned, what elements/processes provided insights and how were they provoked?
  • What did I not expect to learn, what took me by surprise?
  • What did I learn in the interaction with others?
  • How effective are my inter-personal skills?
  • What have I learned about myself? Which situations do I find particularly challenging or rewarding?
  • What situations favor a learning attitude, what situations prevent me from learning?
  • What feedback do I get from my colleagues (boss, peers, subordinates) and how do I react to this?
  • What new questions do I have? What would I like to investigate in, learn more about, explore?

Guided reflection is a critical enabler to have a learner advance on his personal journey to mastery. It enables the understanding of where a learner is and what challenges he needs to embrace to advance. It also installs a practice of life-long learning, ensuring that a learner integrates self-reflection into his daily routine as an integral element of personal hygiene. Furthermore, guided reflection also opens the pathway of shared learning, enabling the teacher to understand core issues and challenges a class is faced with. Such a process is a first step towards creating a shared learning journey, involving participants in co-creating a course syllabus and therefore assuming responsibility of his learning.

The importance of field work

Stakeholder research[1] indicates that organizational leaders and business managers cannot be developed without a solid foundation of work experience. In the prevailing North American educational system, it is typical for high school graduates to launch directly into undergraduate education, which is often directly followed with graduate education. Europe and North America differ in the definition of post graduate education, and in particular in the entry requirements of MBA candidates. While in the U.S. work experience is often optional and desirable only, the traditional two-year North American MBA program provides graduates with a very limited first-hand exposure to business and management combined with a significant theoretical experience of business problems. In Europe, the majority of MBA programs are for executives with significant work experience including management experience. They are able to reflect what they learn in the program with their real-life experience at work. The level of discussion and the learning mechanisms are dramatically different with the teacher being much more of a facilitator than a lecturer and with highly innovative program elements that immerse participants into hands on field work across the world, often in developing countries and often as consulting projects for entrepreneurial ventures.

The importance of field work is grounded in the very well established Germanic apprenticeship model. Switzerland, which is highly appreciated for its highly skilled workforce, is still very much relying on this model with more than 75% of its young generation of today choosing to pursue an apprenticeship rather than entering university for studies.

The future management school integrates work experience through reflected field work into its curriculum. Most importantly it foresees creating an experiential year in the second year of undergraduate education, following the historic German model of the “Wanderjahr” (the year of wandering around that forms an integral part of the traditional trade apprenticeship. Chapter 5 provides a detailed example of how undergraduate business and management education could look like at the management school of the future.


[1]            The 50+20 project undertook a stakeholder survey in August 2011 (add reference)