Is Unbiased?

classroom-1910014_1920[We’re pleased to welcome authors David Ackerman of California State University Northridge and Christina Chung of Ramapo College of New Jersey. They recently published an article in the Journal of Marketing Education entitled “Is Unbiased? A Look at the Impact of Social Modelling on Student Online Reviews of Marketing Classes,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations for conducting this research:]

JME(D)_72ppiRGB_powerpointOur paper “Is Unbiased?: A Look at the Impact of Social Modelling on Student Online Reviews of Marketing Classes” was definitely motivated by personal experience. My colleagues and I early on noticed that there was a huge mismatch between the one or two student ratings per semester on online rating sites such as RMP and the 100 or more ratings from the student evaluation measures collected at our universities. Some seemed to hit it right. They had a great rating or two and then subsequent ratings were good. Others seemed to hit it wrong, with a really bad rating or two from a student unhappy with his or her grade and then subsequent ratings were bad.

We compared SEMs and found those who had both good and bad RMP ratings all had good SEMs. Those were my personal observations though I know there has been some research suggesting that RMP can be similar to SEMs and some suggesting the opposite. I didn’t look into it at the time because I felt sites like RMP provide a place for students to vent their anger or express their happiness, kind of like a virtual public bathroom stall.

An external event that sparked this specific research paper was the rise of “social media mobs.” Groups of anonymous raters would attack a rating site and leave a lot of negative ratings about a particular business, product or service. Though most of these raters were anonymous, the ratings depressed future ratings that were posted. Before the attack, ratings might be moderate to positive, but afterward, primarily negative ratings would be posted.

So, my colleague and I set out to see if this pattern held in online teaching ratings and it did. The results of this study suggest that several highly positive or negative ratings have an oversized influence on subsequent ratings, who model the previous ratings, which can compromise the validity of the ratings. We are also looking into whether they also influence the willingness of people to do an online rating if their views are contrary to the prevailing positive or negative salient reviews. These results suggest that rating sites should do all they can to remove unverified ratings, especially if they are extremely negative or positive to maintain the validity and integrity of their rating system.

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Classroom photo attributed to Wokandapix. (CC)

Dominance in the Organizational Learning Process

mark-516277_1920[We’re pleased to welcome author Isabel Collien of Freie Universität Berlin. Collien recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Critical–reflexive–political: Dismantling the reproduction of dominance in organisational learning processes,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Collien reveals the motivation and challenges for her research:]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

I am both a researcher and a practitioner in the field of diversity and equal opportunities in organizations with a great interest in bridging theory and practice. In particular, I seek to understand how societal power relations influence micro-level practices, such that equal opportunities programs and other organizational practices sometimes fail to cater to the needs of those we seek to empower, motivate or sensitize.

Looking into power-sensitive organizational learning studies for theoretical and practical inspiration, I discovered that the research field provided nuanced discussions on the effect of micro-level power structures and dynamics or macro-level discourses on learning in organizations. What I was missing, was a theoretical framework for understanding the effect of societal power relations (related to persisting structures of dominance) on micro-level learning processes. My paper addresses this research gap. Based on Bourdieu’s theory of practice, I lay a theoretical foundation to explain the reproduction of dominance structures in micro-level learning processes.

What was the most challenging aspect of conducting your research?

The most challenging aspect in the process of writing the manuscript was the editor’s and reviewers’ advice to decide between a theoretical and an empirical paper. The final manuscript is a theoretical paper, which draws on a case study by Heinemann (2014) on advanced training participation in Germany to illustrate its key points. The study shows how a multi-level, historically grown system of othering leads to feelings of not-belonging and demotivates female migrants from participating in advanced training programs. Building on these insights, I suggest that researchers need to take three steps to understand and potentially counter the effect of societal power relations on learning processes: being critical, being reflexive and being political.

How will your research impact the field?

The answer to this question can only be speculative or wishful thinking. Yet, I hope that my proposed triad of being critical, being reflexive and being political inspires future research on power and organizational learning. Hopefully, researchers will agree that questioning taken-for-granted practices and structures requires a multi-level and historically informed perspective to dismantle the reproduction of dominance structures in learning processes (being critical). Furthermore, I argue for a broader notion of reflexivity in relation to societal power relations, encompassing questioning the researcher’s social position, the research field and ultimately, the scholastic point of view (being reflexive). Finally, I wish for researchers to understand the importance of making their particular perspective, their research motivations and their subsequent choices more transparent to a) make ethically informed judgements about the nature of organizational learning and b) allow for an in-depth, controversial discussion of their findings in the context of unequal power relations (being political).

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Diagram photo attributed to geralt. (CC)

Is Play the Future of Office Space?

Sage Interiors
8th August 2017[We’re pleased to welcome authors Anna Alexandersson and  Viktorija Kalonaityte of Linnaeus University. Alexandersson and Kalonaityte recently published an article in Organization Studies entitled “Playing to Dissent: The Aesthetics and Politics of Playful Office Design,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they speak about the inspiration for conducting this research:]

OSSWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

The idea that play at work is a way to tap into employee creativity and boost their motivation has been growing in popularity over the recent years, particularly within industries that prize fast-paced innovation. Playful office design appears to be an extension of this idea, characterized by colorful open-plan office architecture alluding to non-work spaces such as nature, personal homes, clubs, fairs and amusement parks. Typically, images of playful offices are displayed online by the companies themselves, and re-posted by various office design communities, making them widely available to many different audiences. But what exactly is it that makes these spaces playful? What kind of play do they encourage? And, more importantly, are there limits to play even in the context of playful office design? With these overarching questions guiding our inquiry, our paper builds on a study of playful office images that are some of the most shared online, as these images provide a persuasive visual representation on how play at work can be understood.

Our analysis suggests that playful office design removes many of the traditional boundaries of the working life. For example, it builds in leisurely and private spaces into the office, makes it difficult to discern organizational hierarchies, and promotes collective forms of play and creativity. However, these office spaces cannot resolve a fundamental tension between play and work: even in the most playful work life settings, play needs to be aligned with corporate goals, meanwhile, free creative play disrupts and transcends all social divisions, including those of based on profitability and utility.

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Office photo attributed to James Robinson. (CC)

Call for Papers: Management Teaching Review

MTR_cover.inddMake an impact on management teaching and submit to the Management Teaching Review!

Management Teaching Review (MTR) is currently seeking manuscript submissions. MTR is committed to serving the management education community by publishing short, topically-targeted, and immediately useful resources for teaching and learning practice. The published articles and interactive platform provide a rich, collaborative space for active learning resources that foster deep student engagement and instructor excellence.

For more details click here.

Manuscripts should be submitted electronically to

You will need to create an account in order to submit your manuscript. The system will notify you once we receive the manuscript and have sent it out for review.

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Seeing and Sensing the Railways: A Phenomenological View on Practice-Based Learning

gleise-1066111_1920[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Thijs AH Willems of Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Dr. Willems recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Seeing and sensing the railways: A phenomenological view on practice-based learning,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Willems reveals the inspiration for conducting this research and the impact it has on the field:]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

For my PhD research I conducted an ethnographic study on the Dutch railway system to understand how different railway organizations collaborate during various kinds of disruptions and incidents. The performance of the railway organizations is being watched closely by both the general public as well as by the government and public agencies. Large and unforeseen disruptions or a very unpunctual train service due to unexpected breakdowns or external influences are usually a topic of heated debates in the following days. During my research I found that many of the organizational attempts to deal with these unexpected events were aimed at providing rational explanations to legitimize the performance of the railways. So the structures, procedures and rules of many of the employees were made more rigid and their practices became more controlled by managers. While this did not strike me as particularly interesting in the beginning – as railway employees are responsible for offering a punctual and, most importantly, safe train journey to their customers – this kind of rational thinking and acting stood in stark contrast with the conversations I had with many train dispatchers. These professionals, who have often been dispatchers for several decennia, would explain their work much more in terms of their experience and that they would often ‘just feel’ what had to be done. This apparent discrepancy was the start of the study for this article.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

Without a doubt, the greatest challenge for this particular aspect of my study was how to methodologically study ‘feel’ and ‘experience’. At the beginning I tried to translate the suggestions and examples of train dispatchers into the more widely used vocabulary of the railway organizations. But I soon realized that, in the process of doing so, I would actually reduce dispatching work to a set of predefined and so-called rational parameters, something which had motivated my research in the first place. So I had to find ways to take the ‘feeling’ and ‘experiencing’ of dispatchers more seriously, and I then became interested in a phenomenological approach to the study of dispatching practices and knowledge.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

I think my article will be valuable for scholars who are interested in knowing more about the role of the body and senses in the context of work practices. Moreover, I specifically focus on how such practices are learned and how the necessary knowledge to become a ‘good’ dispatcher is transferred not only through handbooks and procedures but also through the body and in practice. The field of organization studies has only just started exploring these issues and my phenomenological focus, I hope, extends this literature. I also think that the empirical richness of my study helps the field in understanding theoretical notions of embodiment and knowledge in more concrete and grounded ways.


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Journal of Management Education’s 2016 Award-Winning Article

On behalf of the Journal of Management Education, SAGE Publishing would like to congratulate co-authors Richard J. Miller and Rosemary Maellaro, both of the University of Dallas, for winning the Fritz Roethlisberger Award for 2016 for their article, “Getting to the JME_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgRoot of the Problem in Experiential Learning: Using Problem Solving and Collective Reflection to Improve Learning Outcomes,” which can be found in the April 2016 issue of JME. The award’s criteria include scholarly grounding, expected longevity, potential impact, and potential to reach across disciplines.

The article is currently free to read for a limited time.

The abstract for the article is below:

Experiential learning alone does not guarantee that students will accurately conceptualize content, or meet course outcomes in subsequent active experimentation stages. In an effort to more effectively meet learning objectives, the experiential learning cycle was modified with a unique combination of the 5 Whys root cause problem-solving tool and a collective reflection step. Applying these modifications through multiple iterations of in-class exercises, students in lean operations and leadership courses were able to move beyond treating symptoms of problems and generate more viable alternative actions for future applications of their learning. Improved grades, greater achievement of learning objectives, and positive student reactions provide evidence of the modified experiential learning cycle’s success. A generalized framework for using the modified learning cycle in other management courses is also presented.

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How Do New Theorizing and Shifts in Learning Emerge?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Birgit Helene Jevnaker and Atle A. Raa of the Norwegian Business School, Oslo. They recently published an article in Management Learning entitled, “Circles of intellectual discovery in Cambridge and management learning: A discourse analysis of Joan Robinson’s The Economics of Imperfect Competition,”  Below, Jevnaker and Raa describe the inspiration for the study and key findings:]

We share an interest in how ideas in management learning can originate from early thinkers aJevnaker_teaser.jpgnd books.  For instance, we are interested in how classic economic thinking has influenced management learning and practice. In our article, we elaborate and discuss how Joan Robinson – in interaction with a circle of other Cambridge economists – developed a new theory of the firm in imperfect competition. In her opinion, imperfect competition was the normal market situation. It could be a limited number of firms that represented the total supply of a consumer product like carbonated soft drinks.

Joan Violet Robinson was a member of an informal group of a younger generation of economists in Cambridge, UK. Through her first book, The Economics of Imperfect Competition, she actually became an innovator of new ideas and comlqncepts. In this book, published in the wake of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, she explains new principles of how markets operate in different ways depending on the nature of the competition. By recognizing that some enterprises can affect prices and competition, this opened up for later, new thinking of how firms act and learn differently.

We were surprised by two things:

  • First, she became a transformer of earlier ideas of perfect competition into ideas of imperfect competition. It is remarkable that a young woman economist, without any formal position in the academy of Cambridge, could quickly synthetize new thinking of how markets are different.
  • Secondly, we noted that a younger generation of academics engaged collectively in critical and alternative theorizing. Robinson and her friend, the economist Richard F. Kahn, as well as other companions met regularly and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s arguments. We call this “epistemic interaction”. By this we understand mutual or reciprocal actions or influence in developing the grounds of knowledge and understanding among agents. In Greek, knowing and its possibility of understanding is episteme.

Through our discourse analysis of Robinson’s 1933-book and its emergence, we seek to explain our story beyond the perspective of a great economist finding new ideas by herself. Her book uncovers several important contributors; Robinson herself anchors her book in both established and new theorizing of firms and markets.

Joan Robinson points to the common existence of a limited number of firms with monopoly power over their offerings. Inspired by the 1930s reality as well as earlier writings, she offers new concepts, for example for exchange situations with only one buyer (monopsony). This is a situation where exploitation of labour can emerge, she points out. Robinson no doubt had a certain pedagogical style. She made many of the complicated economic ideas easier to understand by examples and metaphoric language. She claimed that the tool-users had been given “stones for bread” from the toolmakers (the economic thinkers). Still, she stressed that economics is one of the social sciences that study how society works.

From the circle of young economists’ debating in the 1930s, it is worth noting that firms and managers can be commonly acting within dissimilar or “imperfect” market conditions rather than principally “perfect” ones where firms are facing similar price mechanisms, often discussed in past economic literature. This critique and shift in understanding eventually opened up for management studies recognizing also fundamental differences in managerial knowledge, learning and strategizing. We think that more research on how earlier economic thinking has influenced management practice is a fruitful approach to the study of how management learning have developed through most of the 20th century up to our days. It is of general interest how new academic ideas come about.

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