Innovations in teaching leadership10 Jun

I have an idea for an innovation in teaching leadership.   My recent doctoral research found support for the inclusion of deep dialogue sessions for students, particularly incorporating the notion of reflection.   A number of lecturers interviewed in my sample said that this notion of reflection on learning material was almost completely absent from the emerging leaders learning experience.   This, they said, also resulted in a lack of critical thinking being evident in students and pointed to the possibility that students may be unable to think critically, perhaps because they are offered no opportunity in the learning journey to develop or practice these skills.   My research found support for interdisciplinary groups of students, analyzing complex, postmodern problems through the application of deep dialogue skills.   My concern is that nowhere, in any of the schools that I visited, or in my experience as a lecturer in business schools and as a leadership development consultant, have I ever come across a component of building competence in deep dialogue embedded into leadership curriculum’s.

I am hoping to use this posting to share an idea that I have had and that I would like to implement.   The idea revolves around the application of the teaching of dialogue, in an online context, using the model of generative dialogue of Otto Scharmer . If you would like to see the model please click here.   Otto Scharmer is well known for his U-shaped leadership theory that the dialogue model is based on and he is a visionary thinker in terms of leadership development in the postmodern context.   I would apply the model in the following way :


1.  Find a challenging postmodern problem for the students and present it on an online forum as a case study.

2.  I would post certain questions to the students based on the case study

Ok, so far nothing new.....

What would be novel in this methodology would be the way the assessment would take place.   Students would have to document their journey through the four quadrants of Scharmer's Model, with particular emphasis on the Reflective and Generative Quadrants.   They would need to provide an audit trail of the discussion, debate and thinking of each student which would then be critiqued by the lecturer and feedback given.   The lecturer, in providing feedback to the student, would enhance the dialogue by pointing out where the students could have done more in terms of reflection and generative dialogue.   For example, 'your criticism of the bank's response to the liquidation of the organization lacked depth/insight; your response tended to be myopic and did not reflect on all views and perspectives'.  The students should then be required to return to the group and do better next time.   This type of feedback/response process could and should continue throughout the study period, preferably a year, and the final assessment given only at the end of the experience.    I am assuming by requiring the student to constantly 'practice' Scharmer's model, they will develop the ability to resolve complex problems through dialogue.  The online context provides a constant audit trail which reflects the learning experience.   This would be valuable information to a lecturer for not only tracking the progress of learning,  but also as a rich source of feedback to students.    Students should also be required to reflect on the audit trail and identify areas where they could try something different next time around.

As leaders or students or people interested in leadership development, I would value your thoughts on this idea. If you have any ideas on how or where I could implement a pilot study that would also be a great value to me.



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Dr. Elaine Saunders – Industrial Psychologist

Phd in Leadership Development
Author of Assessing Human Competence
Specialising in online competency-based assessment tools, leadership development and performance counselling
Based in Sandton, Johannesburg

My key areas of intervention revolve around helping individuals to achieve their potential in the work context. To this end, my consulting practice comprises of three key applications which are related. These are the application of competency-based assessment in recruitment and leadership development, counselling as it pertains to performance, wellness and the recovery from trauma, and leadership development coaching.

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