To match or not to match? The conundrum of management education for reflective-analytical Polish managers

Agnieszka Sitko-Lutek, Marie Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin, Poland,

Ania Rakowska, Katedra Zarazdzania Politechnika, Lublin, Poland

Jeanne Hill, University of Central Lancashire


This paper reports on a problem facing management educators in Poland, and possibly in other former Soviet Union (SFU) countries. In the years of transition to a market economy, and with negotiations for entry to the European Union underway, Polish managers have recognised that they must move fast to acquire the skills required to compete first in Europe, and then globally. As a result, a large market for management education has developed, which is being serviced largely by Western experts.

Western management educators strongly favour participative and experiential learning methods for the acquisition of management skills such as team-building, consultative or participative management styles, leadership and self-development. These 'new' techniques seem somewhat alien to managers raised in strongly bureaucratic, controlled and non-competitive organisations.

However, in countries such as Poland, the traditional, didactic model of education directed to the acquisition of factual knowledge has prevailed. Further, the cultural characteristic of high power distance (Hofstede, 1984), reinforced by the role of the tutor as 'expert', means that Polish managers do not always feel comfortable with generally accepted Western management education techniques.

As determined in an empirical study of over 300 Polish managers from a variety of industry sectors, Poles, especially those over 40, have a strong preference for reflection-analysis, as measured both by Honey and Mumford's Learning Styles Questionnaire and by Allinson and Hayes' Cognitive Style Index (Sitko-Lutek 1996; Hill et al 1999). Because of this reflective preference, they tend to be uncomfortable with the more active experiential methods that are better suited to skills acquisition.

As a result, the matching hypothesis is put to the test. Should the management educator sacrifice the assimilation and internalisation of skills by practice, using a more 'comfortable' teaching/learning model, or challenge reflective-analytical students to change their style?

Recommendations addressing the implications for curriculum, syllabus and teaching methods are provided.

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