Academic conferences are important and unique opportunities for scholars to stress-test works in a collegial, creative, and critical spaces. I reflect on two works I have recently presented at the 35th Annual Consortium of Higher Education Research (CHER) Conference and the British Academy of Management (BAM) Conference.
Action research in Higher Education
The first paper I presented, spoke to the implications of the socially constructed ‘negotiated spaces’ in action-research. In this paper Examining how negotiated spaces influence the co-generation of knowledge in action-research, co-authored by Stephanie Wilson, Elaine Huber and Andrew Cram, we presented the Connected Learning at Scale Research & Evaluation approach to demonstrate the importance of relational and institutional factors in how knowledge is co-generated in action research. The CHER 2023 conference theme ‘Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as Change Agents in Society’ called for work that responded to the changing societal conditions that are instigated and necessitating change in HEIs.
This paper was aligned to the conference theme as it sought to speak to peers about the pressures to adopt emancipatory methods aimed at addressing global challenges. It also spoke to the historical and contemporary roles of research in colonisation and in perpetuating global challenges. In examining our case, we focused on the dynamic contexts in which action-research operates, conceptualising a ‘negotiated space’ between researchers and ‘the researched’. This focus was necessary as it allowed us to open discussion around participatory action research and other emancipatory methods (advanced by others). In avoiding prescriptive axioms favoured in methodology papers, we were conscious that deeper theorising or a stronger empirical focus was desirable. As a multidisciplinary audience, we were pleased to have received feedback that allowed to deepen our analytical frame and enriching the paper in desired ways.
Climate Change & Management Research
The second work, Climate or Career Change: Critically examining the Australian Government’s construction of climate change policy as an economic transition, presented in the Public Management and Governance stream at the British Academy of Management Conference: Towards Disruptive Sustainability: New Business Opportunities and Challenges This work brought together my experiences in policy document analysis and workforce research, with a focus on climate change policy in Australia. Interestingly, connected to the CHER theme of HEIs as Change Agents in Society – I found myself considering how my research skills could be applied to address global challenges. Branching out to a new research interest (climate change) was daunting – but the conference theme and track summary gave me a confidence the work would stand (or fall) on its merits in this setting. My analytical approach followed Bacchi’s WPR approach, and examined the “Powering Australia’s future” policy. For me, I was seeking to discuss with peers the merits of Bacchi’s WPR approach and the Australian case to an international audience (noting that climate change is of course a global challenge). I was pleased to receive feedback from Ian Hodginkson and Kate Broadhurst (as Track Chairs) and my fellow participants around suitable journals, areas for expansion and comparative cases. (Albeit, at times, in the inevitable suggestion of.. another paper!)
Implications for Business Education Research
These two papers works were presented in two distinct disciplinary fields: Higher Education Research and Management Studies. Both of these fields are important to Business Education Research; the former representing the broader context, under which Business Schools (and therefore Business Education) operate and the latter speaking to the types of knowledge we seek to teach. The CHER 2023 call for papers astutely remarked: “HEIs are both objects and subjects of societal change. They are impacted by transformations in society, but they are also in a position to create impact on society.” These two works speak clearly to one of the two key DIBERG research areas: Informing the design and evaluation of disruptive pedagogical practices in business education. Further, the BAM Conference was also consequential to how we teach effective climate change management, through the critical analysis of government policy.
Both these conferences have helped refine my research foci, and as an early career research scholar consider how to develop a deeper knowledge of the field of Business Education Research.
About the author
Ryan Menner is an experienced research professional, focusing on public/community sector workforces; knowledge and expertise in organisations; and, science and public research funding. Ryan has held a number of roles across university research portfolios, that involve pure and applied qualitative research; developing and coordinating research strategies, policy and initiatives; research training and supervision of undergraduate research projects; industry/community engagement; and, communicating research findings / public forums. Further to this, Ryan has contributed to a number of university service roles through committee, academic network and union membership.
Currently Ryan is employed as a Research Associate (Associate Lecturer) in Business Co-Design, Dean's Unit at the University of Sydney Business School.