Teaching for Practical Wisdom in Management Education

Kasper Worm-Petersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The economic crisis of 2008 raised questions about widespread business practices and the relation between business and society. These questions inspired the 2011 publication Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education, in which Colby et al. argue that the traditional ideas of business are out of date (Colby et al., 2011: 2). Colby et al. identifies business education as a key component in realigning the interests of business and society. They propose the integration of liberal learning in management education and suggest that management education should seek to foster practical wisdom within students. Practical wisdom is characterized by three modes of thinking: Analytical thinking, multiple framing, and the reflective exploration of meaning. However, reading Colby et al. it is unclear what teaching for practical wisdom actually entails. In this thesis, the question of what teaching for practical wisdom in management education entails is sought answered by drawing on the thoughts of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jacques Rancière, and Paulo Freire. The Gadamerian concept of Bildung is used as an analog to practical wisdom and Gadamer’s theory of understanding is subsequently used to enrich the concept. Rancière’s ideas provides an agency-focused perspective on learning, which helps open the concept of teaching for practical wisdom by highlighting the importance of equality and emancipation. The Freireian perspective presents the transformative power of education and reveals the need for student engagement in teaching for practical wisdom. The three perspectives are weaved together into a complementary vocabulary, which provides a fruitful and productive common ground that adds a proactive and inclusive aspect to the concept of Bildung. With this vocabulary at hand, Colby et al.’s framework for rethinking management education is revisited with special attention given to the three modes of thinking. It becomes clear that teaching for practical wisdom entails a constant focus in all subjects on both analytical thinking, multiple framing, and the reflective exploration of meaning. Teaching for practical wisdom should emphasis subject familiarity, teach students to embrace uncertainty, expose students to actual decision-making, and ensure that the subjects are relevant and engaging. It entails abandoning the traditional lecture format and placing the students at the center of the learning environment. These findings can provide the basis for a continued discussion on how management education can assist in developing contemporary and relevant business practices, which can realign the interests of society and business.

EducationsMSc in Philosophy, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages79