Pedagogical Approaches to Develop Critical Thinking and Crisis Leadership

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    Journal of Management

    http://jme.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/01/09/1052562913519081The online version of this article can be found at:

    DOI: 10.1177/1052562913519081

    published online 10 January 2014Journal of Management EducationEdward H. Powley and Scott N. Taylor

    LeadershipPedagogical Approaches to Develop Critical Thinking and Crisis

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    Article

    Pedagogical Approaches to Develop Critical Thinking and Crisis Leadership

    Edward H. Powley1 and Scott N. Taylor2

    AbstractManagement schools must be prepared to aid leaders and managers to succeed in uncertain environments. We offer two approaches, each designed for critical thinking skill development, to teach graduate management students about leading in and through potential disruption to organizational life. First, we present a personalized case method that relies on a critical incident approach to examine crises students personally experienced at work. We provide a description of the student assignment and a process for student analysis. Second, we present a group project involving a poster session in which students collaboratively work on complex crisis leadership challenges and present their analysis to their peers. We describe how these two approaches develop the critical skills effective crisis leaders possess.

    Keywordscrisis leadership education, critical thinking, leadership, character, resilience

    Business schools do not typically emphasize crisis management education and leadership in crisis (Cirka & Corrigall, 2010). While models and approaches to managing human threats and crises abound, management pro-fessors are often constrained to disciplinary and subdisciplinary teaching

    1Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, USA2University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA

    Corresponding Author:Edward H. Powley, Naval Postgraduate School, Graduate School of Business and Public Policy, 555 Dyer Road, Monterey, CA 93943, USA. Email: ehpowley@nps.edu

    519081 JMEXXX10.1177/1052562913519081Journal of Management EducationPowley and Taylorresearch-article2014

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  • 2 Journal of Management Education

    material, which empowers them only to address crisis anecdotally. Moreover, many largely view crises from the perspective of business failure resulting from ethical lapses, economic downturn, or productivity and market share loss. A key message from a recent special issue in this journal on crisis man-agement (Comer, 2013) was that management schools need to prepare their students better to lead in challenging contexts and changing environments, sometimes unexpected and other times anticipated and imminent.

    We begin with a brief discussion of emerging ideas in the area of leader-ship and crisis leadership. We then discuss critical thinking and models for structuring learning for critical thinking skill development. Next, we present two pedagogical approaches we use to teach crisis leadership in an introduc-tory organizational behavior course at the graduate level. We outline a per-sonalized case method and provide a description of the student assignment and process for student analysis. We then highlight a group project involving a poster session in which students collaboratively work on complex crisis leadership challenges and present their analysis to their peers. We developed these methods with military leaders in an MBA program, but they may be easily adapted for undergraduate management and traditional MBA students. We suggest that these two teaching tools enable the development of crisis leadership and critical thinking skills.

    Developing Leaders for Crises

    Crisis management and leading in crisis have not been a significant emphasis in teaching organizational behavior, strategic management, or leadership development. A few recent examples have shifted the trend. Waller, Lei, and Pratten (2013) suggest that crisis management education ought to address team capability for dealing with crisis. Clemson and Samara (2013) showed that crisis management simulations using narrative inquiry help determine transformative learning. A recent special issue on crisis management educa-tion in this journal presents approaches for case studies (McDonald, 2013), using evidence-based management (Wright, Nichols, McKechnie, & McCarthy, 2013) or developing communication skills with leaders (Foote, 2013). Aside from these pedagogical approaches, the way crisis leadership is taught remains important (Shrivastava, Mitroff, & Alpaslan, 2013), yet lead-ership is a key factor in effective crisis management (Hess & Cameron, 2006; Mitroff, Pauchant, & Shrivastava, 1988). A few scholars have made efforts to examine leadership in extreme contexts that could be considered crises (e.g., Hannah, Uhl-Bien, Avolio, & Cavarretta, 2009) and others have looked at crisis management from a positive perspective (e.g., Dutton, Frost, Worline, Lilius, & Kanov, 2002; James & Wooten, 2010; Powley, 2009). In recent years, crisis leadership of a different kind has gained increasing attention in

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  • Powley and Taylor 3

    organizations due to the effects of September 11 and threat of terrorism. What this new direction reveals is that to develop leaders who handle crisis situa-tions requires emphasis on communication, caring, and vision (Klann, 2003); empathy and expertise (Pagonis, 2001; Powley & Taylor, 2006); and provid-ing experiences that shape and test ability to lead (Bennis & Thomas, 2002).

    Bennis and Thomas (2002, p. 45) capture much of this recent focus on the character of the leader (i.e., who a leader is) with a framework outlining what critical skills and capacities effective crisis leaders possess. First, they have a sense of integrity and a strong set of values, which guide and direct their behavior when times are tough. Crisis leaders also have a distinctive and compelling voice such that external and internal hearers have a clear under-standing of the leaders intent and purpose. Third, crisis leaders engage oth-ers in shared meaning, that is, they look outward and demonstrate empathy, thus building a cooperative and community-based organizational culture. Finally, crisis leaders possess adaptive capacity, or the ability to flexibly manage crisis and transcend adversity. Crisis leaders are effective because they possess the awareness of themselves and others in the context of dynamic, tenuous, and shifting situations.

    Embedded in Bennis and Thomass (2002) framework is the idea that cri-sis leadership is about who a leader is and how a leader responds to crisis. Leaders must not only possess the ability to manage crisis, but they must represent and embody characteristics that enable them to transcend difficulty. Leadership of this kind has been represented in constructs such as servant leadership (Spears & Lawrence, 2004), spiritual leadership (Fry, 2003), rela-tional leadership (Uhl-Bien, 2006), authentic leadership (Gardner, Avolio, Luthans, May, & Walumbwa, 2005), resonant leadership (Boyatzis & McKee, 2005; Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002), fundamental states of leadership (Quinn, 2004), and eighth-habit leadership (Covey, 2004). These forms of leadership contend that ones internal resources serve as guides to enable leaders to focus outward, especially in crisis (Useem, 1998; Dutton et al., 2002; Powley & Taylor, 2006; Taylor, 2010) and often lead to achieving extraordinary performance (Cameron, 2008). For example, Quinn proposes a kind of leadership that is internally directed, other-focused, externally open, and purpose-centered (Quinn, 2004), where the leaders act selflessly and transcend self-serving needs in favor of serving others.

    We find the general principles offered by Bennis and Thomas (2002) help-ful, and we operationalize and build on those in this article. Crisis readiness, though, involves not only training to specific situations but also developing attributes of crisis leadership infused with inclinations toward strong charac-ter and moral values (Bennis & Thomas, 2002). Furthermore, Sankar (2003) notes, The leaders character is a strategic source of power for infusing the culture of his/her organization with a code of ethics, moral vision,

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  • 4 Journal of Management Education

    imagination, and courage (p. 54). In essence, crisis leadership is more than just a set of behavioral skills but also includes a persons fundamental aspira-tions, character, and values (Kouzes & Posner, 2002) and, as we take up in the next section, the ability to critically think through the challenges posed by crises (Lalonde & Roux-Dufort, 2013).

    Critical Thinking and Learning

    Organizational leaders are the central figures in helping create and maintain their organizations when crises affect processes and relationships. Regardless of their position, organizational members have the responsibility to support systems, structures, processes, and relationships that maintain clearly defined routines that minimize the extent and effects of unpredictability (Klein, Ziegert, Knight, & Xiao, 2006; Pagonis, 2001). To address these challenges, tensions, dilemmas, and dynamics (Gardner, 1990; Pearce & Sims, 2002), we argue that critical thinking skill development holds solutions for how stu-dents might learn crisis leadership.

    Critical thinking (Fisher, 2001; Kiltz, 2009) stems from the learning theo-rists. Dewey (1909) called it reflective thinking, and defined it as active persistent, and careful consideration of a belief or supposed form of knowl-edge in the light of the grounds which support it and the further conclusions to which it tends (p. 9). Glaser (1941) further articulated critical thinking as being disposed to consider thoughts and ideas within ones experience base supported by methods of logical inquiry and the skill to apply those meth-ods (p. 5). Embedded in both Glasers and Deweys definitions are two core ideas: reasons for believing and implications of beliefs, both of which require skillful reasoning by asking learners to raise questions, challenge ideas, and seek confirming and disconfirming information. Dewey saw critical thinking as an active process where individuals generate questions, thoughts, relevant information, and solutions rather than passively take in information from someone else (Kiltz, 2009).

    A third key figure, Ennis, extends Deweys action orientation to critical thinking. He suggested critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking . . . focused on deciding what to believe or do (Ennis, 1993, p. 180). His contribution further anchored critical thinking as a substantively active pro-cess of reflection and inquiry about the merit, value, and usefulness of con-cepts. Others have continued the tradition set forth by these scholars (e.g., Paul & Elder, 2001; Paul, Fisher, & Nosich, 1993). For example, learning scholars conceive of critical thinking as an individual competency and struc-ture learning to foster critical thinking with students through discussion and exercises.

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  • Powley and Taylor 5

    For Dewey, critical thinking is about learners engagement with a prob-lem and problems . . . evoke students natural curiosity and stimulate both learning and critical thought (Kiltz, 2009, p. 5). By working with real-world problems in this way, the rationale goes, students are more apt to understand the challenges and find ways out of them as they activate prior knowledge (Ambrose, Bridges, Lovett, DiPietro, & Norman, 2010). This line of thought is foundational for the learning approaches discussed in this article. Each of the approaches asks students to reflect, write about, discuss, and present problems and challenges that they have or will potentially face in the future. Kurfiss (1988) contended that critical thinking [is] required for solving unstructured problems that [have] no single correct answer (Peach, Mukherjee, & Hornyak, 2007, p. 314).

    In fact, given the often unexpected, complex nature of crisis, critical thinking serves as an excellent context for crisis leadership skill develop-ment. Specifically, critical thinking represents an academic competency (Fisher & Scriven, 1997, p. 21), which serves an important pedagogical purpose to develop learning in an active way. Critical thinking is one approach to structure learning activities such that it conditions intellectual development (Perry, 1999). Moreover, there is widespread agreement that critical thinking in a university environment involves students abilities to identify issues and assumptions, recognize important relationships, make correct inferences, evaluate evidence or authority, and deduce conclusions (Kiltz, 2009, p. 10; see also Tsui, 2002). The two approaches we conduct are crafted in such a way to promote these critical thinking abilities. The personalized cases culminate in a poster session where students apply and integrate their learning.

    In our teaching, we challenge students to consider the models and theories presented, question their applicability, and articulate variations and differ-ences based on their own experiences, and as such to develop critical thinking skills and knowledge for managing and leading through complex and chal-lenging crisis problems. To build more awareness and invite deeper thought about individual leadership and management ability in complex situations, we draw on Perrys (1999) model of intellectual development. Perrys stages take adult learners through a process in which they model movement from dualistic and multiplicity toward relativism and commitment. The model shapes ways to structure student learning, thus helping them develop broader understanding of course concepts, integrate those concepts, and apply them appropriately. For instance, students may at first be committed to fixed under-standings based on assumptions and perceptions, but class discussion of com-plex cases, writing about their experiences, and presenting their work challenge preconceived ideas and increase awareness. In the process,

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  • 6 Journal of Management Education

    students begin to question previous positions. Doing so guides them on toward a commitment to challenging preconceptions and assumptions about crises. Moreover, our multistage case pedagogy drives at increasing student learning such that students work together to support each other to achieve learning and build knowledge for managing and dealing with complex unstructured problems (Kurfiss, 1988).

    Learning Objectives

    The next sections of the article present two guided approaches to help stu-dents develop and practice awareness of skills for complex and challenging situations. The two teaching approaches aim to (a) increase self-awareness to improve self-understanding and strengthen character development, (b) increase critical thinking skills to assess the challenges and circumstances of crisis situations, and (c) help students draw on these skills and prior knowl-edge to apply them in different situations. The structure of the course and the assignments presented here build on critical thinking and leadership models. Others have offered similar approaches that may also yield positive results and prove useful (e.g., Kiltz, 2009; Kurfiss, 1988). We begin with a personal-ized case and then finish with a poster session. We situate these two approaches at different points in the academic term to build on student knowledge and information previously presented in class. Table 1 outlines the respective objectives of the two approaches and their connection to important compo-nents of crisis leadership and critical thinking.

    Our teaching context lends itself to discussing these topics in depth. Throughout their careers, our students have worked with a variety of manag-ers, peers, direct reports, teams, and organizations. They may have had sig-nificant experience managing supply lines and large operations with sizeable budgets, or overseeing large numbers of people, supplies, and expensive projects and equipment. The pedagogical practices we propose may be eas-ily adapted to various other management education contexts. An experi-enced MBA or EMBA cohort would draw from professional experiences where a current or past organization faced major financial, operational, ethi-cal, or leadership challenges, whereas an undergraduate class might be asked to respond to crises from case studies, films, or current affairs.

    A Personalized Case Approach

    Our first approach for teaching and developing crisis leadership is a personal-ized case. This individual writing assignment, in the form of a critical inci-dent (Flanagan, 1954), encourages students to think deeply about the

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  • 7

    Tab

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  • 8 Journal of Management Education

    implications of leading in crisis and their own leadership practice. Using such an approach increases students critical thinking and develops learning for how to lead in crises. The critical incident approach incorporates experiential learning (Kolb, 1984) and critical thinking (Fisher, 2001; Glaser, 1941; Norris & Ennis, 1989; Paul & Elder, 2001) as a means to develop significant learning (Fink, 2003). The various contexts to which these students have been exposed give them a rich database of work experience that provides a springboard for making sense of organizational life, understanding them-selves, and retaining and transferring learning (Cormier & Hagman, 1987). The critical incident activity (detailed in Appendix A) facilitates direct obser-vation of intellectual development of students and integrates transformational learning through thoughtful consideration (Perry, 1999). Appendix C lays out the evaluation criteria for the personalized cases.

    We use an extreme personalized case approach to bring into relief those lessons students may draw on to lead organizations in crisis. By extreme, we mean cases that are disruptive to the status quo. Such cases tend to be high in volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and/or ambiguity (Johansen, 2006). By personalized, we mean cases that originate from the lived expe-riences of the students themselves or as part of a team or functional group. Students direct experiences, sometimes fraught with strong emotions or significant failure, represent a rich source from which to facilitate reflec-tion and transfer of learning (Cormier & Hagman, 1987) and promote fur-ther intellectual development. From a critical thinking perspective (Paul & Elder, 2001) and learning theory perspective (Kolb, 1984), this case approach enables students to reflect on, assess, and learn from their own personal experience.

    In line with criteria from Bennis and Thomas (2002) for developing crisis leadership capability, the personalized case provides a forum for students to create a distinctive and compelling voice. As they articulate their own experiences with crisis and assess their level of adaptive capacity in that situ-ation, they attune themselves to what they value at the time of the crisis and how to handle those circumstances. This meets one of our key objectives, that is, to engage students in a self-directed, reflective process to build awareness of their individual behavior and ability to activate resilience (Powley & Taylor, 2006). Instead of providing a prescriptive set of leadership traits and character attributes, our hope is that when confronted with serious challenges, as leaders they will know through their own analysis how to effectively lead in crises (Bennis & Thomas, 2002; James & Wooten, 2010).

    Finally, we use the personalized case to engage our students in reflective writing and practice (Ferris, 1998; Rosenberg, 2010; Seibert & Daudelin, 1999). Aside from the restorative effects of writing about crisis (Pennebaker & Harber, 1993), the personalized case study format helps students think

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  • Powley and Taylor 9

    critically about their experiences and guide their responses to challenges they face. In the process, they come to know themselves and establish their most hoped for, ideal character traits. Research clearly shows that when individu-als systematically and constructively reflect on their experiences, their learn-ing increases dramatically (e.g., Raelin, 2008; Seibert & Daudelin, 1999). This occurs because writing and reflection clarify ones thinking, foster com-mitment to ones ideas, and empower the ability to communicate ones ideas more effectively to others.

    Analysis of crisis leadership is likely to be more effective from more than one perspective and with multiple teaching activities to enable students to develop the strategies and skills necessary to manage and lead in crisis (Medina, 2008; Rock, 2009). We accomplish our learning objectives by help-ing students uncover their own lessons learned and determine what, for them, accounts for effective leadership in crisis. Therefore, as an extension to the personalized case, we also hold an in-class workshop to help students develop their distinctive and compelling voice and to learn how to engage in shared meaning (Bennis & Thomas, 2002). The workshop gives them an opportunity to articulate to classmates and receive feedback from them on assessments of their crisis leadership ability. In this approach, we want to engage students in a critical thinking process (Paul & Elder, 2001) by identi-fying, questioning, and evaluating crisis leadership characteristics from the case study and then, in concert with the course design, begin to develop a personal set of leadership qualities and skills. We refer readers of this article to a case study that follows this pattern of student writing (Powley & Taylor, 2010). The teaching note for the case includes a set of discussion questions to further enhance students crisis leadership.

    Group Poster Session Approach

    Our second approach for teaching how to lead through and manage crisis involves a Group Poster project that culminates in a 2-hour, in-class poster presentation session. The Group Poster Session is usually the final class exer-cise during the term and may accompany or replace a standard group project presentation. This exercise follows the personalized case workshop and any case study discussions about crisis leadership. The primary purpose of the session is to provide students an opportunity to work on a crisis leadership scenario. In the process they have chance to present their analysis of crisis cases to peers and further integrate their leadership learning. Students iden-tify leadership characteristics and propose ways to lead in crisis. This experi-ential exercise builds on the personalized case activity, reinforces previous learning (Cormier & Hagman, 1987; Fink, 2003), and continues to build on the critical thinking aims of the course.

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  • 10 Journal of Management Education

    The Group Poster Session has two primary objectives: (a) to help students analyze and assess crisis situations using appropriate tools, which supports the critical thinking objectives; and (b) to help students develop systems awareness of potential crisis faced by organizations, which supports an inte-grated method to learning. As a group, students work together to solve the problem and then present their analysis, findings, and model to the class in a poster session format. An outline of the poster session activity is in Appendix B, and Appendix D contains the criteria used to evaluate the poster projects.

    To set up the poster session, groups of no more than five or six students select from several cases involving leaders who faced crisis and demonstrated strengths and weaknesses. Cases we have used in the past include Wagner Dodge and the Mann Gulch fire (Useem, 1998), Eugene Kranz and the Apollo 13 mission (Useem, 1998), Arthur Anderson and the Waste Management cri-sis (Diermeier, Crawford, & Synder, 2011), McDonalds in Russia (Moon & Herman, 2002), or the Friendly Fire shoot down in Northern Iraq, April 1994 (Snook, Freeman, & Norwalk, 2004). These cases present leaders who dem-onstrate (or do not demonstrate) the four critical skills of leaders who lead effectively in crisis, offered by Bennis and Thomas (2002). Other similar cases would also be suitable material. Each group is also assigned a particular framework, which the students use to analyze the case. Frameworks include, but are not limited to, team leadership, leader and group member motivation, communication challenges, perceptions and decision-making, impact of organizational culture or structure, systems dynamics, ethical dilemmas, and so forth. The goal is to use the assigned framework as a lens to analyze the leaders ability to deal with the crisis.

    Student groups then meet outside of class to discuss and analyze the case. Once they feel prepared with their analysis, the groups decide how to visually present their results. This consists of, first, analyzing the case in the context of their chosen framework (e.g., team leadership) and, second, seeking feed-back from the instructor who insures that the posters are distinct and have enough analytical rigor to hold an in-depth conversation with peers about the case. Posters are intended to be visually appealing, complete with charts, graphs, diagrams, pictures, and text, and should be able to stand-alone with-out the aid of a presenter.

    The poster session is an open forum where students begin to integrate their learning about the larger system dynamics of crisis and its impact on manage-ment and leadership challenges. From a critical thinking perspective, the poster session is a primary mechanism to encourage retention of concepts and transfer learning (Cormier & Hagmam, 1987), in this instance through pre-sentation and in-depth discussion with peers or responding to challenging questions. During the 2-hour session, the instructor and students rotate from

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  • Powley and Taylor 11

    poster to poster, taking approximately 10 minutes for each one, until every-one has seen each project. Each group member is expected to be able to pres-ent his or her groups poster. The session concludes with a class discussion about the leadership and management implications for managing crises. Again, this discussion, like the others described earlier, affords students time to reflect on how they might lead crisis situations. Students then write about their participation in the poster session, thinking about what they have learned and what they might do differently as leaders who may face crisis.

    Evaluation

    While we have not conducted empirical tests on whether students apply and practice their learning from these activities outside the classroom, we have collected and examined preliminary qualitative data from both students and a third-party expert from a faculty center for teaching (Schmidt-Wilk, 2010). These data suggest that the assessment tools and the assignments are at least initially, effective measures to gauge student learning, and that more in-depth investigation is needed. The first authors experience with the exercises finds that students are energized and engaged through the in-class activities, the feedback process, and the in-class discussions. Students listen carefully to others comments, challenges, and questions and become more reflective of their own situation and approach to their respective crisis. This fosters reflec-tion on what works and what does not. Moreover, students appreciate the feedback we offer and the feedback they receive from peers during the writ-ing process and during the in-class working groups.

    The qualitative comments reveal important themes about the effectiveness of the teaching approaches and suggest a high degree of face validity for them. Students appreciate the integration of material and the interactive nature of the assignments. The combination of experiential and discussion-based learning enables students to see readily the connections between the course materials and professional experiences. Students report in the course evaluation that they have a stronger sense of how to manage crisis and point to two primary lessons learned from the exercise. First, students recognize the interconnected nature of the concepts covered in the course as they begin to see causal relationships more clearly. For example, they come to under-stand (a) how individual motivation affects team dynamics, process, or out-comes in a crisis; (b) how values-based leadership and personal character enables effective crisis management (sense of integrity and personal values; Bennis & Thomas, 2002); or (c) how poor communication by a leader during a crisis negatively affects the perceptions of team members. Second, students realize that to understand problems requires more than singular focus on one

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  • 12 Journal of Management Education

    or two dynamics (i.e., adaptive capacity; Bennis & Thomas, 2002). For example, from the Friendly Fire case (Snook et al., 2004), some students assume that leadership is the primary cause of failure; others see groups and teams as the critical breakpoint, while others highlight the failure of technol-ogy or following established protocols. When groups see the final posters though, and learn about the differences, they begin to appreciate the impor-tance of variance and multiple perspectives (i.e., shared meaning and distinc-tive voice; Bennis & Thomas, 2002). The experience raises awareness about what may be required to manage in future assignments and further develops their critical thinking.

    In terms of developing leadership, students have greater confidence in their ability to take these principles forward. In particular, students appreciate the direct application to challenges they have or potentially will face. Students report that they see the importance of leaders who are in touch with their personal identities, values, and ideal aspirations, and focus attention on oth-ers rather than themselves as essential to build resilience and to enable heal-ing. A selection of student comments shows the linkages to the four criteria Bennis and Thomas (2002) argue are essential for effective crisis leadership (as noted below in parentheses):

    The thing I liked best was the poster session. It made me really dig into the subject matter. It challenged my ideas about myself as a leader, and how I interact with others. (i.e., sense of integrity and personal values; distinctive and compelling voice) (Student, Course Evaluation)

    I have definitely learned some very good concepts that will help me to deal with certain situations better then I probably did in the past. The group discussions and projects help to give a different perspective from other students experiences. (i.e., adaptive capacity and shared meaning to build community) (Student, Course Evaluation)

    I learned how to be an effective leader and Im confident that I gained new skills and techniques to motivate and lead my subordinates very effectively. (i.e., distinctive and compelling voice) (Student, Course Evaluation)

    Thanks to this course, I am able . . . to analyze organization problems and flaws. And I obtained the knowledge to seek proper and adequate corrections and solutions for these flaws. (i.e., adaptive capacity, or the ability to flexibly manage crisis and transcend adversity) (Student, Course Evaluation)

    I wish I had this prior to serving as a [mid-level manager], because understanding how leadership and motivation tie into leading is very important. (i.e., sense of integrity and values) (Student, Course Evaluation)

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  • Powley and Taylor 13

    The poster session was worthwhile. It gave us an opportunity to work in groups (after studying the dynamics of how a group is formed and works) in order to deliver a product. That it would be graded by our peers made each one of us want to put significant effort into ensuring it looked good and was presentable. (i.e., shared meaning to build community) (Student, Course Evaluation)

    The effectiveness of these assignments help students move beyond the course content, see connections between discussion of content or theory and the real-world experience. Comments from course end evaluations point to how the students connect models and theories to real-world experience. Several students remarked that the real-world case studies clarified various models and theories, and that the individual paper and poster session were very effective and useful tools in the real-time/real-world application of models and concepts from the lectures, textbooks, and readings. Another noted that the application of the models to real-life examples, helps drive home the points and I retain the ideas better when I can associate it with something concrete. And a third student indicated value of the personal writ-ing exercise and case study helped [him/her] understand how the concepts applied to [his/her] own work experience.

    Finally, the first author engaged an expert from the faculty teaching center to observe and assess the teaching activities, in particular the poster session and the overall structure of these course activities. The faculty center expert attended sessions in three quarters. Her feedback represents another source of external validity supporting our learning objectives on critical thinking and for developing the case activity and poster session.

    The poster session is a promising instructional practice that can be used to promote critical thought and the integration and application of knowledge, skills, and abilities. (Poster Session objective: develop system awareness supporting integrated learning; Faculty Center Expert)

    The poster session leverages adult learning theory and learner-centered pedagogy to produce direct observations that can be used to measure the achievement of complex learning outcomes. The integration of adult learning theory with appropriate learner-centered methods is evidenced by the intentional alignment of course outcomes and well defined learning objectives with structured methods for guided inquiry, experiential learning, developmental feedback, and authentic assessments. Designed as a culminating activity to integrate course concepts and develop appreciation for complex problems, the poster session validates the integration of knowledge with specific skills and abilities. (Poster Session objective: develop system awareness supporting integrated learning; Faculty Center Expert)

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  • 14 Journal of Management Education

    The posters, developed by student groups, synthesize cognitive and experiential learning demonstrating the capacity to learn with and from peers, to perform cognitive skills and processes, and to correctly apply organizational models and interpret a complex case. (Poster Session objective: develop positive working group; Faculty Center Expert)

    The benefits of this method [poster session] are easily observed through authentic student engagement in the learning process characterized by personal reflection and through qualitative feedback and academic interactions that support their intellectual development and increase the meaning and value of the learning experience. (Poster Session objective: develop positive working group; Faculty Center Expert)

    These comments from the faculty center expert highlight the effectiveness of the activities that reflect the overall aims and objectives for the Group Poster Session and the overall course objectives we articulated at the opening of our article. First, students demonstrate an increase in self-awareness and understanding as they reflect on their experience and the authentic feedback offered among peers. She notes that, second, the exercises increase critical thinking skills to assess the challenges and circumstances of varying crisis situations. And finally, the exercises also help students draw on critical think-ing and learning skills in addition to prior knowledge to apply them to orga-nizational models and interpretation of complex cases.

    Conclusion

    A key contribution of this article has been the multiple approaches to help students develop leadership capacity for dealing with crisis. Our students have or will face crises that require leadership capacity that involves better critical thinking. The pedagogical exercises presented in this article offer at least two ways to equip students with the leadership ability and critical think-ing skills needed to meet future challenges. The personalized case and class workshop enables students to imaginatively put themselves in the place of others and helps them release the egocentric tendency to identify truth with immediate perceptions (Paul & Elder, 2006, p. 16). The case helps students engage in shared meaning with other students and critical skills to crisis lead-ership (Bennis & Thomas, 2002). As students look for thematic patterns, they recognize other viewpoints and reasoning, thus increasing not only their understanding but also their personal capacity to lead in crisis. Likewise, the poster session engages students in an alternative learning environment (Kolb, 1984), which fosters different thought processes and opportunities to develop

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  • Powley and Taylor 15

    critical thinking further. The primary focus for the poster session is to develop confidence in reasoning and fair-mindedness (Paul & Elder, 2006). As the student group develops an analytical framework for their given case, they innovate new ways to understand the case thus providing new insights, drawing reasonable conclusions, thinking coherently and logically (Paul & Elder, 2006, p. 17). Moreover, through the poster session, students persuade their peers by reason and arguments that their analyses stand valid. Their analyses and presentations focus on different aspects of organizational analy-sis and leadership. In concert, the assignment and activities have the potential to strengthen or develop leadership ability for crisis management.

    Appendix A

    Personalized Case: Student Assignment and Workshop

    In the class sessions designed to help students increase their ability to lead in crisis, the personalized case is an exercise to reflect on critical events in per-sonal or professional work. The personalized case assignment provides a rich context in which to explore micro and macro topics in organizational behav-ior related to crises. We ask students to use these questions as they write their papers:

    Drawing from your experience, retell an incident in which you or someone you know well was the central player. This should be an experience where you were tested to the extreme (e.g., emergency situation, ethical dilemma, seemingly overwhelming obstacles or challenge, or an equally challenging experience). It should be an incident where there was significant disruption to routines and/or possibly the future well being of you, others, or your department/organization. The incidents outcome may have been happy or sad, successful or unsuccessful. Your paper should include three parts.

    Part I: Summarize the incident. Consider questions such as: what happened from beginning to end; where did it happen (e.g., operational plant, sales team, finance or audit team, or the like); who were the key players; what was your role; what were the incidents magnitude, duration, and intensity; how many people were affected? The intent of your description should be to provide just enough detail to provide a sense of what was going on; aim for a simple and engaging narrative, including the incidents eventual outcome. (Limit your narrative to approximately 500 words.)

    Part II. Articulate your main concern(s). The main concern is what was uppermost in your mind, what you were most concerned about. The main

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  • 16 Journal of Management Education

    concern is not the immediate task of dealing with the logistical aspects of the incident (e.g., if the incident is a fire in a plant, the immediate task [not the main concern] is to put out the fire). The main concern is uncovered by answering questions like: what is/are the challenge(s) you face because of the incident?

    Describe the main concern(s) in detail: what is it; why is it important for your team/organization; what are the circumstances, issues, and dilemmas that make it a concern. You will explore, in depth, what is most important to those involved. This enables you to make sense of the underlying issues, dilemmas, and choices that were addressed (or not addressed). (This section should represent the bulk of your paper; limit your analysis to between 750 and 1,000 words.)

    Part III. Discuss the resolution of the main concern and your involvement in the resolution. Was the main concern resolved? If it was, what factors explain how the concern was dealt with? How did you and others demonstrate and/or not demonstrate leadership during the crisis? If the main concern was not resolved, explain why not. What might be some of the fundamental lessons you and your team/organization learned from this experience? (Limit your resolution section to between 250 and 500 words.)

    Workshop: Working With Incidents. Using their written personalized cases, we invite the students to engage in a critical thinking process by having them conduct an adapted form of thematic analysis (Boyatzis, 1998; see Step 3 below). The purpose of the case analysis and workshop is to develop critical thinking and induce further reflection of the case, as we look at implications and applications of principles from theories and models in the organizational sciences. The material from the personalized cases provides the context to develop critical thinking on crisis management skills and transfer learning (Cormier & Hagman, 1987).

    Setting up the workshop. The 4-hour workshop is organized around leader-ship and crisis. If necessary, the workshop might be divided into two class ses-sions. Students submit their papers well ahead of the workshop, thus ensuring that the faculty member has time to review the papers beforehand. Students come prepared to discuss their papers with fellow class members; they come with at least two or three copies to share with class members in small groups of 3 or 4 students. These small groups work together throughout the workshop.

    Introducing the topic. The faculty member selects and presents a case that deals with leadership. Cases might include Wagner Dodge and the

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  • Powley and Taylor 17

    Mann Gulch Fire (Useem, 1998), Eugene Kranz and the Apollo 13 mis-sion (Useem, 1998), Friendly Fire (Snook et al., 2004), or a senior enlisted Marine and suicide bomb attack (Powley & Taylor, 2010). Business cases that deal with crisis leadership might also be used such as McDonalds Russia (Moon & Herman, 2002) or Arthur Andersons work with Waste Management (Diermeier et al., 2011). As we introduce the concept of crisis leadership and resilience, it is important to emphasize the main concerns of the key players and how they were resolved, and what orga-nizational leaders in the case did to reestablish a sense of continuity and purpose.

    Exercise. After the introductory case, we present the exercise. We have suggested times for each part of the exercise; these may vary depending on class size and desired discussion length. The faculty may use the following steps as a guide to lead through the exercise.

    1. Students spend time reviewing their own cases (5 minutes). Rereading their papers before any discussion begins reengages the students with their own stories and primes their thinking after the short introductory case on crisis and leadership. We ask them to look for key phrases, jotting down impressions and thoughts as they read.

    2. Working in small groups, the students read each others papers (30 minutes). The purpose of this step is to allow students to learn about anothers case and make mental comparisons with their own story. Students also look for patterns in their partners paper and together they look for common themes.

    3. Next, the small groups of students briefly share their papers and themes (30 minutes). The objective is to have students generate a list of 5 or 6 common themes about how to manage and lead in crisis. We ask the students to define the themes they have discov-ered by noting the (a) label for the theme, (b) a concise description or definition of the theme, and (c) a specific example or two of each theme. This step completes the first half of the workshop. The class might adjourn and remaining group work may be continued outside of class. In the next step, students return to class to present their work.

    4. The small groups then present their themes to the whole class (50 minutes). A spokesperson shares highlights from the papers and describes the themes that emerged across the set of papers.

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  • 18 Journal of Management Education

    5. A class discussion follows where students and the instructor apply the themes about what they see occurring in their cases (40 minutes) to crisis generally. Students may also identify theories or models dis-cussed in other class sessions that help explain the data and the themes from their analysis.

    6. Students then return to their own cases and review their themes (10 minutes). They reevaluate their leadership approach and identify ways they might lead and manage through future challenges. They spend a few minutes writing ways they could approach the situation differently, and identify additional models or theories that would be useful to them.

    Appendix B

    Group Poster Session

    The group poster session is collaborative learning space where students share their learning about the larger system dynamics from an organizational crisis case and the impact on leadership. Before the session, groups of students research a case, discuss particular angles to the case, and design the poster to share with the class. The typical size of a poster is 24 36. The poster ses-sion follows several steps:

    Set up: When students arrive for the poster session, the students place their posters around the room. We reassign all students to new groups. Each new group usually has at least one person from each original group.

    Rotation and Presentation: During a 2-hour class session, these new groups rotate from poster to poster approximately every 10 to 15 minutes until each group has seen each poster. When a group comes to a poster, the group member, whose poster it is, presents the poster to the others in his or her group. At each poster, the group member presenting explains the visual representation of the analysis. The others observing ask clarifying questions and challenge the analysis.

    Debrief: At the end of the poster session, we hold a class discussion about the implications for handling crises. These discussions afford students time to reflect on and articulate to their peers the challenges for the leaders and organizations in the case, how they (the students) might lead in similar circumstances, and the competencies and skills necessary for such situations.

    Write-up: We then ask students to write about their participation, their experience working with others, their individual learning, and different strategies for the future.

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  • 20

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  • 21

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    at Maastricht University on July 5, 2014jme.sagepub.comDownloaded from

    http://jme.sagepub.com/

  • 22

    Key

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    draw

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    C

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    lain

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    osen

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    ysis

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    Id

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    nt k

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    dapt

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    ater

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    at Maastricht University on July 5, 2014jme.sagepub.comDownloaded from

    www.criticalthinking.orghttp://jme.sagepub.com/

  • Powley and Taylor 23

    Declaration of Conflicting Interests

    The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

    Funding

    The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publi-cation of this article.

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