Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Cohort supervision and evidence of research capabilities of MBA students (#203)

Renier Steyn 1
  1. University of South Africa, Pretoria, GAUTENG, South Africa

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

The development of research capabilities is important for the scientific advancement of society. Furthermore, decision making based on empirical evidence is likely to be persuasive in the working environment. The South African Department of Higher Education specifies that all masters degree courses should prepare students for research. This includes practitioner and professional masters degrees such as the MBA. The MBA presented at the University of South Africa draws large numbers of students – approximately 400 students per intake – and this places a large supervision burden on the approximately 30 full-time tenured staff. In this presentation the structure of a cohort supervision project involving 60 MBA final year students is discussed as well as how evidence of increased capacities was collected. The results suggest that cohort supervision provides an effective route for the supervision of large groups of students, but that it is difficult to achieve all the requirements set out by the education department. Stumbling blocks include the conceptualisation of research projects and matters regarding research ethics. Guidelines are provided on how to meet the challenges of cohort supervision, including additional classes and peer support. Findings suggest that students have high levels of research-efficacy perceptions after being exposed to cohort supervision.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

In this paper cohort supervision is presented as a a pedagogical method for teaching research skills to MBA students. The capabilities developed after following this pedagogy allow for the transfer of learning to the workplace as the research problems addressed are workplace related. Recommendations for the implementation of findings, in real workplaces and addressed to real decision-makers, also form part of this approach. Although the aforementioned may be standard in most research studies, cohort supervision allows students to share their learning experiences with each other and they become aware of how fellow students solve similar problems. This creates a broader perspective and enhances the students’ research capabilities. From the above it should be evident that the implementation of this pedagogy leads to the development of responsive and adaptable graduates.