A person giving a talk to a group of students in front of a wall filled with artworks
Art Museum Education Assistant Shane Pace welcomes Gloabal Strategic Management students to the Collection Study Room.

Senior Lecturer Dr Stuart Middleton has used the Alumni Friends of UQ Collection Study Room on several occasions, for both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. 

Here, Stuart shares his experience using our dedicated research, teaching and learning space for undergraduate students in his Global Strategic Management subject.

How did you work with the UQ Art Collection for your courses?

I use the Art Collection as the basis for prompting student reflection. I see art as a natural way of provoking emotions and cognitions of which people may not otherwise be aware. As I attempt to encourage my students to better decision making in business, it is important for them to know who they are so they can see where they are going. Being able to tap into these emotive and cognitive understandings of self is therefore vital in terms of navigating the challenges of life.

For the classes I have run in the Collection Study Room, I have therefore used the art as a prompt for self-reflection. As students discover pieces which resonate with them, they become aware of some of the deep-seated values and beliefs they hold. This often emerges as they speak about the art, in reflecting on those works with which they connect.

Having someone from the Art Museum to guide these conversations and provide insights on the works has further deepened these conversations, so that my students leave the room feeling like they have engaged in a meaningful experience.

MGTS3301 is the capstone course in a Bachelor of Business Management, so the artwork helps students reflect on the culmination of their time at University so they can piece together a reflective assessment piece in which they consider who they are, where they are at, and tools for managing their future.

How has it supported you in your teaching and learning practice?

Business degrees are often based on hard skills (numbers, etc.), or soft skills (motivating people, etc.). We often apply these skills to analysis of organisations, through the use of case studies. What we do less in our teaching is to encourage reflection on our own decision making after we have done it. What went wrong, what went right, how could we improve? We also often fail to understand more about ourselves. Who are we, what is our identity, why do we act the way that we do? These are all important to the types of people that we become, and the way we act in and around organisations.

Recent strands of theory around strategy as practice, seek to encourage managers to make reflection on such topics a key way of acting and being in organisations. This is based on a premise that too many of the adverse impacts of business around big issues such as the Global Financial Crisis or Climate Change are caused by managers who are unreflexive and fail to critically assess what it is they are doing.

The promise of strategy as practice is that by being reflexive and questioning taken-for-granted assumptions, we can become better managers and ensure organisations act for the greater benefit of all. Building this reflexive practice into a capstone course is therefore vital as students look to enter the workforce.

The Art Museum assists in this opportunity, by taking students away from their everyday classroom environment, and into a place of contemplation and inspiration. It therefore promises to foster new perspectives in the students.

What was the outcome for students?

The outcomes for students are to assist them reflect on their personal development and professional goals. It gave them a place where they could be away from the daily grind, and engage in the deep thinking they need for developing skills in reflexivity. Some seemed surprised by the nature of the experience, through comments such as “I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m really glad I came.”