Management by Textbook: The Role of Textbooks in Developing Critical Thinking

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Journal Article
Journal of Management Education, 2015, 39 (6), pp. 774 - 800
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© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015. Critical thinking is widely regarded as a crucial capability for competent management and also for any leadership role in society. In this article, we ask, “How do textbooks play a role in the weakness of many management graduates’ critical thinking skills?” Management teachers can find plentiful advice about best teaching practices, yet the critical skills gap remains. We argue that the nature and use of management textbooks intersect and interact with students’ epistemology to support a culture of surface learning, resulting in a failure to develop critical thinking skills. Textbooks reinforce underdeveloped student epistemology through limitations of content and position students as passive recipients of an authoritative version of oversimplified knowledge. In our survey of 30 successful management textbooks, we found the majority of popular management textbooks potentially inhibit, or only weakly support, the development of students’ capacity for critical thinking. The article concludes with suggestions for improving textbooks and textbook choice or considering alternatives.
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