Developing public managers' reflective thinking through continuing management education

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Purpose: The aim of this paper is to outline how public managers' reflective thinking capacity is developed through integration of education and practice using a real-life organizational problem as the educational starting point. Managers' reflective thinking capacity becomes important due to an increasing organizational complexity and the growing trend of introducing post-new public management paradigms. Design/methodology/approach: Inspired by Brinkmann's (2012) approach to the inquiry on everyday life materials, semi-structured interviews were conducted with public managers taking a public management program. A phenomenologically inspired content analysis was applied in the process of scrutinizing the findings, subsequently informing the discussion on the development of problem solving through public management education. Findings: The analysis indicates that the managers' pre-understanding of continuing education at the university level, managers' personal objectives, along with a growing experience with and insights into problem-based learning (PBL), appear to facilitate managers' integration of theory and practice. As revealed in this paper, an inquiry that integrates daily organizational practice and theoretical models and terms, as the origin of the personal development module, seems to facilitate managers' reflective thinking and self-reflexivity. Originality/value: This paper illustrates that learning processes facilitated by seminars like the personal development module (PDM) not only facilitates the development of reflective thinking, but managers also seem to develop competencies in self-reflexivity – the latter being an underdeveloped element of Dewey's (1933) notion of reflective thinking. Thus, further theoretical and empirical research is needed to explore the potentials of developing a pragmatically inspired notion that offers an understanding of managers' self-reflexivity. By inquiring about managerial puzzlements through a personal development lens, a self-reflective focus adds to the Dewey-inspired approach to reflective thinking.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Issue number4-5
Pages (from-to)350-364
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2023

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