The Use of Semi-Autonomous Work Group in Graduate Management Education: An Australian Experience


  • Trevor A. Williams
  • Gary E. Popp
  • William F. Muhs


" In the Mid 1970’s an attempt was made to change the organizational structures and the nature of the learning tasks in two undergraduate and one graduate MBA management course. These courses were offered by the Department of Commerce in the University of Western Australia. The change was aimed at moving away from the traditional teacher-student basis of education towards a structure based on groups of students who had as their task the education of themselves, using staff and other resources to accomplish their task. Traditionally, Australian management education at the university level has followed the British educational system. This educational mode utilizes primarily a more formal lecture approach involving large classes. Lectures are held two hours a week with an additional one hour tutorial session consisting of 10-15 students. Led by a tutor, the group discusses and elaborates concepts covered in the lecture. The tutor is generally not the same staff member who conducts the lecture. Except for the tutorial sessions, little opportunity was provided for student interaction with the instructor. This lack of student instructor interaction includes almost a complete lack of experiential activities that have become commonplace in management education in the United States. Other differences in the U.S. and Australian management education merit discussion. University education in Australia is limited to those students who rank at the top of their high school class. Selection is determined by a matriculation exam conducted during the final year of a 5 year high school program. These students who qualify for university admission would be approximately 10% of those who graduate from high school. The exam is graded by examiners outside the high school faculty and all students in a given state are given the same matriculation examination. Although the MBA course to be discussed below was much smaller in size (approximately 30 students) than the undergraduate course described above, the formality of the approach in conducting MBA classes was primarily lecture based. The MBA "