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PHEADRUS: Using Gadamer’s interpretive phenomenology to examine the pedagogy of business schools

Davies, Clayton

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Clayton Davies
Senior Lecturer in Strategy & Enterprise Mgmt


This research project started as a demonstration of how the interpretive phenomenology and hermeneutics of Hans Georg Gadamer could be applied to the study of business pedagogy. It became a journey that ended as a narrative of how engagement in a phenomenological enquiry changes the perception of the researcher of the matter-at-hand and an example of how a phenomenological process can unexpectedly uncover insights that transcend the original intent of the research question. The narrative moves of the research from a normative contextualisation that sought to establish how key factors in the evolution of business in general and business pedagogy, in particular, informed the positionality of the researcher. Then by using a phenomenological approach to reviewing the relevant literature the narrative uncovers the contingent nature of what the Business Academy is and how there is no current unifying theoretical principle as the current normative manifestation of the Business Academy, describing how of Business Schools emerged through mimesis and contingency. Starting from the position that the epistemological congruence between key stakeholders, students, academics and employers is one possible measure of the effectiveness of business pedagogy in the higher education sector the narrative describes how an operationalisation of Gadamer’s hermeneutics formed the basis of an informing methodology. Describing in detail how this was applied and facilitated through the use of hermeneutic circles that utilised an asymmetric process of reflection on texts that explicitly addressed epistemological congruence, the project unfolded and developed into a demonstration of how phenomenological enquiry can be used in practice. The analysis of this material and the reflection on the discursive and interrogative process revealed unexpected themes and essences that altered the original perception of what would constitute a valid congruence of epistemological boundaries. The expected agreements through discourse or fusion of horizons amongst participants did not take the expected form and the analysis of the material uncovered thematic concerns common to students, academics and employers that have implications for the shape, intent and development of pedagogy in the business academy. Underpinning all of these is the challenge of complexity and the need for transparency and honesty amongst key stakeholder groups to develop an effective pedagogy to effectively manage this. The key insight uncovered by the research process is that it may be possible to address the fragmentation of subject disciplines under the Business Academy through a phenomenological approach. In the instance of this research it was through the application of Existential Hermeneutic Phenomenology (EHP) which uncovered underlying themes and essences that crossed internal pedagogical differences and debates within the Business Academy. Reflecting on the unfolding of the research, the criticality of ethical honesty and an acknowledgement of the positionality of the researcher are identified as fundamental to the effective use of phenomenology as a research technique. This research journey has an implication for personal pedagogical practice as the essences uncovered by the research create a call to action. The next step in the development of this form of EHP research will be to articulate insights from this research project on how the reflective techniques informed by Gadamer’s hermeneutics can be used to enhance the process of discursive exchange amongst key stakeholders in the evolution of Business pedagogy.


Davies, C. PHEADRUS: Using Gadamer’s interpretive phenomenology to examine the pedagogy of business schools. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Dec 17, 2019
Publicly Available Date Nov 27, 2020
Keywords Business, Pedagogy, Phenomenology, Epistemology
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