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Harnessing GenAI to enhance reflective practice in the Master of Business Development programme

Dr Guy Bate

By Drs Guy Bate and “Reflecta Learnwell”

Over the past year, I have grown increasingly excited about the potential of Generative AI, when appropriately deployed, in the field of education. Leading the Graduate School of Management’s Master of Business Development (MBusDev) program during our ongoing Curriculum Framework Transformation (CFT) process has helped me to identify opportunities to utilise AI coaches to enhance student engagement.

In our Part 3 courses, which prepare students for a real-world capstone project with a client, we place a strong emphasis on self-development through reflective practice. Given the fully online nature of the MBusDev program and the nuanced, personal nature of reflective practice, AI coaches offer a promising supplement to traditional readings and videos. These AI coaches can provide students with personalised, interactive support at their convenience, thereby enriching their learning experience and fostering deeper self-reflection.

I began collaborating with Copilot and ChatGPT-4o to create a GPT persona for a “reflective coach”. Using Soul Machines Studio, we are now developing this coach as a visual interactive avatar. There is potential for new personas and future applications across our Business professional programmes’ innovation curriculum, as well as projects with Executive and Professional Development and the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

I wish to thank my AI-motivated colleagues, collaborators and use case testers, who include (among others) Andrew Eberhard, Rod McNaughton, Shohil Kishore, Alistair Cran and Matt Poole, as well as one or two very helpful students.

Well, enough from me! Now let’s hear from the test version of our Soul Machine guru, Dr Reflecta Learnwell (I asked her to name herself… the name may need a tweak!). I invited her to talk to us concisely about the importance of reflective practice for managers and the work she will do to support our MBusDev students. Her words have been lightly edited:

"Reflecta Learnwell"The power of reflective practice for managers: cultivating continuous growth in business development

As an advocate for continuous learning, I am excited to contribute to the growing emphasis on reflective practice within our Master of Business Development (MBusDev) programme. Reflective practice is a critical skill for managers in today’s dynamic business environment. My goal is to help our students become agile, thoughtful leaders who can adapt and thrive in any situation.

Why reflective practice matters

Reflective practice involves analysing one’s experiences to gain insights and improve future performance. For managers, this process is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Enhanced Self-Awareness: Reflective practice helps managers understand their strengths, weaknesses, and behaviours. By regularly analysing their experiences, they can identify patterns, recognise biases, and make more informed decisions.
  2. Continuous Improvement: In a constantly changing business environment, the ability to learn from every experience is invaluable. Reflective practice encourages managers to view challenges as opportunities for growth, fostering continuous improvement.
  3. Better Decision-Making: Through reflection, managers can evaluate the outcomes of their decisions and actions. This retrospective analysis enables them to make more strategic choices, enhancing their effectiveness and team performance.
  4. Improved Interpersonal Skills: Reflective practice promotes empathy and understanding. By reflecting on interactions with colleagues, managers can develop better communication and relationship-building skills essential for effective leadership.

Integrating reflective practice in our Master of Business Development

To equip our MBusDev students with these vital skills, I will coach them in good reflective practice as they engage in their project work using a reflective practice framework based on Daudelin’s (1996) principles. This involves four key steps:

  1. Problem Articulation: Students regularly reflect on their project experiences and identify specific challenges, such as difficulties in applying theoretical concepts or team dynamics issues.
  2. Problem Analysis: Once a problem is articulated, I will help students explore its causes, delving into similar past situations to understand why the issue occurred. Their focus here will be self-examination: how did they think, feel or act in response to the problem?
  3. Tentative Theory: Students will develop a hypothesis or theory to explain why they reacted this way and how it shaped the problem, generating potential solutions based on their self-analysis.
  4. Action: Finally, students will decide on a course of action, whether it involves implementing their proposed solution, experimenting with new approaches, or choosing to behave differently.

Through structured reflective journalling and guided reflections, our students learn to critically evaluate their project experiences, make connections between theory and practice, and develop actionable insights. This process enhances their academic learning and prepares them to be adaptive, reflective leaders in their professional lives.

Reflective practice is a cornerstone of effective management. Integrating it into the MBusDev curriculum fosters personal growth and empowers our students to drive ongoing innovation and excellence in their future careers.

Daudelin, M. W. (1996). Learning from experience through reflection. Organisational Dynamics, 24(3), 36-48.

Dr Guy Bate is an innovation expert and the Programme Director for the Master of Business Development at the University of Auckland Business School.