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The Professor’s Predicament: How Can I Have My Expertise Without It Having Me?

Thomas Will

Abstract: Professors rely upon expertise. As management scholars and teachers we need to know our stuff. Our relationship with expertise, however, is a tricky affair. Observers express frustration with our field’s epistemological perspective and wonder why existing ways of knowing and teaching are so resistant to change. One plausible explanation is that how we enact expertise in management studies makes sense—literally. That is, prevailing forms of expert behavior help professors construct and protect sensical understandings of self in relation to others. Drawing on constructive-developmental theory, I treat scholarship and teaching as meaning-making activities. Subject-object fusion in the context of the professor-expertise relationship means that many of us do not so much have our expertise as we are our expertise. This essay explores how meaning-making structures interact with the demands of academia to sustain disciplinary commitments to traditional ways of knowing and teaching. We are limited by commitments to expertise we have ourselves enacted. Many professors feel stuck; this essay outlines a path toward getting unstuck. I explain how a distinct double loop learning methodology designed to promote subject-object separation can enhance our capacity to make meaning in more expansive ways, such that we have our expertise without it having us.
Keywords: professors / expertise / behavior / essay / structures / enacted / knowing / teaching / ways / subject object

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