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Learning about the ‘F’ word from an award-winning MBA teacher

03 March 2021

Learning through experience is at the heart of University of Canterbury (UC) lecturer Dr Christian Walsh’s award-winning teaching philosophy – preparing students to easily enter and apply what they have learned in a business setting.


Dr Christian Walsh (far left) speaks to secondary school teachers in 2020.

It’s what made his submission to Advance Higher Education stand out. An academic in UC Business School’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, Dr Walsh was recently awarded a Fellowship of Advance Higher Education by AdvanceHE, a charity based in the United Kingdom. The charity recognises tertiary educators who demonstrate commitment to teaching, learning and the student experience, through engagement in a practical process that encourages research, reflection and development.

Dr Walsh’s philosophy is to put experiential learning at the centre of all his teaching and to apply this to areas his students are passionate about.

“Experiential learning specifically helps with creative and critical thinking and how it connects to innovation, which is what industry is becoming more and more focused on. As well as functional skills from various disciplines, it’s being able to navigate ambiguity and come up with novel ways of solving problems, which is quite cross-disciplinary – those skills can be applied in a lot of different ways and in different places.”

“My approach is not to say we have all the answers, but here’s how we might approach this problem and what problems do you think we should be trying to solve rather than saying here is the problem.”

As a self-described ‘recovering engineer’, Dr Walsh graduated from UC with a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours. After working as an electrical engineer for 10 years he returned to UC to do an MBA, followed by PhD some years later, and the rest as they say, is history.

“My teaching philosophy has definitely evolved over time and is strengthened and shaped by experience and trying different things. I think it’s important to role-model what is expected and it certainly takes time to learn what works and what doesn’t. The ability to solve these messy wicked problems has become more important to me.”

Dr Walsh teaches three 600-level MBA papers and a 200-level paper. Launched in 2020 MBAM620: Creative Challenge controversially encourages participants to explore the ‘F’ word – failure.

“In this course, we really encourage participants to go outside their comfort zone and set really aggressive stretch goals that they may well fail to meet. But it’s not what we call dumb failure, we’re approaching it like a scientist, using experiments to test our assumptions with a set of hypotheses. We often learn far more from these intelligent failures than by playing it safe,” he says.

“The beauty of teaching MBA-level courses is that participants can see the value of, and apply, what they are learning very quickly and we can discuss challenges and solutions in real time.”

For more information and interviews contact:

Dr Christian Walsh, University of Canterbury, Business School, or phone: 03 369 4781

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