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Exploring the generative mechanisms in a retail manager’s learning

Murray, Jill (2016) Exploring the generative mechanisms in a retail manager’s learning. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the generative mechanisms in a retail manager’s learning, when studying for a Foundation Degree Award in Retailing (FdA in Retailing) within a large multi-channel retail organisation. The researcher, a senior lecturer with the university responsible for piloting the programme was the lead tutor on one of the core first-year units. The low student completion rates during the pilot stages of the programme raised profound questions about the effectiveness of company-based foundation degrees across the interrelated macro politico-economic, meso organisational and micro individual learner levels. In order to identify generative mechanisms present in junior management learning, a critical realist, longitudinal case study spanning four years was undertaken. The principal participants were the junior managers, studying for the award and those with responsibility for managing, administering and teaching the degree programme. The methods used for data collection were semi-structured interviews, participant observation and documentary evidence, including student learning logs and portfolios. Data was analysed using template analysis. The findings reveal that the experiences of managers studying for the FdA in Retailing were extremely variable. For some, the programme provided expansive learning opportunities that proved valuable to the organisation and the individual. Although, the lack of demand for higher level skills and qualifications for those in junior management roles resulted in the FdA being undervalued and misunderstood in the organisational setting. This had serious consequences for the majority of managers studying for the award, as the necessary senior and store management support and required infrastructure to maintain and expand the programme were lacking, thereby restricting learning opportunities. This research underpins the development of a more complex and nuanced understanding of management learning in the retail sector, which builds on previous research (Fuller and Unwin, 2003; 2004; Felstead et al, 2009) that sought to promote management learning, which is economically viable yet rewarding for the learner and beneficial to the organisation.

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