Qualitative approach more suitable

Research essential in teaching

By Gina Pecore

(September 17, 1998)

Research has helped me do my job better. In order to teach, you need to know more and the way to know more is get out and do research."

That's how Dr. Sudhir Saha of Memorial's Faculty of Business Administration summarizes his approach to research. Ever since he started teaching in his home country of Bangladesh in 1963 when he was 23, Dr. Saha has considered research to be an essential part of his work as a teacher.

Dr. Saha was introduced to scientific research when he enrolled in a PhD program at the University of British Columbia in 1970. Early into the program, Dr. Saha's professors told him that his research methodology was inadequate. Far from being discouraged, he then undertook a study of leadership styles that incorporated strict scientific procedures -- he placed students in a laboratory and watched them interacting. It was an approach to business research that was rare then and is still rare today.

Now a professor in human resources management with 25 years of teaching and research experience under his belt, Dr. Saha has decided that the qualitative approach suits his research better than the quantitative approach. His work still examines leadership styles, but is now focused on comparing management attitudes and values and how they affect human resources decisions. Dr. Saha is particularly interested in comparing international management styles.

Dr. Saha's work has taken him to many places, such as China, the Czech Republic and Hong Kong. He has also conducted considerable research in Canada, and particularly in Newfoundland. This has allowed Dr. Saha to teach his undergraduate and MBA students about different management styles, comparing international attitudes and values to those that exist on management teams in Canada.

He said such international awareness is important for today's business graduates.

"If you look at Canadian involvement in international business, Canada is very much moving into these countries," he said. "Canada's involvement in China, for example, is extremely high."

One of Dr. Saha's most recent international initiatives was with the Czech Management Centre. While teaching there for three months last year, he examined management styles at Czech organizations. With the support of the centre, he was able to collect information from almost 200 managers.

Dr. Saha's partnership with the centre didn't stop there. He helped organize a visit to Memorial by one of the centre's professors, Dr. Ivan Fisera. While Dr. Fisera was at Memorial last semester, he helped Dr. Saha continue his research into Czech management styles. And now that Dr. Fisera is back at the Czech Management Centre, he is helping Dr. Saha contact more organizations in order to broaden the scope of the study. Dr. Saha will present the findings of his Czech research at a world meeting of the Academy of Management in Prague in 1999.

Dr. Saha's research received a boost of energy this past year when Dr. Simon Tagger, who also specializes in human resource development, joined the faculty. Dr. Saha says they have already begun collaboration on a new research initiative.

"I'm going back to my roots," he said. "Simon is very interested in field study and we're looking at teamwork and leadership in teamwork; how does it work and when does it not? We plan to start research in classrooms, analysing how students work together as teams in class."

Dr. Saha's work has been published in academic journals and cited in textbooks and he welcomes opportunities to present his findings, particularly to Newfoundland audiences. He recently presented the results of a study he conducted into how Newfoundland human resource managers approach health and safety issues at the Newfoundland Employer's Council annual conference.