Student Heterogeneity and Leadership Training: Designing project management pedagogy for maximum learning impact

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Mona N Shah
Niranjan Srinivasan Janardhanan


In today’s organisations, project managers’ responsibilities go far beyond managing projects within the triple constraints of cost, time and quality (Crawford 2005). They are increasingly being looked upon as drivers of strategic development of their organisations. This transformation in the role of a project manager calls for developing additional competencies such as business analysis and strategic leadership. The Project Management Institute emphasises a focus on these skills for project managers worldwide. Owing to the country’s fast pace of growth and the challenges that arise thereof, Indian companies and educational institutions are also fast realising the importance of holistic development of project managers.

Recent research underscores the induction of soft skills and leadership capabilities in project management education. This has led to several studies in the international context that examine student experiences while attending courses in project management. A prominent characteristic that the literature has not dealt with in sufficient detail is the potential impact of prior work experience on students’ learning capabilities during the course. Since most Indian schools do not specify prior work experience as an admission requirement, cohorts usually comprise a mix of students with and without prior work experience. Hence, to analyse if pedagogy is effective, we must consider overall student experience and, in addition, whether and how the students’ heterogeneity in the form of their past work experience impacts their experience during the course.

The objective of this study is to answer two questions: (1) is there a significant difference in perceptions of leadership aspects of project management between experienced and inexperienced students? (2) How can we design project management pedagogy to cater to this heterogeneity and yet provide superior student experience?


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Author Biographies

Mona N Shah, National Institute for Construction Management & Research (NICMAR)

Mona N Shah is a professor at NICMAR’s, School of Projects, Real Estate and Infrastructure Management (SOPRIM). She has published/presented over 33 papers in national and international journals and conferences. Her research, teaching and consulting are in the areas of management and leadership, and sustainable development, applied to the sectors of projects, real estate and infrastructure.Email:

Niranjan Srinivasan Janardhanan, Indian School of Business (ISB)

Niranjan S Janardhanan is a research associate in Organisational Behavior at the Indian School of Business. He has co-authored a book chapter in organisational development and has participated in several international conferences, presenting his work on leadership and intragroup conflict. He currently works in the areas of conflict, voice and organisational citizenship behavior. He will be pursuing his PhD in Management from the University of Texas, Austin.Email: