MSc International Disaster Management / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Characteristics and Skills of Development Practice

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI71992
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This Semester 2 unit is offered in two masterclass events each lasting three and a half days in the Easter period. The unit’s core themes are relevant for HR professionals / project leaders / organisational change agents / development practitioners across sectors. The course is designed for postgraduates experienced in international practice and also about to start their career. The unit invites learners to reflect critically on how they engage both pragmatic and conceptual opportunities to keep developing their competence. Curiosity is stimulated and sustained through a task-orientated approach to inquiry and study. Its lively learning approach is rated annually above average and students appreciate its participative emphasis.



The unit aims to broaden perspectives of postgraduates so they can optimise influence. Awareness and confidence are targeted. A wide range of interventions and skills are examined for strengthening professional practice.


Teaching and learning methods

The course unit specifies three explicit principles informing learner initiative, student engagement and convener responsibility. These criteria justify a conscious variety of learning approaches and teaching methods. Teaching provision offers special attention to learner involvement and student participation. The balanced use of small groups and/or chat rooms can help maintain momentum. Diagnostic and application exercises also help structure student motivation. 

A variety of learning activities is offered: pre-reading before the unit begins, self-report diagnostic questionnaires, work in small groups, large group discussions, modelling and review of practitioner behaviour, film clips for identifying characteristics and skills, lecturer inputs, models on handouts, worksheets, etc

Knowledge and understanding

relationship of different skill implications between influencing and being influenced

critical awareness in how to play the political game while containing those who unethically are ‘playing political games’

parametres of emotional literacy in the service of task imperatives


Intellectual skills

capacity to appreciate the inseparability of practical competence from multi-disciplinarial concepts

understanding of whole-person learning as the underpinning of continuous professional growth


Practical skills

choosing valid interventions, fit for purpose, from authoritative to facilitative

 handling one’s own wishes when they differ from someone else’s

 sustaining the greater good through ethical use of wise political action

Transferable skills and personal qualities

 discipline to reflect systematically on one’s own and others’ progress through everyday challenges

 confidence in anticipating and navigating institutional change, both planned and unexpected


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods

Feedback is fundamental within adult learning and for performance improvement. In this unit, both students and convener provide feedback to each other continuously. In Week 1, for instance, the contracting of expectations between learners and unit convener is a real feedback-process in initiating the unit of study as well as an early topic on the syllabus for study (the practitioner-client role-relationship). The implementation of this learning contract is reviewed regularly through feedback during the semester.

Recommended reading

Baddeley, Simon and Kim James (1987), 'Owl, Fox, Donkey or Sheep: Political Skills for Managers,' Management Education and Development, 18, 1, 3-19.

Cooperrider, David and Diana Whitney (2005), Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change (San Francisco, California, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc).

Destructive Emotions, And How We Can Overcome Them: A Dialogue with The Dalai Lama, narrated by Daniel Goleman (The Mind Life Institute, undated).

Goleman, Daniel (1996), Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ (London, Bloomsbury).

Harr, Jonathan (2009) 'Lives of the Saints: International Hardship Duty in Chad,' The New Yorker, 5th January 5,

Mann, Pete (1995-96), “Accreditation of OD Training in South Africa,” Industrial and Commercial Training, Part 1, ‘A Prototype’ (27,11,1995), pp3-8;  Part 2:  ‘Assessing Work-led Learning’ (28,1,1996), pp4-11;  Part 3:  ‘Magic, Prayer or Ignorance?’ (28,4,1996), pp24-31. 

Mann, Pete ((1998), ‘Tacit Knowledge and HRD for Development Work’, in F Analoui (ed), Human Resource Management Issues in Developing Countries, Ashgate, Aldershot, 71-86.

 Mann, Pete (1999), “Can we Make Development Training Developmental?” Public Administration and Development, 19, 105-116.

Mann, Pete, Sue Pritchard and Kirstein Rummery (2004), “Supporting Inter-organisational Partnerships in the Public Sector: the Role of Joined Up Action Learning and Research,” Public Management Review, 6, 3, 417-439.

Senge, Peter, C Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers (2005), Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society (New York, Currency, Doubleday Century Books).

The Economist (US), Dec 23, 2006 v381 i8509 pp 4-13 (supplement on survey of neuroscience).

Torday, Paul (2007), Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).

Wright, Ronald (2004), A Short History of Progress (Toronto, Anansi).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 3
Lectures 30
Tutorials 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 87

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Paul Barry Unit coordinator

Additional notes


A pre-workshop briefing is offered voluntarily so that students can make an informed decision to join the course.

The course is scheduled twice, one small group meeting the week before Easter Weekend, another small group meeting the week after Easter Weekend.  (This helps take account also of students being on fieldwork in other courses.)

Each workshop is an intensive, three consecutive day event, from 09.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs. The examination on the morning of the fourth day lasts no longer than three hours.

Return to course details