Thursday, 19 April 2018

Another flipping change to my practice...when will it end?

Well, it won't end soon...

We don't all have to stand on our heads or engineer Flipped Classrooms but we do need to consider the different and changing needs of today's students.

Actually, I hear you say, today's students are no different to generations who have gone before, we just stress more about them because they have gained a degree of power and influence through such mechanisms as:

  • The National Student Survey and its inclusion as a reliable metric in League tables, Subject level "Excellence" awards etc.
  • The empowerment of students through Quality Assurance systems (and the knee-jerk reactions of the random VC who "gets down with the kidz" and wants action on every minor moan).
  • The promise/threat of technology.  Expectations are high for Millenials.  This is the 21st Century after all...
  • The utter contempt in which many Universities hold their staff who are, naturally, exchangeable for recent PhD graduates with no experience or interest in teaching - a position that is not lost on the student body.
NONE of which changes the basic fact that engaged students learn better.  So, standing on your head or jumping through hoops, learning communication methods that students actually use and maintaining a focus on THEM, not YOU should underpin your Continuing Professional Development...

CPD? I hear you say, what on earth is that?

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Count Dracula, kissing Frogs and force-fed Parrots

According to The brothers' Grimm (1812), there have long existed folklore tales involving kissing a number of frogs, one of which turns into a handsome prince.  The moral of the phrase was also summed up almost a century later:  “We learn from failure, not from success!”  ― Bram StokerDracula (1897).

So, why do we try our best, as academics, to protect learners from failure?

Let us look at the risk-free, spoon-fed journey that a typical UK student might encounter:

Typical age at first attempt
Number of retakes allowed
Tutor feedback before submission of work
A level
Undergraduate Degree
*Unless you have genuine mitigation

Typically, there is no time to retake GCSEs endlessly and fewer years to retake A Levels before University admissions tutors begin to ask why a 40-year-old unemployed person is presenting for the first time for admission.  The vast majority of students intending to progress to University do. of course, pass their exams at the first attempt but the knowledge of being able to improve grades and the availability of tutor feedback creates a safety net in the minds of the young.

If Higher Education, for whatever reason, (revenue, retention metrics &c) begins to provide the safety net that secondary schools and colleges do, will we see an end to Learning as we know it?

What we will have is a generation of memorisers and force-fed Parrots.

So, what is needed?

Well, as ever, a balance between the risk of failure and the benefit of learning.  Allow students to fail in formative tasks, to barely pass in summative ones and the gap between their actual and protected performance will become apparent to them.  Ensure that learning outcomes are key drivers for course design and that course delivery and assessment are integrated into the learning process.

Dumbing down and lowering boundaries does nobody any good.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Educational Case Studies: Writing#2


Having decided on your learning outcomes, type of case, level of information given and overall structure - and whether the case is to be used for classroom discussion, an assignment, or an examination.  At different levels of study (undergraduate, Masters, Executive Education) you will have to make a judgement about how accessible the case is to students.

But once you have got all of that sorted out all you need to do is to decide what to write about.

So...write about what you know.

In a Business School faculty members are divided into FOUR types, according to AACSB and as noted in an earlier BLOG entry:

Practitioners will have a number of war stories, anecdotes, networks of folks still in industry who have stories and issues that can be anonymised (if necessary) to illustrate a case.  Academics will have research projects and collaborations that illustrate real business issues (one would hope).

So, all they need is a spark of imagination, the motivation to engage students and the comfort (for those that need it) that not every waking hour needs to be spent pursuing research to do your job fully.

Get writing!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Games students play: Simulation in HE

Hands up if you have enjoyed a Role Play (in Higher Education that is), a Baloon Debate (Why I should get a First), Discussion (e.g.This House considers that the introduction of student interaction in lectures is deeply offensive to traditional values in Higher Education), a case study or even a Game or Simulation...

Now keep your hands up if you have used any of these devices in YOUR teaching...

Games and Simulation are risky as so much could go wrong (but usually does not). Well designed simulations  - not always based on technology - can help to achieve learning benefit and student engagement.

There are some basic features that make an effective simulation :
  • The sense of competition - we love to win;
  • Risk and the unknown - not everything can be controlled by an easy algorithm;
  • Opportunity to put lessons to use (feedback plus repetition)
  • Complexity - just like real life, and
  • Reward - Normally the warm glow of a job well done...
Oh, and another vital couple of ingredients:
  • Imagination from the tutor and the students, and
  • Risk (again) - but this time on the part of the tutor, its so much easier to conform and to make it easy for yourself.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Educational Case Studies: Writing#1

When you use cases in teaching it is important that they give a platform for achieving the learning outcomes of the module or course.  Sometimes, however, you just cannot find a case that is up to date, reflective of your own teaching or even specialised enough for your purposes.  If that's where you find yourself, you may turn to writing cases of your own - but where to start?

Let's consider the type of case you will write... or, more accurately, what outcomes do you want to achieve in using the case?

Lundberg, C et al. (2001) suggest that there are 7 types of case to choose from - and, of course, variants and combinations of case types to suit a tutor's needs.
Outcomes for the various types of case are: 

1. "Iceberg" cases... research and application of conceptual models.
2. "Incident" cases...application of models or student experience.
3. "Illustrative" cases...discussion of textbook model application.
4. "Head" cases...discussion of motivations of principal actor.
5. "Dialogue" cases... discussion of motivations and interactions of principal actors.
6. "Application" cases... application of a management technique.
7. "Data" cases...organising, analysing and drawing conclusions from data.
8. "Issue" cases...discussion of dynamics and context of a situation.
9. "Prediction" cases...multi-part case requiring students to predict possible outcomes.

Now, for each type of case the writer offers a different level of information and structure:
Now all the writer has to do is to come up with an up to date, accessible and researchable event, story, subject.....and start writing.

You didn't think it was easy did you?

Ideas from: Lundberg, C et al., 2001, Case writing reconsidered, Journal of Management Education, Vol 25., No. 4, August.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Building bridges

Building bridges is one thing, but getting folks to navigate them safely is quite another!

BRIDGE is the name of a Chartered ABS / AACSB programme running in June 2018 in London that tackles the issues of bridge navigation head on.

The Bridge programme has been designed with the specific purpose of giving a supportive and helpful hand to those wishing to cross the bridge from "industry" to higher education, specifically in business schools.

But why on earth would you want to do that?
  • To give something back?
  • To fill up that CSR objective on the annual review?
  • To have a focus in retirement (when retirement starts at age 40)?
  • To Learn?
  • Answers on an application form please...

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Educational Case Studies: Using

A little while ago I embarked on an Interrail journey from the UK, via Eurostar and Paris, to Zurich, Vaduz, Munich and Frankfurt before returning home via Brussels.  I could have done the journey more swiftly by air or even a combination of air and rail but then I would not have enjoyed the scenery, the quiet hours in a carriage, the stressless voyage and even the sense of adventure.
Yes, I had a destination to reach, but the journey was the real objective.

Using case studies in business classes is just like that - the destination or conclusion can be reached in a number of different ways - but which will be the most valuable for the key learning objectives?  Which will be most accessible for the class?  Which will be the most enjoyable and memorable?

Could I have lost my way and been stranded at an intermediate station? - of course - but my trust in the Interrail App, my basic language abilities and the helpfulness of railway staff and other passengers meant that I had knowledgeable guides to ensure that any slight misdirection or unexpected stoppage was not fatal to the achievement of my goal.

In a classroom, the tutor can be the guide, or the guest lecturer from industry (Blog passim), or the students' ability to research and seek out alternative routes.

When I planned a subsequent trip across Australia (Melbourne, Sydney and Armidale) I used the principles of  my European trip and hired a car, rather than fly.

It should warm the cockles of the Chief Accountant's heart (if he had one) to know that my trips were also the cheapest option.