HEAD NECK CANCER - A learning journey
How to design learning tasks that foster deep learning and student engagement?
This has been my challenge in teaching, especially Organisational Behaviour (OB), which I have taught in private and public universities, and joint-ventures in China since 2000, and in Australia and Germany. Like Kennedy (2002), I have been determined to disprove the stereotype of the ‘passive’ Chinese student. In much team work, students just do ‘piece-work’, and focus on doing a task minimally. But, if we aim for graduates who are passionate, creative thinkers, truly collaborative and responsible, underpinned with professional and technical know-how, how can we encourage deeper interaction and reflection in the class-room setting?
I use one exemplar task that just seems to work every time, for every class. It’s called the circle cutting task.
All the class is involved; how many scissors are required? One per team.
Complexity- With one pair of scissors and one A4 sheet of paper, cut to make the largest possible circle without any breaks or joins (see Alan Chapman’s businessballs.com). Time: 15 minutes.
Coherence- The observers make sense of the action and different approaches: activists jump right in and everyone wants to hold the scissors; reflectors are slower and quieter in their approach; theorists practise first; pragmatists wait for the opportunity to find the most efficient solution.
Charlesworth (2008) shows that after a period of time in higher education, Chinese and Indonesian become more active learners. Biggs (2012) guides us into thinking more precisely about what we want our students to do and how to align assessment with learning outcomes and graduate attributes. Thomas Edison (Caldicott, 2013), Harvey (1979); Schön (1983) and Mary Follett (1924) are still relevant for today, cheering us on to be more confident, creative and continually adapting to student needs and our mutual desire for engagement… and leading them towards the graduate attributes required for the 21st century.
This exercise is part of a six week collaborative learning project which concludes with
a team presentation and report on the application of an OB theory in the workplace
and includes reflections of the team process, with a focus on communication, team
roles, strengths, shared values.
Supports Kennedy (2002) that Chinese students are active, demonstrate a diversity of learning styles, attitudes and strengths. Given encouragement and clear learning objectives, Chinese students are engaged and engaging; respectful and playful; keen to try; and able to reflect deeply on the meaning of the exercise. They demand more action and engagement (Fallon, 2014).
1. Model the behaviour you want your students to have
2.Introduce experiential learning exercises that get students up out of their seat and interacting with each other
3.Step back and watch the learning in process.
I have used this ‘ice-breaker’ circle puzzle several times, adapted from Alan Chapman’s businessballs.com. I first ask students to analyse their learning styles and create teams based on this; sometimes mixed, sometimes the same style for clear ‘ah ha!’ moments. Thank you to SYSU School of Tourism Management students!
Biggs, J. (2012). What the student does: teaching for enhanced learning. Higher Education Research & Development, 31 (1), 39-55.
Caldicott, S.M. (2013). Midnight lunch: the 4 phases of team collaboration processes from Thomas Edison's lab. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Charlesworth, Z.M. (2008). Learning styles across cultures: suggestions for educators. Education & Training, 50 (2), 115-127.
Fallon, F. (2014)., Mapping graduate attributes and outcomes for events management students in Shanghai and Guangzhou: what can we learn? Paper presented at SYSU Events management conference, Guangzhou 12-13 July.
Follett, M.P. (1924). Creative experience. New York: Longmans, Green and Co.
Harvey, J. (1979). Learning not to teach. Journal of Management Education; 4:19-21.
Honey, P. (n.d). The Learning Styles Questionnaire www. peterhoney.com
Kennedy, P. (2002). Learning cultures and learning styles: Myth-understandings about adult Chinese learners, in Cribbin, J & Kennedy, P (eds.) Lifelong learning in action. HK University Press, pp.71-92.
Schön, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in practice. New York: Basic Books.
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