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Teaching a subject like negotiation: How might we encourage deep learning?

Ray E Fells
Organisational and Labour Studies
The University of Western Australia


University lecturers are being asked more and more to give attention to the skills development aspects of the subjects we teach. This is particularly so in the area of management studies. As lecturers we are urged to build stronger links between the academic content of a subject, such as might be found in research papers, and the 'real world' settings which the students will encounter. Negotiation is clearly one of these 'practical' subjects - the real world application is readily apparent and, not unnaturally, students enrolled in the subject want to learn how to do it, not just learn about it.

Students may encounter the topic of negotiation in a variety of courses and contexts - human resource management, social work, international relations, marketing, to name just a few. Teaching negotiation poses a number of interesting challenges for a university lecturer (Fells, 1993; Goodman, 1990; Herman, 1992; Lewicki, 1986) but the subject is usually taught with a focus on practical exercises which give students an opportunity to learn about negotiation by doing. This teaching approach is appreciated by students as they generally prefer to learn through experience rather than from reading a text. However, it is less certain whether they gain the maximum benefit from these exercises and so the theme of this paper is to examine whether the activities which reflect deep learning on the part of students can be incorporated and encouraged. This becomes a particularly pressing question in the context of pressures to teach 'online' (see Fells, 2000a). It is hoped that the issues raised in relation to teaching negotiation might stimulate discussion on what might be appropriate in the teaching of other practically oriented or experiential subjects.

The notion of deep learning

The notion of 'deep' learning is central to the student centred approaches which are now regarded by many as the preferred model for effective teaching and learning. An example is presented in Figure 1; these 10 points may be viewed as leading to 'best practice' learning.

It has been established that students can adopt either a surface or deep approach (see Marton and Saljo, 1976; Biggs, 1987, 1990 and Ramsden, 1992, for example). With a surface approach, the student's intention is to simply complete the task requirements. Students treat the task as an external imposition and are unreflective about its purpose. They focus on discrete elements, on unrelated parts of the task, without any attempt at integration - an atomistic approach. There is a failure to distinguish principles from examples, and an unquestioning focus on symbolic points without understanding. Memorising information for assessment is a key process. Alternatively, students taking a deep approach to learning endeavour to understand, to focus on what an author intends or on the concepts applicable to solving a problem. The task is interpreted as an opportunity to gain new insight and understanding rather than to satisfy external demands. Students relate previous knowledge to new knowledge, theoretical ideas to everyday experience, evidence to argument. The approach is holistic and integrative.

  1. Learning is fundamentally about making and maintaining connections: biologically through neural networks; mentally among concepts, ideas, and meanings; and experientially through interaction between the mind and the environment, self and other, generality and context, deliberation and action.

  2. Learning is enhanced by taking place in the context of a compelling situation that balances challenge and opportunity, stimulating and utilising the brain's ability to conceptualise quickly and its capacity and need for contemplation and reflection upon experiences.

  3. Learning is an active search for meaning by the learner - constructing knowledge rather than passively receiving it, shaping as well as being shaped by experiences.

  4. Learning is developmental, a cumulative process involving the whole person, relating past and present, integrating the new and the old, starting from but transcending personal concerns and interests.

  5. Learning is done by individuals who are intrinsically tied to others as social beings, interacting as competitors or collaborators, constraining or supporting the learning process, and able to enhance learning through cooperation and sharing.

  6. Learning is strongly affected by the educational climate in which it takes place: the settings and surroundings, the influences of others, and the values accorded to the life of the mind and to learning achievements.

  7. Learning requires frequent feedback if it is to be sustained, practice if is to be nourished, and opportunities to use what has been learned.

  8. Much learning takes place informally and incidentally, beyond explicit teaching or the classroom, in casual contacts with faculty and staff, peers, campus life, active social and community involvements, and unplanned but fertile and complex situations.

  9. Learning is grounded in particular contexts and individual experiences, requiring effort to transfer specific knowledge and skills to other circumstances or to more general understandings and to unlearn personal views and approaches when confronted by new information.

  10. Learning involves the ability of individuals to monitor their own learning, to understand how knowledge is acquired, to develop strategies for learning based on discerning their capacities and limitations, and to be aware of their own ways of knowing in approaching new bodies of knowledge and disciplinary frameworks.

Figure 1: Learning principles and collaborative action (AAHE, 1998)

Building upon the notion of the deep approach, it is possible to offer a description of how a good student might study. When given an assignment or tutorial topic our good student will go off to the library for preliminary reading but once there he or she is likely to read outside the specified chapters or references and is likely to scan the catalogue and shelves for other items of interest. This is not only a case of reading 'widely', our good student will also be thinking widely, that is, the student will be 'reading for meaning' and trying to contextualise what is being read. For example, when reading our good student will take time out to consider practical experiences or cases which relate to the points being made in the text. This collateral thinking will not necessarily be confined to those examples or cases specified in the unit outline; our good student may well cross over to material and examples encountered in other subjects which he or she is studying. The student does not compartmentalise but tries to create a more global coherent picture of the material. Further, our good student is likely to stop reading from time to time and try to write up some notes on a case study which he/she has thought of, and this note taking will not simply be extracting the main points from the text but will include notes on the examples or applications which have been thought about. As a consequence of all this 'deep' activity and learning, our student will provide answers, presentations and assignments which are wide ranging, show that the concepts are understood and how they can be applied. The lecturer would be confident that the student could apply the particular concepts to other situations, not just to the question which was asked in the assignment or tutorial topic. A good student indeed!

Deep learning in negotiation - is it still a focus on the books?

However, much of the research into student learning has focused on how students read articles, texts and other written material - which is what students are expected to do a lot of in their university studies (see, for example, the research surveyed in Entwistle, 1988). The question then arises: given that 'deep' learning has been found to be the most effective learning strategy, can it be applied in teaching a practical subject such as negotiation?

Clearly, the 'deep' approach can be adopted when reading a text or journal articles. Students can either skim through Walton and McKersie's (1965) classic, A Behavioral Theory of Labor Negotiations, or critically unpack their concepts of distributive and integrative bargaining. Adopting the 'deep' approach will lead students to explore different perspectives on a concept (such as Chamberlain and Kahn's (1965) analysis of bargaining power with Fisher, Ury and Patton's (1991) notion of a BATNA[1]) rather than simply accept one or the other.

A deep learning approach can be encouraged in other ways. Most of those who research and teach about the workplace are comfortable with the use of case studies (see, for example, Barnes, Christensen and Hansen, 1994). Case studies do give rich insight into the real world but it is also suggested that teaching from case studies does not fully address the difficulties of transfer, the taking of key elements learned from the case study and applying them to pertinent but not obviously similar real world events. If a transfer is made then what tends to happen is that the solution which is identified in the case study is applied to the new situation, rather than the underlying concepts being transferred from one to the other. Gillespie et al (1999) suggest that the transfer of learning can be improved if students are given cases to compare rather than examine single cases in isolation. In other words, 'compare and contrast' is a good learning technique, not just a good exam question.

A further way in which we gain understanding and insight into complex processes is through the use of metaphor. Metaphors or images help in the process of gaining insights into the totality of an issue or situation - what Heron (1989, p.12) terms imaginal or intuitive learning. Metaphors or images have been used to convey an understanding of organisations and organisational life (eg Barker, 1993; Drummond, 1998; Morgan, 1986). Imagery has also been used in relation to the process of reaching agreement through negotiation. It has been understood in terms of trench warfare (Axelrod, 1990; Douglas, 1962); it might be viewed as a dance - 'it takes two to tango' - or as a sporting contest (an especially masculine characterisation, see Greenlalgh and Gilkey, 1999). Haynes (1998) explores the way in which mediators, and the conflict participants themselves, use metaphors to convey their sense of what is happening and he suggests that the metaphor of conflict resolution as a journey might be preferable to the more common image that conflict is war. The idea of negotiation as a journey can be portrayed in the contrast between the relatively straightforward journey across the Nullarbor Plain and the twists and turns of the Ffestiniog Railway (Fells, 2000b). The downhill slalom was popular amongst students when answering the exam question, 'what imagery can be used to describe the essential nature of the negotiation process?'

The idea of metaphors can be the basis of reviewing ones' negotiation experience, such as in a post-exercise discussion. Where examples have been provided, the student negotiators can use these as the start of their reflection, 'did you think you were crossing the Nullarbor or were travelling on the Ffestiniog?' Or more broadly, the initial review question might be, 'what images are there/can you develop to help reflect upon your negotiation experience in order to understand it more fully?'

Students can be encouraged to think more deeply about negotiation [2] by means of concept frameworks (Fraser, 1996), critical incident/crisis decision simulations (Brookfield, 1993) and concept tests. An example of a concept test is provided below. The 'test' merely presents a series of similar workplace negotiations and as each is presented, students are asked to decide the extent to which a distributive strategy would be appropriate. When all five have been presented students are then asked to identify what factors they took into account when making their assessments. This leads onto an open discussion[3].

Concept test: distributive bargaining
How appropriate is the distributive bargaining strategy in each of the following situations? and why?

  1. a manager and an employee have to agree to an amount of retrenchment pay; all other issues relating to the employee's departure have been satisfactorily resolved.

  2. a manager and potential employee have to agree the starting rate of pay; all other issues relating to the employment have been satisfactorily resolved.

  3. a manager and an employee have to agree on whether the employee will go on a particular training course, which the employee really wants to do, but which the manager views is unrelated to work.

  4. an employee has been declared redundant and, in fact, wants to leave the company; the manager and employee have to agree the retrenchments terms.

  5. a manager and employee have to resolve differences over the employee's training program; the annual appraisal of the employee identified certain training needs, particularly in the area of computer skills; the employee has nominated for an external (and accredited) course, the manager wants to continue the practice adopted with other similar employees, ie in house training 'on the job'.
Using techniques such as these, teaching and learning negotiation would then be no different from other subjects such as politics, literature or history but do the learning processes become different when it is time for the negotiation role play?

Experiential learning

As indicted above, students want to learn how to negotiate. They therefore expect role play and other experiential based teaching methods. They get full involved, enjoy the unit and often then give the lecturer good ratings as a result. Yet despite this positive involvement, the actual learning in terms of consistently changed behaviour and increased understanding of the underlying processes might not be significant (see for example Gist, Bavetta and Stevens, 1990; Rasmussen, 1991). In other words, students might simply reinforce their existing practice of negotiation and dismiss areas of difficulty on the grounds that "its only a role play".

Figure 1

Figure 2: The experiential learning cycle (after Kolb)

Readers will be familiar with Kolb's experiential learning cycle (Figure 2) which was developed to counter this tendency to superficial learning. Given its emphasis on experiential learning, this model has been suggested for teaching negotiation (by Carlisle, 1980; Lewicki, 1986 and Pedler, 1978, for example). Essentially Kolb envisages a circular process of four stages - concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation (Kolb, 1984; Kolb, Rubin and McIntyre, 1984). Learning starts with experience, either from real life or from a constructed experience in the class room. For example, the learner may engage in a negotiation which is recorded on video (concrete experience) and then watch the video and discuss it with other participants (reflective observation). Our learner might become aware that questions which invite a 'yes' or 'no' answer do not really seem to help the negotiations and this leads onto consideration of the principles underlying the processes of information exchange (abstract conceptualisation). Finally, the learner conducts another negotiation, this time trying out some open ended questions (active experimentation) which completes the cycle by providing a new set of experiences. Properly constructed practical exercises have been found to reflect the situations and experiences encountered by those involved in actual negotiations and to assist in the development of appropriate skills (Gilson, 1986; Glendon and Ingleton, 1979; Murningham, 1991; Tracy and Peterson, 1975; van Ments, 1989).[4]

How might students learn about negotiation?

These two brief outlines - of the deep learning approach taken by some students and the experiential learning cycle - raise questions as to how negotiation students learn and whether the two approaches can be combined to enhance their learning.

We can take some encouragement that this use of a deep learning approach to an experiential exercise can happen from a survey of student strategies in two negotiation classes at UWA. The survey instrument was based on the Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ) developed by Biggs (1987) which is designed to explore the use of surface or deep learning strategies [5]. The size of the sample means that caution must be taken in interpreting the results but they do nevertheless offer insights into student learning strategies and provide a starting point for an exploration of how teaching and learning in negotiation might be enhanced. There are two key findings for our purposes, firstly that students did approach the task of role play exercises by using a deep learning strategy and secondly that there was variation in the student's approaches.

Does negotiation need a deep approach?

Notwithstanding the fact that students can engage in deep learning tasks to study negotiation, would this be just an academic overlay and not be really necessary or beneficial for a proper and practical appreciation of the subject?

There are good pedagogic reasons for emphasising 'academic' content in a negotiation unit, not least the much quoted observation of Kurt Lewin that 'there is nothing so practical as a good theory'. The task of negotiating is a complex one and trying to learn individual components in isolation does not make much sense. In this regard, the seemingly unavoidable teaching format of thirteen topics per subject per semester tends to encourage compartmentalised thinking. It makes even less sense to try developing one's negotiation skills by learning checklists of tactics and tips, no matter how positive and appealing the list might be. This is particularly so when the lists are inherently contradictory or bear no relation to the models of the overall agreement reaching process which are presented. As an example, one training package which gained some notoriety when it was used in training public sector managers in enterprise bargaining took just three pages to explain a model of negotiation based on 'Getting to Yes' (Fisher, Ury and Patton, 1991) and then provided eleven pages of tactics, many of which are completely at odds with the principles embodied in the model which had been described earlier!

To be an effective negotiator it is important to have an understanding of the process as a whole and it is this understanding as much as the ability to implement a particular behavioural technique which leads to achieving a good outcome (Watkins, 1999; Williams, 1993). Strategic negotiation requires thinking as well as doing (Fells, 2000c; Lewicki, Hiam, and Olander, 1996; Goodman, 1990). This suggests that negotiators need to know how to analyse and interpret as well as be good active listeners and creative brainstormers. Therefore activities such as reviewing the research on negotiation, critically examining the various models of reaching agreement, or dissecting the concepts are all ways of giving the student an understanding of what negotiation actually involves and provide the student with a framework for knowing what to do when in a real life negotiation. In summary, negotiators need to 'think deeply' to be good negotiators and therefore any teaching which develops their 'think deeply' skills not only helps them understand what they are learning but will later help them when they negotiate.

Thinking deeply about the negotiating experience

The challenge, then, is to strengthen the 'thinking' part of negotiation. Some techniques such as the use of case studies or metaphors have bee suggested above. Here we focus on building closer ties between the deep learning and experiential cycle learning approaches. The aims of the deep learning strategy and the experiential learning cycle are the same - that 'thinking is reorganised on a higher level' (Gredler, 1992, p.145). If managed properly, conscious reflection is a powerful learning experience and the 'debriefing' (reflective observation) stage of any experiential exercise is an important element of this process (Boud, Keogh and Walker, 1994; Gredler, 1992). Lewicki (1986, p.20) suggests a number of objectives for the debriefing: to compare and evaluate the different outcomes and the different processes which led to those outcomes; to compare and evaluate the differences between intended actions and actual events; to highlight key conceptual or theoretical points and, finally, to create the opportunities to define, implicitly or explicitly, new or different ways to behave. This reflection stage of learning is then typically developed so as to focus on the experience - what happened? why? and what was the effect? (Boud et al, 1994, p.36; Herman, 1992; Tureck, 1999, p.20; van Ments, 1989, p.133 are examples). A typical sample set of debriefing questions is provided below: These are good questions to help 'unpack' and interpret the negotiation experience and can provide a basis for exploring what might be done better next time. The link between concrete experience and reflective observation can also be strengthened by students undertaking self accounts of their experience or by requiring the student to complete learning journals across the semester. Nevertheless the reflection focuses almost exclusively on the actual experience; is inward looking [6]. However, if rather than have the reflection focus principally on the experience, the reflection is outward, and if it involves activities which provoke deep learning, then the subsequent conceptualisation will be built upon a broader foundation and will give rise to more creative active experimentation. To encourage further deep learning in experiential exercises the reflective observation stage on a negotiation role play could include questions such as those listed below. These questions are derived from those used in the SPQ research instrument. They are outward looking and would encourage the learner to develop a holistic and integrative approach without forsaking the learning value of the experience itself. As a practical example, students engaged in a collective bargaining simulation might well seek to draw upon Friedman's (1994) notions of front stage and backstage to explain some of the dynamics of reaching agreement. Friedman's insights help us understand how industrial relations negotiators reach agreement while being so adversarial and also give us guidance on how this process might be managed more effectively. Yet we might want to consider whether the observations of Friedman will apply in other contexts - have any of the students experienced a business contract negotiation where the parties fought each other across the table but nevertheless did a deal out in the corridor? does, perhaps, the political area have anything to offer about how agreements can be reached despite public positions of conflict? (see an example, Tucker, 1996). What does the notion of front stage and back stage tell us, for example, about those management processes and organisational dynamics which we were taught in Management 100? Is negotiating on two fronts what the 'good cop, bad cop routine is really all about? The answer to this last question may be an emphatic 'no' but that is not the point; the point is to encourage students to take the experience to other contexts and to look for new lenses through which to view it. As a result the student might understand the processes of collective bargaining more fully but might also now see where else the notion of dual processes might be usefully applied [7].

Two further ways to encourage deep learning

Students can be encouraged to learn more deeply about their experience of negotiation in other ways. The first requires students to, in effect, create their own experience rather than it be a preordained role play, building on the idea that one of the best ways to get a person to understand something is to require them to explain it to someone else. (We all know that the best way to get on top of a subject is to become a tutor.) The exercise required students to write up and act out their own presentation - whether as a role play or some other demonstration - of an aspect of negotiation (see Appendix 2). In this 'Thespian exercise' students have re-run a previous role play which they found difficult, written new role plays or, in one case made up 'flags' of specific behaviours (stating position, making an offer, etc, etc) and during their negotiation they picked up the appropriate flag to indicate the type of statement they were making. (This otherwise powerful learning exercise ended in a fight over the flags!) The real learning in the thespian exercise occurs while developing the presentation though this learning was usually reinforced by the students also being required to lead the subsequent discussion on their topic.

Another useful exercise is to get the students to determine their own assessment criteria. Many students feel they should be assessed on their negotiation behaviour, on how they perform in exercises and role plays but there are considerable difficulties of quality and equity in this sort of assessment, particularly where the proportion of total marks being designated for performance is large enough to have a motivating effect. However, by getting students to develop their own assessment criteria the exercise becomes a learning opportunity. The student group was required, first individually then collectively, to determine the criteria. There were some strong but constructive debates about how you could actually recognise 'good' negotiating behaviour and (as anticipated) the development of these criteria became a powerful learning exercise in its own right. The students were, in effect, teaching themselves from their own reading and from their own experience.

The assessment sheet became a comprehensive list of specific negotiation strategies and behaviours (see Appendix 3). The design of the sheet was based on the principals of behaviourally anchored performance ratings, this being an example of 'deep learning' in its own right because it is a human resource management technique. Students assessed their peers in one exercise in the knowledge that this would not count towards the final mark; this gave them the opportunity to practice and to check their understanding of the criteria. They then formally assessed each other in a final major negotiation exercise. From my own observations of the students during the course of the exercise I considered that the student's own assessments were generally reliable.


This paper has explored some aspects of how negotiation may be taught, and in particular to consider how negotiation students might be encouraged to become 'deep' learners. Research into student learning has demonstrated the effectiveness of deep learning strategies and a key point in this paper is that these essentially contemplative and reflective strategies can and are used by students in experiential learning settings. Some examples have been provided as a stimulus to others to develop (and hopefully to share) other innovative ways of encouraging deep learning by negotiation students. This is not just a question of pedagogy. Not only is this is an effective way to learn but it is also an important element in being an effective negotiator. When in the thick of a negotiation, to be accustomed to ask the sorts of questions which are encouraged by the deep learning strategy will enable a negotiator to 'go outside the square' and so avoid relying on simplistic prescriptions which are often of doubtful practical validity.


  1. BATNA - the best alternative to a negotiated agreement, which Fisher et al believe is the fundamental determinant of one's bargaining power

  2. It is recognised that getting students to 'think more deeply about negotiation' is not necessarily the same as 'encouraging a deep learning approach in their mode of study'.

  3. In this particular test, students are typically then able to identify how they could try to restructure a situation so as to make it potentially more integrative, which then sets up an exploration of integrative bargaining.

  4. Christopher and Smith (1991), Errington, (1997) and van Ments (1989) provide some useful advice on role plays.

  5. Further information on the survey can be found in Appendix 1.

  6. One implication is that in following the Kolb model of learning the 'abstract conceptualisation' stage in the process will tend towards matching the experience to a predetermined model of preferred behaviour. To address this it is suggested that the learning cycle start with the instructor describing or presenting the topic so that students gain an initial conceptual understanding of it, this understanding being developed further through practice (see, for example, Heron, 1989, p.105). It is an approach used in the author's own instructional video, Learning to negotiate. Another difficulty with experiential learning is that no matter how carefully the exercise is structured the actual experience and learned outcomes may (even possibly, should) differ from those predicted by the instructor (Reynolds, 1994, p.77). This can make it difficult to ensure the required curriculum is actually covered. The lack of time can also be a problem; when time is short, the learning 'cycle' becomes a straight and diminishing line: experience -> some reflective observation -> even less conceptualisation -> no experimentation.

  7. The survey responses of the students also indicated that individual students vary their approach to learning considerably depending on the circumstances in which they find themselves. It is therefore unwise to assume that there is a relationship between a particular format for teaching and a consequent set of strategies for learning on the part of the students. Working on the premise that the deep learning strategies are more effective than surface learning, it is possible, even desirable, to create opportunities for deep learning strategies to be adopted in the full range of teaching modes which are used. For example, a lecture presentation on integrative bargaining could include material which would serve the purpose of answering similar deep learning strategy questions as they relate to lectures.

    In taking this approach to writing a lecture, the lecturer would not only include real life example of integrative bargaining but also explore some of the key concepts in other contexts. For example, the lecturer might try to get students to understand the role of trust in integrative bargaining by considering what trust is in the context of friendship or politicians' promises. Also, it might be possible to draw attention to what students may have learned in other units on decision making, group dynamics or communication to describe the processes of integrative bargaining. The lecturer may encourage students to defer judgement by perhaps foreshadowing other issues which will need to be considered before integrative bargaining can be fully understood. (This would also deter the compartmentalisation of topics in the student's mind whereby they think that the material on power which was presented in one session is separate from what they were taught about integrative bargaining in another.)


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Williams, G. (1993). Styles and effectiveness in negotiation. In Hall, L. (Ed), Negotiation Strategies for Mutual Gain. Sage Newbury Park, pp.151-174.

Appendix 1: A survey of student learning approaches


Students in two negotiation classes (one undergraduate, the other a graduate class) were surveyed. The content and teaching approach in the two classes were similar, shifting from theory to practice as the semester progressed. The early presentations dealt with the essential concepts (for example the notions of strategy, phases, power, the core elements of competitive and cooperative models); although the lectures contained practical applications the focus was on the concepts. Towards the middle of the semester, the practical oriented content increased with sessions on enterprise bargaining, behavioural skills, mediation and so on. The formal presentations were supplemented by discussion sessions which focused primarily on set readings rather than simply be discussions of the student's own experience. In addition, the students participated in role play exercises and in a major negotiation exercise at the end of the semester

The students were surveyed using a set of questionnaires derived from the Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ) developed by Biggs (1987) which explores student learning strategies. Participation in the study was voluntary and there were no refusals to complete the questionnaires though the numbers on each occasion varied because class attendance was non-compulsory (see Table A1). Students were anonymously and randomly assigned an identification number when completing the first questionnaire and were asked to enter this number on all subsequent questionnaires to enable tracking of individuals across the various questionnaires without compromising the anonymity of the responses.

All students were asked to complete an initial questionnaire in the first lecture[1] This questionnaire comprised the 21 'strategy' statements from Biggs' SPQ, made up of three groups of seven statements giving an indication of either the surface, deep or achieving[2] approaches to learning. Respondents were asked to react to each statement and indicate their response on a five point scale from 'always true' (given a value of 1) to 'never true' (given a value of 5). Summation of the scores for each subset of items (relating to surface, deep or an achieving approach to learning) were produced to indicate any tendency towards one or other of the learning approaches.

Table A1: Student tendency to engage in deep learning strategies

Questionnaire Week Undergraduates
ResponsesMean*SD ResponsesMean*SD

Lectures 74516.93.2 2816.74.3



Role play 134514.33.3 3014.33.3
Assignment 134414.73.9 3012.73.2
Final enrolments 65

* mean scores of student responses on a scale of 6 (high propensity to utilise deep learning strategies) to 30 (low propensity)

Further questionnaires were administered throughout the semester (see Table A1). These subsequent questionnaires all had a similar format but each focussed on one particular learning opportunity/mode of teaching. Firstly, there was an open ended question asking the student to outline what he or she did, if anything, to learn from the particular learning task. Each questionnaire then contained six statements derived from the SPQ which reflect the deep learning strategy but modified to apply specifically to a particular mode of teaching/learning. A seventh question relating to the surface learning strategy was included as a further indicator of the validity of any findings. An example of the questions - in this instance, relating to tutorial discussions - is provided in Table A2.

Table A2: Survey questions in relation to tutorial discussions

  1. The tutorial discussions in this course often cause me to think of real life situations to which the material that I am learning could be useful.

  2. The tutorial discussions continually remind me of material I already knew, but I was able as a result of the lectures to see what I 'already knew' in a new light.

  3. The discussions in this course encouraged me to do enough work so that I could form my own point of view, after which I was satisfied.

  4. I have tried to use the tutorial discussions in this course to relate what I have learned in this subject to what I have learned in others.

  5. The discussions provided interesting new topics/insights and I often spent extra time preparing to gain more information about them.

  6. During the tutorial discussions, I tried to relate the new lecture material to what I already knew on the topic.

  7. The discussions encouraged me to go over and over key points in my notes until I knew them by heart.


As noted in the text the size of the sample means that caution must be taken in interpreting the results. From the initial questionnaire administered to all students at the start of their courses, the mean scores of the surface, deep and achieving strategy scales for the undergraduate students were 18.8, 19.4 and 21.6 respectively; for postgraduates, the equivalent scores were 20.6, 17.9 and 20.4. (The possible range of scores was from 7 to 35 with a lower score indicates greater tendency to utilise the particular learning approach.) While there is some suggestion from these figures that surface approaches were more pronounced than deep approaches for undergraduates and the converse was the case for postgraduates, there are no significant statistical differences between the groups. Standard deviations calculated for each of the sets of scores were all above 3 indicating a significant spread of scores and highlighting the variability in approaches taken by students to their learning. This observation about the variability in students' approach to learning was confirmed by consideration of individual student responses which suggested that only four students strongly followed one particular approach (the deep learning approach in all cases).

The variability between and within individual students in their approaches to learning was further confirmed when the results of the specific teaching activity questionnaires were analysed. In particular, a cohort analysis of 28 students who completed all the questionnaires was undertaken (Table A3). Few students showed a consistently 'deep' approach across teaching modes (ie relatively low scores and a small range in scores); students M and Q are two examples. More common was the situation where a student appeared to take a 'deeper' approach with respect to one aspect of the teaching/learning situation and a 'less deep' approach to another. The pattern was not consistent; for example, while some students scored high on the lectures questionnaire (suggesting this form of teaching did less for deep learning) and low on the assignment questionnaire (suggesting the assignment did more to encourage deep learning), for other students this was reversed. Comparison of students W and Y illustrate this point.

We might expect that students would be more inclined to engage in a deep learning strategy when doing an assignment and less inclined when trying to learn something from attending a lecture. Pair comparisons suggest that this is generally so as in most cases the student's score indicating their use of deep learning strategies for the assignment was lower. If role plays are 'experiential' then we might expect that students will be less likely to adopt deep learning strategies but generally the opposite is the case. In the majority of cases, the students have a stronger tendency to utilise a deep learning approach in respect to role plays than to either assignments or lectures.

Table A3: Individual student's use of deep learning strategies
Scores of student responses on a scale of 6 (high propensity
to utilise deep learning strategies) to 30 (low propensity)

StudentLectures Role playsAssignmentDiscussion
A1510 1215
B1717 1617
C157 1116
D1310 713
E1515 1516
F1812 1816
G2321 1412
H1716 1616
I2019 2119
J1514 2012
K1413 1513
L1714 1217
M1212 1212
N149 813
O1111 618
P1619 1215
Q1414 1310
R1513 1217
S1916 1316
T1815 1314
U2111 1215
V1911 1610
W1113 1715
X1212 9 15
Y2120 817
Z1915 1215
AA2020 1512
AB1314 1315

Endnotes for Appendix 1

  1. The questionnaires were administered by Owen Hicks of the University's Centre for Staff Development in order to distance the students' completion of the questionnaires from any assessment in the unit itself. Owen's involvement throughout the project is gratefully acknowledged.

  2. The achieving strategy is when the student deliberately focuses on doing only what he or she thinks will obtain an 'A'.

Appendix 2: The Thespian approach to the teaching of negotiation behaviour

The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate a particular aspect of negotiation thereby enabling us to learn more about negotiation behaviour.

One aspect of 'learning' is to get you to think about negotiation behaviour by getting you to demonstrate it to someone else.

Another aspect of 'learning' will be the general discussion on the particular aspect of negotiation which will follow the presentation. We might consider what is helpful and not so helpful? when is the negotiation behaviour/approach appropriate or inappropriate? how can we handle the situation where the other negotiator is doing it 'wrong'? and so on.

Following the presentation and discussion other class members will be asked to assess the exercise according to the following criteria:

to what extent are the careers of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman under threat from the acting prowess of the group?
   not at all - 0; they should quit now - 10

to what extent did the presentation reflect preparation and effort
   not at all - 0; a great deal - 10

to what extent did the presentation focus on an aspect of negotiation in a way in which the observers could learn something useful
   not at all - 0; very focused - 10

Appendix 3: Negotiation peer assessment form

The purpose of this sheet is to make a considered assessment of the extent to which a negotiator demonstrated what are regarded as good negotiation behaviours. The aim is to measure the quality of the contribution. Note that the examples are indicative of a range of similar behaviours. The range of scores is 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, -1, -2. (Note: a score of 5 is appropriate only when the negotiation behaviour is outstanding.)

when the opportunity or need arose, made clear and concise statements which demonstrated an understanding of the issues and context

only provided basic information

said nothing

made confused statements about issues/context; had to keep checking the main points (checking for detail is ok)
(5)  4      3 2      10 -1      -2
Ability to present one's case
when the opportunity or need arose, clearly articulated position, interests or intentions

told, rather than explained positions, interests or intentions

said nothing

vague and ambiguous; concerns, intentions, etc, are not made clear
as a result,
you were reasonably confident that you know where the negotiator is coming from

as a result,
you felt the need to ask further questions to find out what the other negotiator is really saying
(5)   4     3 2     10 -1     -2
when involved in discussion, stayed focused on the issue and process, despite the differences between you displayed a mix of being focused and tangential said nothing which was relevant made derogatory remarks, wandered off the issues, etc
as a result,
you remained confident that a negotiated outcome would be achieved
    as a result,
you had some concern about the prospects of reaching an agreement
(5)   4     3 2     10 -1     -2
Ability to find solutions
when the opportunity or need arose, helped work towards a solution by asking questions, clarifying, seeking underlying information, concerns, etc

displayed a mix of seeking information and challenges

minimal involvement

challenged statements, countered other's contribution with own position/ offer, etc
as a result,
you felt that you were making progress towards a joint solution
    as a result,
you felt that any solution was going to have to be based on their proposal
(5)   4     3 2     10 -1     -2
was open to ideas, made suggestions, explored other's suggestions displayed a mix of being open to solutions and negative reactions minimal involvement negative reaction to suggestions; positional statements
as a result,
you felt reasonably confident that new solutions, linkages, etc, would be found, rather than have to resort to a clear cut compromise
    as a result,
you felt that the only outcome would be a compromise based on forcefulness
(5)   4     3 2     10 -1     -2
Ability to maintain the process
made meaningful contributions throughout, the effect on subsequent discussion was generally positive

on balance, contributions had a positive rather than negative impact

only minimal involvement

contributions had the effect of causing difficulties to the process (could include a dominating contribution)
(5)   4     3 2     10 -1     -2
Other aspects of negotiation (might vary the final score by a point or two):

Please cite as: Fells, R. E. (2001). Teaching a subject like negotiation: How might we encourage deep learning?. In A. Herrmann and M. M. Kulski (Eds), Expanding Horizons in Teaching and Learning. Proceedings of the 10th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 7-9 February 2001. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2001/fells.html

[ Abstract for this article ] [ TL Forum 2001 Proceedings Contents ] [ All Abstracts ] [ TL Forums Index ]
HTML: Roger Atkinson, Teaching and Learning Centre, Murdoch University [rjatkinson@bigpond.com]
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Last revision: 8 Feb 2002. Curtin University of Technology
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