|[ Teaching and Learning Forum 2001 ] [ Proceedings Contents ]|
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.
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.
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!
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) 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  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.
Concept test: distributive bargainingUsing 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?
How appropriate is the distributive bargaining strategy in each of the following situations? and why?
- 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.
- a manager and potential employee have to agree the starting rate of pay; all other issues relating to the employment have been satisfactorily resolved.
- 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.
- an employee has been declared redundant and, in fact, wants to leave the company; the manager and employee have to agree the retrenchments terms.
- 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'.
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).
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 . 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.
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.
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.
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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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 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 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.
|* 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.
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.
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
when the opportunity or need arose, made clear and concise statements which demonstrated an understanding of the issues and context
only provided basic information
made confused statements about issues/context; had to keep checking the main points (checking for detail is ok)
|(5) 4 3||2 1||0||-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
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 1||0||-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 1||0||-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
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 1||0||-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 1||0||-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 1||0||-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|