Category: Professional practice
|Teaching and Learning Forum 2005 [ Refereed papers ]|
School of Management
Curtin University of Technology
Growing pressure for restructuring and reforming tertiary education is encouraging inknowvative practices by lecturers and students to promote and develop 'employable' skills. The hybrid approach was developed to stimulate lecturers to operate as reflective practitioners in amplifying pedagogic knowledge through action research and students to maximise their learning of content and skills as adult learners by means of problem-based learning strategies. The current report outlines methods by which lecturers can build continuous improvement into a unit's curriculum design and processes, and illustrates the value of student empowerment, communication and leadership in formal and informal learning groups.
Intended to stimulate students to become reflective practitioners to undertake action research through exercising decisions in a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) format, the initial part of the inknowvative experience was designed for students to establish an understanding of what constitutes relevant knowledge for their identified purposes. PBL was used to enable the adult learners to exercise their current interests and/or abilities to accept an involvement in determining their learning needs. The action research process encouraged both lecturer and students to seek constant feedback and renewal in the learning process and as a means of demonstrating continuous improvement.
The action research model is more widely understood and accepted in business education classes as a teaching tool whereas PBL and hybrids such as Maastrict 7-jump are largely considered to be learning strategies. Consequently, these two concepts were combined to encourage promotion of the reflective practitioner aspects to enable the lecturer to build continuous improvement into the design and processes of the curriculum. The cyclical nature of action research ensures that improvement to both teaching and learning is ongoing throughout the process.
The learning tasks were quite complex and demanding, so the major assignment was allocated 60% of the overall unit marks, with the remaining 40% for individual work of which half required a reflective journal related to the major project.
Although called Cycle 1, this stage of the project required students to use the action research activities (look, think and act) on a number of occasions as they interacted with the material and among the members of the team. Students were directed to use the Stringer (1996) ideas, as follows:
|Look||- gather relevant information/data|
- build a picture
- describe the situation
|Think||- explore/analyse (hypothesise)|
|Act||- plan (report)|
The look aspect of Cycle 1 occurred in setting up ten groups ranging from two to five members with similar study interests and the clear articulation of the communication topics to be investigated; namely,
|Effective meeting communication||Communication technology|
|Empowerment through communication||Communication in recruitment|
|Communication among bosses and subordinates||Cultural effects in communication|
|Leadership and gender differences||Team focus on problem solving|
|Non-verbal communication in networks||Resolving conflict in service industries|
Prior to becoming involved in researching their interest area, group members were required to think about how they could investigate, and what they would accept as legitimate knowledge of, their topic. They sought to answer questions such as what is knowledge, how do we know what we know and how do we acquire knowledge? Answers were collected from a number of reference sources. Typically, they began with simple definitions from a dictionary, but many of these used the word 'know' in the definition and were discarded. Further investigation of text-books, journal articles and World Wide Web material provided ample variety of definitions. Eventually, the simplest, broadly accepted view was that the word 'knowledge' meant 'understanding'. One group identified that the ancient Greeks classified knowledge into doxa for knowledge believed to be true, and episteme for knowledge that is known to be true; consequently, students argued as to how this differentiation was possible.
Several groups identified one or more of the following types of knowledge;
The act aspect of Cycle 1 occurred as each group planned its own timetable of investigations, individual work loads and meetings to collate their findings.
Cycle 2 required students to investigate the PBL multi-faceted concept of learning strategies. The recent burgeoning of publications about problem-based learning (for example, Margetson, 1998; Fenwick and Parsons, 1998) provided ample testimony to the dynamic nature of professional practice as a process for framing and solving ill-structured problems as described by Schon (1983). The look, think, act sequence of examining the pros and cons of PBL increased the awareness and understanding of students as to the advantages and disadvantages of experiential learning processes which support behaviours that characterise life-long learners and 'deep' learning. Once each group had undertaken some action research on PBL, a whole-class activity was used to develop a relatively simple, yet versatile, three-dimensional framework from which group members could determine the philosophical premises of PBL, determine how to construct a set of specific PBL practices which would meet the needs of particular learners, and enable PBL practitioners to conduct evaluations of their own initiatives and programs. The basic criterion for the development of an overview of PBL was to establish a model that would inform students on how to develop their communication learning in a semi-structured fashion that would lead to the group establishing a range of techniques that could be used for learning about their topic.
Often, PBL is characterised as 'active' and 'self-directed' (Bernstein et al., 1995) and 'student-centred' (Mann and Kaufmann, 1995). It is usual for the problem-solving to be undertaken by groups of students using co-operative learning (Herreid, 1999). Boud (1985) suggested that the idea behind PBL was that the starting point for learning should be a problem that the learner wishes to solve. The concept was expanded by Ross (1991) to have students themselves search for, and identify, the knowledge needed in order to approach the problem. The decision to encourage students in the Communication in Organisations class identify their own preferred area of research was based on this premise.
The thoughtful facilitator of learning can use PBL to establish a repertoire of pedagogical techniques such as case study, thematic learning, project learning, service learning and performance learning so as to synchronise them with multi-dimensional strategies and tools which operationalise Gardner's (1983) theory of multiple intelligences as elaborated by Fogarty (1997). By contrast, the traditional teacher-directed, lecture-based curriculum allows little opportunity for reflective, self-initiated or integrated practical learning (Bovee & Gran, 2004).
A major outcome from Cycle 2 was the creation of a strategy with associated techniques that could be used in choosing the means for presenting the group findings to the class, thereby sharing the learning in a cooperative fashion.
Having located appropriate information about the three aspects of the PBL cube, students were required to think about how specific aspects of the cube were relevant to their particular study, come to a group consensus on which strategies to use and act collaboratively to plan the learning processes to be undertaken.
Cycle 3 was the operational cycle in the learning project. Student groups were required to focus on the appropriate strategies selected from the PBL cube and use them to investigate and develop their knowledge of the communication topic to the satisfaction of the team as a whole. Once the team had generated a set of knowledge and artefacts related to their topic, the task was to develop an appropriate way of presenting that knowledge to the other groups in the class. Again, the look, think, act process was an important part of the feedback process to ensure selection of a high standard of relevant knowledge and to ensure continuous improvement in the development of the group findings and learning. The highly idiosyncratic activities and findings of groups were indicative of the values associated with group work, the PBL learning strategies and the reflective nature of the action research. The variety of content outcomes was accompanied with high levels of motivation and justified the early emphasis on the expectation that groups be inknowvative in their approach to the selected study topic.
The Cycle 4 emphasis on practical presentations to the whole class was designed to maximise the co-operative transfer of developed team knowledge so that all students were able to benefit from the group work both in terms of the investigation content and the learning processes undertaken.
The look, think, act cycle is not merely a process to enable groups to select a type of presentation which will best reflect the actual learning achieved, but replicates the earlier understanding of a three-part process resulting from knowing presentation principles, encouraging interaction between presenters and students, and the demonstration of specific skills. Consequently, each presentation is highly idiosyncratic according to the topic and the group members who have constructed the learning.
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|Author: Carolyn Dickie is currently enrolled in a PhD program at Curtin University of Technology and works as a sessional lecturer lecturing in postgraduate classes within the School of Management and with its partners in South East Asia.
Carolyn Dickie, School of Management, Curtin University of Technology
Postal address: 21 Murchison Drive, Jane Brook WA 6056
Phone: 08 9255 1580 Fax: 08 9255 1580 Email: email@example.com
Please cite as: Dickie, C. (2005). Inknowvative communication-in-organisations learning: A hybrid PBL and action research approach. In The Reflective Practitioner. Proceedings of the 14th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 3-4 February 2005. Perth: Murdoch University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2005/refereed/dickie.html
Copyright 2005 Carolyn Dickie. The author assigns to the TL Forum and not for profit educational institutions a non-exclusive licence to reproduce this article for personal use or for institutional teaching and learning purposes, in any format (including website mirrors), provided that the article is used and cited in accordance with the usual academic conventions.