Archive for the ‘experiential learning’ Category

NSSE_LogoFollowing are some of my thoughts about engagement and what it means for a college of business.   I presented these thoughts a couple of years ago at a conference.   Here is a summary:

“Engagement” in a college of business is an often misunderstood term.   This stems from the fact that there are three dominant perspectives on how engagement is conceptualized and viewed within the business school – (1) community engagement (Carnegie Foundation), (2) student engagement (National Survey of Student Engagement), and (3) faculty engagement (AACSB).

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching awards a community engagement classification to qualifying institutions of higher learning.   As of 2012, three hundred and eleven (311) U.S. colleges and universities were designated  with the Community Engagement Classification.   Carnegie defines community engagement as

“ … the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.”

In order to be selected, institutions must provide descriptions and examples of established practices of community engagement that show alignment among mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices.   The notion of a mutually beneficial partnership is at the heart of the Carnegie Foundation’s concept of engagement.

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) assesses collegiate quality by estimating how undergraduate students spend their time inside and outside the classroom.   Through an annual survey of hundreds of colleges and universities, the NSSE estimates how undergraduates spend their time and what they gain from attending college.   The NSSE ultimately measures student engagement through five Benchmarks of Effective Educational Practice:

  1. level of academic challenge
  2. active and collaborative learning
  3. student-faculty interaction
  4. enriching educational experiences
  5. supportive campus environment

Institutions use their data to identify aspects of the undergraduate experience inside and outside the classroom that can be improved through changes in policies and practices more consistent with good practices in undergraduate education.

AACSB International, the organization best known for overseeing accreditation for undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs in business and accounting, strives to identify challenges and trends that are facing the business education industry through its research and initiatives.   In 2011, the Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC) on AASCB Accreditation Quality was charged to conduct a review of AACSB accreditation standards and processes.  The BRC identified “encourage an appropriate balance of academic and professional engagement consistent with quality in the context of a school’s mission” as one of five critical issues is business school accreditation.  The BRC stated that AACSB standards have consistently promoted an academic focus, but have not adequately addressed engagement with practice and also suggested placing a stronger emphasis on interaction among students and faculty in an academic setting.     Engagement, as specified by the AACSB, is ultimately assessed through faculty engagement whereby

“Engagement should be addressed as a portfolio, and is embedded in the interaction between participants, including academic and professionally qualified faculty, who are engaged in scholarship and teaching. Furthermore, engagement should be addressed across multiple dimensions of quality—students, faculty, curriculum, pedagogy, etc.—and consistent with the mission of the school.”

I hope that my thoughts help.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe


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wateriswideconroyPat Conroy has always been one of my favorite authors.   The Great Santini, the Lords of Discipline, Beach Music, Prince of Tides and My Losing Season have all made their impact on my life.   Yet, it is his first novel, The Water is Wide, that I often find myself rereading as I travel through my academic life.   Now the Water is Wide is largely an autobiographical recollection on Conroy’s teaching experiences as a young man on Yamacraw Island, South Carolina.  I recently came across the following lines, which struck home:

My pre-Yamacraw theory of teaching held several sacred tenets, among these being that the teacher must always maintain an air of insanity, or of eccentricity out of control, if he is to catch and hold the attention of his students. The teacher must always be on the attack, looking for new ideas, changing worn out tactics, and never, ever falling into patterns that lead to student ennui.

This past semester has been one of my best teaching semesters – ever.   Even though I am a full time administrator, I believe I have improved my teaching by staying focused on the important things – the lessons that will endure long after the class is over.   Solving large-scale, complex problems is the ‘name of the game’ in my class.   I begin by showing my students that their repertoire up to this point is not ready to deal with the complexities of organizational problem solving.   All semester, I challenge, we practice, I challenge again.   We learn – together.

Conroy writes more about teaching in his other novels.   Following are some more thoughts from Conroy that come from his time at the Citadel in the Lords of Discipline:

Great teachers had great personalities and that the greatest teachers had outrageous personalities. I did not like decorum or rectitude in a classroom; I preferred a highly oxygenated atmosphere, a climate of intemperance, rhetoric, and feverish melodrama. And I wanted my teachers to make me smart. A great teacher is my adversary, my conqueror, commissioned to chastise me. He leaves me tame and grateful for the new language he has purloined from other kings whose granaries are filled and whose libraries are famous. He tells me that teaching is the art of theft: of knowing what to steal and from whom. Bad teachers do not touch me; the great ones never leave me. They ride with me during all my days, and I pass on to others what they have imparted to me. I exchange their handy gifts with strangers on trains, and I pretend the gifts are mine. I steal from the great teachers. And the truly wonderful thing about them is they would applaud my theft, laugh at the thought of it, realizing they had taught me their larcenous skills well.

Here Conroy extends his theory to encourage us to learn from our past teachers.   He asks us to recall the times when great teachers moved us – made a difference.   To those in academia, don’t ever stop learning.   Don’t be afraid to be bold in the classroom.   Make your classroom memorable!   Make it spirited!  Make it yours!

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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j9810I have a new hero.  He is Edward Burger, current president of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.   Why is he my hero?   Here are the reasons:

  1. Burger went directly from professor of mathematics at Williams College to being a university president.
  2. Burger built his reputation by being an innovative, thoughtful teacher-scholar.
  3. Burger is the author of one the most important books I have read “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking”
  4. Burger has articulated the essence of being an effective academic leader into just two simple principles: (1) a focus on life-changing teaching, and (2) the commitment to securing resources to support the university’s academics.

I first learned about Burger in an interview published in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled ‘A Professor in the President’s Chair: Pushing for a ‘Friendly Revolution’.  In this article, two quotes stick out:

There are only two branches to this job: No. 1, make sure students are getting the most profound, life-changing, life-enhancing educational experience they can, and, No. 2, make sure that 100 years from now, whoever’s sitting in this chair will have the resources so he or she can do the exact same thing. That’s all. Everything else is noise.


The biggest change we made was in our committee structure, which had consisted of councils and committees and task forces. I have amazing colleagues, but the system was so gridlocked that it basically prevented itself from doing business. Shared governance to me means I get to share the wisdom and counsel of my colleagues, but the system in place didn’t allow that. People now serve on fewer committees, but they meet more frequently and have more impact.

It will be interesting to follow the presidency of Edward Burger.   Personally, I believe that he is just the breath of fresh air that is needed in higher education.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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Experiential-Learning-Chart-300x200Experiential learning, often referred to as “Learn by Doing”, focuses on hands on learning inside and outside the classroom.   Recently, Deans at two prominent business schools have emphasized the importance of experiential learning.

Nitin Nohria, Dean of the Harvard Business School, recently wrote an article entitled “What Business Schools Can Learn from the Medical Profession”.  He states:

“The clinical experience gained by fledgling doctors is an ideal example of how professional schools address the “knowing-doing gap.”  To give MBA students a dose of real-world experience, HBS is introducing its biggest curriculum change in nearly 90 years. Students in our Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development program will engage in practice-oriented activities throughout the year. This work has begun on campus, where students have been taking product development workshops and crafting investment pitches. But the program’s most ambitious aspect starts in January 2012, when HBS will send the entire first-year class—more than 900 students—abroad to developing markets, where they will work in teams of six with a multinational or a local company to develop a new product or service offering.

Our goal is not only to enhance the experience of our students but to improve management pedagogy. That is what HBS did with the case study method, which is now used universally. It’s time to do the same with managerial field training. Our commitment is to learn how the experience should be structured, what role the faculty should play, and what company support is required, in order to develop a method that other institutions can embrace.”

At the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, Dean Alison Davis-Blake wrote about the virtues of experiential learning in the article ‘Learn by Doing Across the Globe’.

This is an exciting week at Ross as we kick off our 2014 MAP team projects. That means that more than 450 first-year MBAs are heading out to tackle real business challenges with nearly 90 companies and organizations in more than 20 different countries. They will spend seven weeks working side-by-side with some of the top practitioners in fields such as marketing, healthcare, manufacturing, and nonprofit management. Companies and organizations including Amazon, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, ICIC Bank, World Wildlife Fund, and many more around the world will put our teams to work on projects from new market entry to digital banking to supply chain strategy.

The MAP experience integrates and applies the lessons our students have learned in the classroom and is a hallmark of our focus on action-based learning.

Clearly experiential learning is an important emphasis in the world’s leading business schools.   What role does it play at your university?

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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