It’s been a packed last couple of weeks, leaving me picking up the pieces and trying to clear some of my grading backlog before the Thanksgiving break. Rather than leave the blog alone for another week, let’s try an open thread based around something that’s come to mind just now, namely: Business degrees and the pedagogy used in the curricula for those degrees.
The usual way business courses play out is the usual way any set of courses plays out: You have a sequence of classes on various topics, the early ones being mainly theoretical or overview courses, maybe not in the business department at all. (For example, all business majors at my school have to take Calculus, which is why I am thinking about this in the first place.) The classes get more specialized and, usually, harder as you climb the ladder. Eventually you get to the top of the degree program and have a “seminar” class that is project-based, usually involving case studies.
So, for your discussion, consider this idea: Business degrees should not be conducted in this way. Instead, EVERY course should be project-based, beginning with the first semester of the freshman year and continuing on. (For the sake of argument, restrict your attention just to courses in the business department, not outside classes like calculus.) You can have a syllabus of basic learning outcomes for business majors if you like, and maybe some way of assessing student acquisition of those outcomes prior to graduation, but EVERY business class should be predicated on project-based learning — and let students go learn the theory on their own, with professor guidance if necessary, if and only if that theory has something to say about the project they’re working on. Courses based on imparting “material” through lectures or lab assignments disconnected from the context of a specific problem would be eliminated.
I’m not saying I am in favor of this. It’s just a provocative alternative. Discuss.
…goes to Robert Grondin of Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus, who made this remark in his talk in the Liberal Education for 21st Century Engineering session:
We do projects at the beginning of the course, because projects are fun, and we want to fool students into thinking that engineering is fun.
This was apropos of how engineering curricula usually incorporate projects — either at the beginning of the curricula via a freshman design course, or at the end via a senior design course, or both. But you can pretty much substitute any discipline and get the way we often think about how projects fit into the curriculum, right?
Prof. Grondin, on the other hand, has designed a generic Engineering degree — not Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or whatnot… just Engineering — for ASU Polytechnic that requires only 20 hours of engineering coursework beyond the freshman core and in which there’s a design project course in every semester. That’s what you call taking project-based learning seriously, and I’d daresay that these general Engineering students are better prepared for real engineering work than many students with specialized engineering degrees.
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Busy day here at the ICTCM. I need both an extended time for brain-dumping and a full night’s sleep, and I think the latter is going to win. So here’s a brief listing, in no particular order, of some of the standout items I’ve learned today.
- I learned first thing this morning that rigorous, scientific scholarship of teaching and learning does actually exist, and it’s being done by Dave Pritchard of MIT. Prof. Pritchard was our keynote speaker this morning. In his words, he has basically forsaken a successful career in atomic physics (in which role he mentored or taught three Nobel laureates) to devote his energies to physics education. His keynote this morning gave me enough reading material for a semester and a whole new outlook on what educational research could look like.
- I learned (through Pritchard’s keynote) that there is a school of thought that says partial credit in math and science courses should not be given, because — and I quote — “Partial credit rewards partial understanding”. More to think about here.
- I learned that, thanks to the research of Pritchard and his cohorts, there is a growing field of educational data mining, or one might say educational informatics, out there, designed to take data from online assessment tools and making observations about student learning. There’s even a journal.
- I learned that the difference between novice and expert behaviors in learning pretty much describes all the issues I’ve encountered with the MATLAB course and other courses I’ve taught.
- I learned, through Scott Franklin’s prezi on this subject this morning, that online lectures can be done that aren’t just lectures.
- I learned that Geogebra is pretty cool, and I’ll learn more tomorrow as I take a minicourse on that software.
- I learned there’s a whole website out there — and probably more than this one — for project-based learning ideas.
- I learned that MATLAB has an interactive GUI…. for creating interactive GUI’s. Definitely something to play with later.
- I learned that Gino’s East Pizza is among the best stuff I’ve ever ate, and the copious amounts of it in my stomach right now are a strong argument for sleeping over brain-dumping.
Tomorrow will be a Geogebra minicourse, as I mentioned, and more sessions which I haven’t mapped out yet. We’re getting sporadic wireless access, so I’m able to tweet a lot. More to come!