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This third topic is something I’m quite passionate about! I was thinking finally something that I feel more comfortable with 🙂

I have been thinking a lot about this both when it comes to my role as a lecturer as well as from the perspective of my discipline. So this time my reflection will be more theoretical in nature.

All lecturers in higher education are granted enormous responsibility, as at the end of their first-cycle studies, for example, students shall have knowledge and skills in their field of study; critical assessment ability; ability to independently identify, formulate and solve problems; preparedness to deal with changes in the working life (e.g. see the formulations in the Swedish Higher Education Act, chapter 1, section 8). Furthermore, these knowledge, skills and abilities need to be strongly related to and match the labor market needs. This is valid for all fields including innovation sciences. As Sawyer (2006), Athaide & Desai (2005) and Schoemaker (2008) point out modern education needs to evolve in an answer to the changing economic needs reflecting the knowledge economy and the high rate of change facing many industries today.

One inevitably asks herself or himself, “what are the underlying processes leading to fulfilling this responsibility?” or simply put “how do we do it?”. The complexity of these underlying processes is further increased by the fact that every lecturer is working within a certain social, cultural, regulatory and institutional frameworks. In addition, a complex process of interaction is taking place between lecturer and students as well as among the students themselves which catalyzes and shapes not only the students learning, but also the lecturer’s work and professional capabilities development. These processes are also shaped by the unique characteristics and background of each student.

According to me the lecturer can show the “door” to knowledge” but students are the one who can “open” it. In my view teaching should empower and equip students to deal with the grand challenges of today. It should encourage students to take ownership of their learning as they acquire competence and decision-making practice applicable to real-life challenges. The more students are intrigued in the subject and motivated to learn, the deeper learning strategies will be employed. This view is the opposite of the atomistic view that sees students as merely passive recipients of the knowledge that lecturers have and would like to share (Elmgren & Henriksson, 2010).

The abovementioned view influences the pedagogical methods, which I employ in my educational activities. Those, according to me, should be focused not only to enlarge the knowledge base of the students, but more importantly on their social skills and how this knowledge can be applied in a practical situation in various contexts, i.e. students need to experience and experiment in collaboration with others in order to learn. The pedagogical methods I employ in my educational activities are in line with Experiential Learning Theory by Kolb (1984), which looks at learning as a process consisting of iterative steps where knowledge is created through concrete experience and experimentation, followed by observation and abstract reflection. Through this learning process three types of learning are most common cognitive learning (i.e., problem-solving), situative learning (i.e., group learning), and action learning (i.e., learning by doing). I have employed all those types of learning.

Image credit to Patricia Kambitsch

Apart from the standard lectures, the majority of the assignments I am using are designed so students will be applying, creating, solving problems, etc. Since 2004 I have extended my repertoire of teaching and learning activities (TLA) from case-based learning (cognitive learning), teamwork exercises and assignments (situative learning) to simulations, workshops and live cases based on real-life challenges and companies (learning by doing). 

When it comes to the pedagogical trends and traditions in the field of innovation science, it is evident that the ability to innovate and be creative in a collaborative setting is vital for every individual, respectively every organization. Based on that, Fixson (2009) poses two questions: “how can these skills be thought and learned?” and “can innovation be though at all?”. According to him, courses of teaching innovation are the ones which

“…create an environment in which diverse teams learn by experiencing different stages of innovation” (Fixson, 2009, p. 200).

This statement is based on Beckman & Barry’s (2007) work, who conceptualize innovation itself as a learning process through experimentation and experiencing. This learning process is only possible through social interaction and collaboration with others. It places the teaching of innovation close to the socio-cultural tradition, originating in the work of Vygotsky (Elmgren & Henriksson, 2010). His work gave an alternative view of human learning:

“…learning is seen in terms of interactions between young people and adults in social contexts. …human actions are dependent on their intentions, on their interpretations of their experiences in the everyday social world and on the language through which these experiences are discussed” (Entwistle, 2009, p. 22)

All this would imply that the pedagogical methods are focused not only to enlarge the knowledge base of the students, but more importantly on their social skills and how this knowledge can be applied in a practical situation in various contexts, i.e. students need to experience and experiment in collaboration with others in order to learn, thus learning might “involve a change in oneself as a person” (Entwistle, 2009, p. 32). This means that various pedagogical methods are employed for stimulating both declarative and functioning knowledge with a prevailing focus on the functioning knowledge. Biggs & Tang (2007) point out that, in the case of functioning knowledge, focus is put on teaching/learning situations for relational and extended abstract levels of understanding according to the SOLO taxonomy (structure of the observed learning outcome), e.g. students will be “applying”, “creating”, “solving problems”, etc. Examples of teaching and learning activities (TLA) are case-based learning, teamwork, problem-based learning etc.  Additionally, teamwork is extremely important as social skills along with the professional knowledge and competences are vital for successful innovation process. Understanding and handling cultural differences both in traditional organizational settings and within virtual teams is also gaining importance in line with the recent trends of new product development.

So, tell me, what are your thoughts in relation to your own discipline? What are the pedagogical tradition(s) you work within?

References

Athaide & Desai, 2005, “Design and Implementation of an Interdisciplinary Marketing/Management Course on Technology and Innovation Management”. Journal of Marketing Education, 27(3): 239-249.

Beckman & Barry, 2007, “Innovation as a Learning Process: Embedded Design Thinking”. California Management Review. 50: 25-56.

Biggs & Tang, 2007, “Teaching for quality learning at university”, UK: Society for Research in Higher Education and Open University Press.

Elmgren & Henriksoon, 2010, ”Universitetspedagogik”, Stockholm: Norstedts.

Entwistle, 2009, “Teaching for understanding at university. Deep approaches and distinctive ways of thinking”, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.

Fixson, 2009, “Teaching Innovation through Interdisciplinary Courses and Programmes in Product Development: An Analysis at 16 US Schools”, Creativity and Innovation, 18(3): 199-208.

Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Sawyer, 2006, “Educating for Innovaiton”. Teaching Skills and Creativity, 1: 41-48.

Schoemaker, 2008, “The Future Challenges of Business. Rethinking Management Education and Research”. California Management Review, 50(3): 119-139.

Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning