Tag Archives: Business

Entrepreneurial Thinking—Student-Centred Learning with a Grown-Up Twist

I’ve been thinking of another session I attended during the Cowordlennect 2015 conference: Think like an Entrepreneur by MARS, a member of Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs .

Entrepreneurial Thinking: The conference session was for K-12 teachers, but I found the strategies exciting and relevant for any learning environment. Why? Well, I thought about student buy-in, excitement, and engagement. Students sometimes resist student-centred learning: Can’t you just tell me what to do? This just seems like more work. What’s the answer, the formula? 

Fair statement and questions. Essentially, I think students just want to know WHY. . . an important question. Renaming student-centred learning as  Entrepreneurial Thinking gave me an answer to the question, “Why student-centred learning?”. . .  an answer that makes sense to university students because it has real-world application–inherent in its very name.

During the session, we participated in a Design Thinking activity.

Step 1: In groups, we explored a general problem (our “problem” was student engagement). We were given sticky notes, markers, and a large paper divided into three sections labelled classroom, administration, and national.

Step2: We explored the “problem” from the three  perspectives, writing our ideas on the sticky notes and placing them in the related sections.

Step 3: We clustered the sticky notes according to theme and their relatedness.

Step 4: We identified one underlying “problem” that we felt we could address, and then we explored potential solutions. To guide us, we watched a video of  Clay Christensen’s Milkshake Marketing strategy which frames products (or solutions) as doing a “job” for people. For example, as a teacher choosing an instructional strategy, I might ask myself, “What job am I hiring this Design Thinking activity to do for my students?”.

Download a copy of the activity template

Hopefully you’re getting ideas.  Personally, I thought of our programming for our at-risk students (i.e., students who are at risk of being on academic probation). Using this Design Thinking strategy, students could explore a problem (like social networking and  privacy) in a way that not only develops their research skills but also builds their confidence–confidence that they can  make a real difference in the world.

I also thought of our academic-zone.com online programming and asked myself, “What job did we hire academic-zone to do?” . . . for students, for teachers, and for administrators. To our clients: “What job did you hire academic-zone to do?”. To our future clients: “What job would you hire academic-zone to do for you and your students?”.

The question is direct and focuses on outcomes.

Please share your thoughts.

Cheers,
Margaret

3c94c98Margaret Groombridge
Coordinator Learning Skills Instruction
A-Z Learning Services, Brock University

Grade Forecasting: Can a “Reality Check” Motivate Students?

“Optimism is generally a good thing, but it can sometimes interfere with learning,” states Dr. Michael J. Armstrong in his submission to Teaching Professor, February 2015, in which he outlines his grade forecasting strategy for students.[i]

Dr. Armstrong, an associate professor in Brock University’s Goodman School of Business, provides students with an opportunity to predict their final course grade (using test scores early in term and linear regression). This process addresses students’ tendency to be “overly optimistic about their learning process and anticipated course grades,”[ii] encourages a proactive approach (to increase study times or seek support, if needed) and, ideally, improves students’ ability to forecast and self-assess.

Optimism . . .

“can hinder their academic success. There’s no reason to adjust their behavior (say, by studying more) if they believe they are already doing well.”

Dr. Michael J Armstrong, Associate Professor
Goodman School of Business, Brock University

 As a student support provider, I am interested in Armstrong’s strategy as well as his research showing that “weaker students [are] more likely to overestimate how well they are doing in the course”.[iv]   Armstrong’s survey results present an interesting picture of student motivation and behaviour and invite further study:

 “As for the impact of these grade forecasts, 31 percent of the respondents said the forecasting experience made them feel more positive or confident about their course progress, while 35 percent said they felt more negative or worried. Fifty-six percent said their motivation had increased, while 7 percent said it had decreased. Forty-seven percent said they were subsequently studying more than they had previously planned, while 3 percent said they were studying less.”[v]

 These findings illustrate the complexity behind student behaviour. Discovering that they may get a lower grade than expected doesn’t always motivate students to be proactive (e.g., to study more). However, one student commented that “after seeing his forecast, he worked harder to “beat the number,” and was very pleased when he did.”[vi]

screen shot forecasting tool

Student View of Forecasting Spreadsheet

Above is a screen shot of the spreadsheet available to students to forecast their grade. Students fill in their term marks (in red) and the forecast is calculated automatically. My initial reactions to the tool? It’s easy to use and understand. Honestly, I was excited. However, I was also a little shocked and remember saying, “Well, that’s blunt.”

I’ve been thinking about students reactions to the tool: how some are motivated to “beat” the score and how some become anxious or less motivated. I believe that this response relates to students’ confidence and sense of agency. Students with low self-confidence and sense of control may accept the grade as a “done deal,” much like someone might read and accept their horoscope. Other students with higher self-confidence and sense of control may accept their “reading” as a challenge and take steps to improve. Why? . . . perhaps because they believe that they can “do something about it”.

This snapshot of student behaviour relates to my previous blog, 6 Reasons for Student “Apathy,” in which I explore the reasons why many students don’t take advantage of student support services.

Reason #3

Self-Concept and Confidence: Students often make closed statements about their “abilities”, saying “This is how I write” or “I can’t do math” or “I am a 60s student”.  If I don’t believe that I can do better, why would I assess and revise my current strategies? Why would I invest more time and energy?

During an academic-zone.com webinar last month, Tricia from Conestoga College added to my list of reasons why students aren’t taking advantage of what’s available: because students often don’t know what they don’t know.

 So, is the forecasting tool harmful? Will many students crawl back into bed and say why bother?

Overall, I feel that the tool is a fantastic resource to increase students’ awareness—a necessary step for students to become more empowered in the learning process. I also feel that providing students with strategies to improve and information on available services is key. Online resources work well because they can be available at that “Oh oh, I’m in trouble” moment. This was definitely a consideration when our Learning Services team developed Academic-Zone modules to complement our in-person support and offer on-line support 24/7/365.

 I’m also thinking about student control.

 I know the challenge of helping struggling students realize that they have the power to change their behaviour and, consequently, their future. One-on-one, I help students reflect on their past and help them see the role of their choices and actions in the process. I have witnessed their surprise and, as a result,  their excitement and motivation to persist. Is there a way to facilitate this reflective process with the forecasting tool?

I wonder . . .

For more information on Armstrong’s work:

YouTube video describing the application of grade forecasting in a course

YouTube video describing the results of the research study

3c94c98Margaret Groombridge, MEd, BEd, BA, OCT
Lead Designer, Academic-Zone
Coordinator Learning Skills Instruction
A-Z Learning Services, Brock University

[i] Armstrong, M. J. (2015). A grade forecasting strategy for students. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/educational-assessment/grade-forecasting-strategy/

[ii] ibid

[iii] ibid

[iv] ibid

[v] ibid

[vi] Armstrong, M. J. (2013). A preliminary study of grade forecasting by students. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 11(2), 205. doi:10.1111/dsji.12003

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Your Top 10 Hidden Skills Employers Are Looking For

Interviews

Source: Queen’s University Career Services

Employers look for a variety of skills in potential candidates. Depending on the job, these skills may be very technical in nature, but quite often include common “soft skills.” Many job seekers overlook highlighting their soft skills when applying for a job. The Purple Briefcase Blog discusses the value of your soft skills and how to highlight them during your job application.

According to Aol Jobs, the top 10 soft skills job hunters are looking for are:

  1. Strong Work Ethic
  2. Positive Attitude
  3. Good Communication Skills
  4. Time Management Abilities
  5. Problem-Solving Skills
  6. Acting as a Team Player
  7. Self-Confidence
  8. Ability to Accept and Learn from Criticism
  9. Flexibility/Adaptability
  10. Working Well Under Pressure

From personal experience, I’ve always found it useful to carefully review the job posting and job description before applying to a position. To make your application stand out, tailor your resume and cover letter based on the key words and skills employers include in their job posting. If all goes well, you should be prepared to tell hiring managers of how you have effectively used those skills in the interview.

Welcome Our New Team Member!

Adriano Zamai

The Academic-Zone Team would like to welcome a new member—Our new Sales Specialist/Customer Service Administrator Adriano Zamai (Could not find my professional-looking photo… so this will have to do!)! Adriano, a third year Business Administration student studying at Brock University, is currently completing a co-op work term with Academic-Zone. Adriano will be replacing Phil Pa, our previous co-op student, and will be responsible for external Academic-Zone outreach as well as internal promotion to faculty at Brock University; he is ready to answer all your questions about Academic-Zone. Send him an e-mail at academic-zone@brocku.ca . Adriano is excited and ready for all the challenges that await him!

If you have any questions for Adriano, feel free to leave a comment below 🙂

New Team Member

The Academic-Zone Team would like to welcome a new member—Our new Sales Specialist/Customer Service Administrator Phil Pa. Phil, a third year Business Administration student studying at Brock University, is currently completing a co-op work term with Academic-Zone. Responsible for external Academic-Zone outreach as well as internal promotion to faculty at Brock University, he is ready to answer all your questions about Academic-Zone. Send him an e-mail at academic-zone@brocku.ca . Phil is excited and ready for all the challenges that await him!

New Team Member

Paul HackingSales Specialist/ Customer Service Administrator

Paul Hacking
Sales Specialist/ Customer Service Administrator

The Academic-Zone Team would like to welcome a new member—Our new Sales Specialist/Customer Service Administrator Paul Hacking! Paul, a third year Business Administration student studying at Brock University, is currently completing a co-op work term with Academic-Zone. Responsible for external Academic-Zone outreach as well as internal promotion to faculty at Brock University, he is ready to answer all your questions about Academic-Zone. Send him an e-mail at academic-zone@brocku.ca . Paul is excited and ready for all the challenges that await him!