This paper will be focused on evaluating and analyzing the practice that proceeded during the first semester of 2017 under the BPD3100 course unit. This unit is a training session that includes fourteen weeks of different types of workshops that are aimed at analyzing current trends of start-up businesses, their problems, and solutions to these problems. The paper will include the direct analysis of the practice, the description of teaching methods that were used and their evaluation in the SWOT framework.
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Teaching Practice Analysis
During the practice that underwent in the form of a workshop, students were offered to identify relevant cases and analyze business-related trends. This type of delivery included written texts, presentations and industry panel assessments. All of these must have been related to business start-up cases which students needed to analyze to identify relevant trends.
Prior to the workshops, students underwent peer observation activity. The observation included demonstration of a short video. The students’ goal was to analyze the video in small groups of four to five persons. The students were given ten minutes to organize their collective thoughts on the topic and to come to a corresponsive conclusion. After the time was up, students were allowed to share their opinions and thoughts on the subjects presented in the video with the student cohort.
The peer observation proved to be an effective teaching asset as most of the students responded with a high engagement. The students were interested in the topic and, therefore, presented a number of different interesting conclusions that were criticized by others in order to find an even better solution. Another factor that contributed to the success of observation was the duration of the video. It was rather short, but the information presented in it was compressed to only the essentials that the students needed to know.
The practice included a BPD3100 capstone unit for the Bachelor of Accounting degree. The duration of this unit is fourteen weeks, and it is best suited for final year undergraduate study. This type of unit differs from the typical format of lecture or tutorial as it includes a number of workshops that are conducted throughout the unit. Most of the students found this type of teaching practice to be enjoyable because it included an engaging and immersive approach and was rather refreshing.
The aim of the course was to identify relevant cases and analyze prevalent trends. During the teaching practice process, students were allowed to assess the information received in written form, presentations and industry panel assessments. All of the mentioned types of answers were related to business start-up cases which students needed to analyze to identify and evaluate relevant trends.
The students were divided into small discussion groups of four to five people. This type of learning was facilitated to make the educational process easier for the students and also ensure engagement and cooperation. The assessment requirements were outlined to make the assignment more understandable. The students were then shown how the themes presented in the video connect to their upcoming assessment. This aligns best with small group learning approach in the framework of the student-centered practices because of a number of reasons. Firstly, the aim of the workshops was to ensure group cooperation and progress. Secondly, the workshops consisted of relatively small groups of students (up to five persons per group with some exceptions). Finally, there was an important objective of not only achieving group adoption of course material but also teaching students to cooperate to attain a common goal. All of this composes the strengths of this approach.
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However, this approach has a significant amount of weaknesses. The disadvantages mostly revolve around the lack of individual contribution to the process. While working in groups, students are only able to share their ideas for a rather short time. If for example, a student has an interesting idea or comes up with a significant improvement of the solution, they would be unable to detail their idea clearly.
Another strength of this method is that it gives students a way to improve by quickly learning to explain their ideas in shorter time. This would allow creating individual communicative patterns that would enable students to effectively use both their time and their voice. On the other hand, this strength reveals a weakness in the framework of this method. If a student fails to adapt to such environment and pick up necessary communicative skills, they will quickly become frustrated with the situation and, therefore, lose any desire to participate in the activity.
After the students had watched the abovementioned ten-minute long video, they were to discuss different ways to identify proper business cases. The students were then able to choose a particular case for their following project. The project included working on a start-up business that was complicated by a number of circumstances. The students’ goal was to solve the predicament by proposing ways of overcoming or evading obstacles to ensure that the business functions correctly.
Therefore, the purpose of the video was to make sure that the students are aware of the current trends in relevant cases. The video also helped students to identify such cases. Again, the teaching method functioned in the framework of student-oriented approach. The video, however, was a part of case study because the students were to analyze their cases and come up with solutions to them which directly correspond to the case study method. The method was adjusted so that students were able to work in groups rather than working separately. The goal of using this method was to create an opportunity for the students to see their purpose which helped them to focus on the most important points and contribute to the overall productivity of their group. Furthermore, the strength of this method is that it also helped facilitator to set the goals for students which made it easy to communicate with them. All of this ensured that the teaching-learning process was not unilateral and that students understood what they are doing and how it will improve their understanding of the material.
Students’ ability to see the purpose of their assignments also correlates to some principles of andragogy. Namely, the principle of need-to-know, readiness, and orientation. The students desired to know the purpose of mastering the material; they also needed to see how the learned material immediately contributed to their future field of activity. Finally, the cases were problem-centered rather than content-oriented.
After the students studied the material and took notes about the prevalent trends, they were offered to answer some questions about the trends in their groups. Students were allowed to discuss the questions for ten minutes. The expectation was for each student of the group to have two to three minutes to voice their ideas and thoughts. Sharing ideas allowed students to increase their ability to work as a collective. Another goal of this was to stimulate students’ ability to critically evaluate others’ opinions and suggestions. This method, again, aligns with small group learning because the students worked in groups and tried to achieve a common goal.
Some of the students were not encouraged enough to share their opinions which led to some students taking over the discussion by voicing their thoughts and ignoring others’ positions. Therefore, a need occurred to embolden the less involved students to also participate in the conversation. This was achieved by carefully monitoring the process and directly approaching the inactive students. These students were also asked to share their opinions even if somebody else was about to share theirs. This allowed for all of the students’ equal participation in the discussion. Even though some students were more eager to offer solutions, they also needed to learn how to work in groups. Therefore, each student received an equal amount of experience both related to the case study and working in a team.
Another important goal was to teach students to tolerate others’ opinions even despite the fact that some ideas contribute less to the process. Students learned how to respect others’ positions in a group and take their voices into account by having to listen to each one of their partners.
Both video analysis and group discussion should form an essential part of an active learning technique because of a number of reasons. Every learning activity is characterized by altering the long-term memory. Therefore, every learning activity must focus on both behavior and cognition. Forming an active learning activity that would include analyzing video or other interactive material and discussing it in groups would stimulate the students’ cognitive abilities as well as their individual and group behavior. Thus, students would be able to actively explore new material while simultaneously applying it to benefit their knowledge of the material and its understanding.
Practice Evaluation and Possible Improvements
Although the practice was mostly successful, there were a number of shortcomings that came with the selected method of content presentation and analysis. The student cohort was prevailingly foreign with twenty-five students forty percent of which were female and sixty percent male. Because of the composition of the cohort, the groups’ segmentation was somewhat unequal. Some groups had only two students in them while others consisted of more than four. Despite the number of students, each group had one student that would form the bulk of group’s opinion. Most of the group members were equally participating in the discussion. However, there were also some students that did not intend to work with the group even when encouraged to do so. Therefore, it would be advisable to include certain adjustments to ensure that future practices will avoid such drawbacks.
Firstly, it would be beneficial to enact strict division of the class to make sure that the groups are equal. This way every group member and the groups as a whole would be put into the same environment which will create a more intense competition. However, this way of dividing classes may also have its flows. In fact, some students may just refuse to be a part of some group. This would substantially decrease the discipline during the practice which will make it difficult for the facilitator to implement their methods, practices and the desired activity. Furthermore, the groups that would be formed by the students that do not have any desire to work with each other will perform significantly worse than others. This also would not contribute to solving the problem in any way.
Another possible improvement would be to include a way for the students to work individually. As the practice has shown, some students feel less confident while working in groups. This may be a result of other group members dominating over the group’s opinion base. On the other hand, the students that do not perform well in groups may not feel comfortable while working with others. It would be then better to put them on an individual assignment. Therefore, instead of dividing whole class into groups, the facilitator may offer the students a choice between group and individual projects.
There would also be a possibility to involve individual students into working in groups indirectly. This would be achieved by a simple mean. The students that would prefer to work individually must present their results first. The students that worked in groups would then provide constructive feedback on their findings and opinions. This way each student will have an opportunity to receive a measured critique of their performance even if they were not working in groups. Other students that worked in groups, in turn, will have other opinions that they possibly did not consider, so that would be beneficial for them as well.
Another possible way to incorporate individual performance in the activity is to allow students that did not work in groups to provide an adequate evaluation of teams’ solutions and opinions. This would stimulate their ability to critically approach case studies and decision-making. In both situations, the students will receive critique not only from the facilitator but other class members as well.
Including individual performance may significantly improve the overall process on different levels which will ensure even better teaching and learning processes. Therefore, this must be considered as a notable adjustment.
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To summarize, the practice was conducted among the group of students that consisted of 25 persons that were mostly of foreign descent. Most of the students (60%) were male, while the rest (40%) were female. The research proceeded in the form of group work. To be precise, the method of small group learning was used for the most of the procedure. An informative, interactive material (ten-minute long video) was utilized for the educational purposes to ensure that the students successfully received the required information. The students were presented with a task of sharing their thoughts and finding solutions to the designated cases. Groups were divided unequally. Some of the students were reluctant to voice their opinions, while others demonstrated a highly developed ability to overtake the discussion. Therefore, some of the students felt as though they were not involved enough in the process which resulted in less satisfied feedback.
Other results show that there are a lot of opportunities to improve the process with highly useful measures. Such measures may include both organizational and structural changes in the teaching process. There is, of course, need to find even more and better ways to improve the methods that were used in the class. Nevertheless, the results demonstrated that students were able to receive the information and properly evaluate it. The students that were not as involved in the discussion were encouraged to partake as well. This was achieved by thoroughly observing the conversations that transpired after the video presentation and suspending the current debate to create an opportunity for uninvolved students to share their thoughts. Thus, the practice mostly concluded successfully.