“It’s in the doing that the idea comes”

The process with which we learn and acquire knowledge is complex. At different stages of our lives, we learn in different ways. Even among our peers, learning differs from a person to another. Learning involves receiving, processing, and assimilating information. As we come from diverse backgrounds, enjoy different experiences, and possess various abilities; the collection of information we accumulate define who we are.  Therefore, with expanding avenues of disbursed knowledge, there is no size that fits all in terms of conveying knowledge.

For this blog, I wanted to explore an idea regarding how we learn. In my undergraduate studies, I came across a saying by the famous architect Edmund Bacon that goes, “It’s in the doing that the idea comes.” Being an architect and urban planner, it is most likely that Bacon meant that the process of exploring options either by sketching or modeling help ideas to crystallize. In the context of mindful learning, the act of testing alternatives to reach an intended goal is a useful tool for learning.

To me, this is not the same as training to learn a skill until it becomes a second nature. Unlike learning basics, which often does not involve thinking, the ideas the Bacon presents a visceral involvement between the mind and other senses. His idea of exploring (or “doing”) could stimulate triggers in the mind that when collided with other triggers could lead to a breakthrough (or “idea”). Learning in this light is similar to searching for a missing puzzle piece and the journey of finding it defines what is learned.

An Example of a Hybrid Learning Environment

In today’s world, asking students to sit through a lecture where a teacher deliver course material is proving to become less and less effective. There is no doubt that lectures have their inherent advantage of maintaining physical face-to-face interactions. In his article, Robert Talbert highlights some of what he believes the purposes for lectures as a teaching medium. These include conveying the thought process and the cognitive structure with which facts and problems are viewed and dealt with. On the other hand, many argue that lectures focus on teaching rather than learning. Mark Carnes writes about the emerging lack of motivation and interest in higher education. Carnes advocates for shifting from “teacher-oriented system” to learner-centered process.” Such process, Cranes argues, could help lead a departure from the classic academic experience.

As learning environments trigger different reactions by different people, there is definitely no one size that fits all approach to education. However, could a hybrid of teaching styles be successful?

In trying to answer this question, I will be sharing my experience with such a program. The Business for International Professional Program (BUSIP) offered by the University of Washington English Language Program (ELP) and Foster Business School offers a unique approach to teaching English and Business through a hybrid of lectures and simulations. The program is designed for international students who want to improve their business language abilities and develop their professional business skills. The program accepts international students from any field who completed their undergraduate education. The program consists of two main parts. The first is the lectures where students learn the themes and concepts of business. This is a typical classroom setting that includes lectures, readings, and discussions. The second part is a simulation of global business that runs throughout the quarter outside of the lecture hours.

The goal of the simulation is to prepare students for the global business workplace. The simulation includes a series of interactive workshops designed to mimic real-life business situations. In the simulation, the students are divided into 12 groups each represent a hypothetical entity. These groups are divided as follows: 3 groups represent different governments, 3 groups represent multinational corporations, and 6 groups represent local companies. In the simulation, each group develops strategies and goals that follow best business practices and seek to achieve them. Throughout the course, students apply what they learn in the lectures and test it in the simulation.

I found this way of learning very helpful to convey new concepts to students and push them to put it to the test. As student practice their management, marketing, and negotiation skills in a close to a real-life setting, they can decide what work and what does not work from what they learned from the lectures. This also helps teachers extract instant feedback that makes similar tools very applicable to a wide range of fields.

Networked Learning

As future academics, we are encouraged to produce work that gets published in academic journals. Research papers are a powerful tool to communicate scientific findings. They help to showcase the latest in scientific research. In its own way, academic journals support the theory of networked learning as it communicates knowledge and information between individuals. However, there are a number of other tools that apply to the networked learning theory. The readings touch on blogging as a tool for disseminating knowledge. Micro-publishing platform, such blogs, can grant higher visibility and engage a wider audience outside of academia. It can also bring the audience through the research process. Due to the interactive nature of blogging, it can extract useful feedback. Blogging fall under the umbrella of networked learning by maintaining communications between individuals, and information. I see blogging to be a useful avenue in which ideas can be expressed. It helps build relations between like-minded people outside of the rigorous of scientific publication. Communication in blogging build relationship to other and relationship to scientific outlets which can establish further apatite to it.