Working across both higher education and industry provided for some unique insights where academic insights can inform industry work which can then inform learning and teaching.
I was contracted at the end of 2019 to assist Australian Pork (APL)with the development of a game changing strategic plan development. They were looking for new ideas and the ability to introduce change to both producers and stakeholders. 16 workshops across 5 states were planned. Stakeholders and producers were separated in the workshops. The aim was to use scenario planning and ideation to generate ideas that could be then taken forward into the strategic plan.
What’s important about this learning and teaching story?
Traditional Farmers have struggled to change their business methods and to embrace change. The groups that support them need to be the catalyst to help make that happen – they can’t do that if they too are stuck on the same old merry -go -round. Providing research insights and data to these farmers hasn’t brought about the transformational change that is needed. Many businesses do lots of strategic planning but not much strategic thinking.
The opportunity was to learn from academic theory and translate that into a teaching method that would help to deliver a step change in the industry. Conversely, learning from the process enabled insights to be delivered back into the development of a new subject and to change some of my approaches to teaching my students.
What were you trying to achieve?
I wanted to use the literature to inform my process for APL and my learnings from industry to translate back into my development of teaching material and my approach to teaching.
The process required extensive research into the future issues affecting the Pork industry – by default this meant Australian agriculture. It also meant researching the literature on strategic thinking, ideation, creative ideas generation and change management.
I needed to ensure that I didn’t intimated farmers and stakeholder with the process I developed by understanding andragogy and to be able to translate insights back into subject development and teaching in a way that enhanced student outcomes and learning. It is important that relevant, insightful and current real-world concepts underpin my teaching.
What did it look like?
Scenario planning was used to develop three possible visions (stories) of the future. Ironically one of these was a disease transmitted from pigs to human that shut down the whole world and another was a war with China and the US!
The scenarios were reviewed one at a time by table groups using the following process:
- What are the critical issues raised?
- List them in your team
- Move on to ideation to think of solutions to these issues. (independently first)
- Do independent thinking about ideas to solve the critical issues using the techniques provided. (use the ideas sketch)
- Share your idea in the group once everyone one has had time to think alone.
- Develop team ideas on porkination Ideation worksheet
The teams were provided with a range of areas for ideation to assist their thinking.
They were taught a range of ideations techniques: Analogous thinking, Opposite thinking, Provocation, Picture Association and Trend vs Trend matrix. APL got some amazing insights and ideas from people they perhaps thought would not be able to contribute at that level. We did make many uncomfortable but that’s where the best ideas live – outside of the comfort zone. The presentation process enabled them to fully participate and surprise themselves with their insight. I want this to happen for my students also.
Some key things that I learnt:
- It was important to understand the concept of cognitivism in andragogy (Tomei, 2010) in order to conduct the workshops in a manner that engaged both producers ( of varying educational levels) and stakeholders ( who could be from a range of areas including vets, DPI, supermarket buyers, researchers from universities, abattoirs and others) Adults work best when given choices and a variety of conceptual frameworks. They are autonomous and self-directed.
- It was important to develop the workshops so that these principals could be utilised. These workshops were going to be very different to anything any of them had experienced before and so the principals of experiential learning using action research would need to be applied.(Kolb, 1984) (Hayes, 2014)
I have now used the research and the thinking in designing a new 2-point subject MGM502 Leading Change. This subject may have students who have no previous tertiary education experience, or they may be qualified at a much higher level. The subject has been designed to provide two conceptual frameworks – that based on diagnosis and problem solving and the other based on communication and people management. The assessments have been designed to consider action research principals and andragogy in that the material focuses on how this will assist them in their goals for their organisation. These are authentic tasks that allow them to collaboratively solve problems and contribute to change within their current workplace. They require data gathering for diagnosis, and action planning both key elements of action research. Workshops are practical and based on the learning from working with APL. These include allowing the choice of techniques for data collection, ideation and diagnosis.
My thinking around how to develop and deliver this subject was heavily influenced by my research and experience in running these workshops. The workshops were modified after each session as it became clear what worked and what didn’t.
The subject has not been evaluated by students yet but learnings and feedback from students will no doubt produce further opportunities to amend and fine tune.
How can I make this happen?
Our students are often working in industry and often with a lot of experience. In my experience, at post graduate level, few have any experience in the academic realm. My ability to use real world experience to provide them with insights and stories is very valuable. The understanding and application of the tenants of andragogy and ideation techniques enables greater depth of insight. Real learning and ‘AH HA!’ moments come when you are in the learning zone. How can you take your students from their comfort zone into the learning zone? How do you stay up to date with your industry at the grass roots level? How can you use that information to demonstrate that we are current and engaged? Our brains get in a rut – time to get them out 😊
DeBono, E. (1983). PO:Beyond Yes and NO. Ringwood, Vic, Austarlia: Penguin Books.
Hayes, J. (2014). The Theory and Practice of Change Management. London: Palgrave MacMillian.
Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential Learnnig:Expereince as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Tomei, L. A. (2010). Designing Instruction for the Traditional, Adult, and Distance Learner: A New Engine for Technology-Based Teaching. In L. A. Tomei, & L. Tomei (Ed.), Learning Theories and Andragogy: Teaching the Adult Learner (pp. 15-33). Hershey: IGI Global.