Monthly Archives: March 2013

Student Centred Approaches in Higher Educational Settings

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“One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil.” Nietzsche (1891).

Traditionally, the teacher-centred learning involved the instructor’s active role, whereas the students exhibited a passive, receptive role. Of course, the student-centred learning has many implications for the design of the courses. In this perspective; within the student-oriented approach, the educator adapts to the pupils’ needs, abilities, interests, and learning styles. Handelsman et al. (2004) held that there is sufficient evidence that supplementing or replacing lectures with active learning strategies and engaging students in discovery and scientific process improves their learning and knowledge retention. Many educators are adopting a broad spectrum of the student-centred approaches, which include: Active Learning (Bonwell and Eison, 1991), Collaborative Learning (Bruffee, 1984), Inquiry-based Learning, Cooperative Learning (Johnson, Johnson and Smith, 1991), Problem-based Learning, Peer Led Team Learning (Tien, Roth, and Kampmeier, 2001), Team-based Learning (Michaelson, Knight and Fink, 2004), Peer Instruction (Mazur, 1997) among other methodologies.

As a proponent of active learning I suggest that exercises such as role-playing, debating, student engagement in case studies, active participation in cooperative learning and the like, may be used to create a context of material, where learners work collaboratively. Needless to say, the degree of the teacher’s involvement while the students are being “active” may vary according to the specific task and its context in a teaching unit (Bonwell and Eison, 1991). Examples of “active learning” activities include:

A collaborative learning group: Students are assigned in groups of 3-6 people and they are expected to work together, in tandem in a particular assignment. They are usually requested to answer a question to present to the class or to produce a project. A student debate: Students are urged to participate in activities by giving them the opportunity to express their views and opinions in verbal presentations. Debates will allow the students to take a position and collect information to substantiate their views and explain them to others. Class discussion are usually much more effective in smaller class settings. This educational setting allows the instructor to act as a moderator as s/he can guide the students’ learning experience, and foster the right environment. The students are requested  to critically reflect on the subject matter and use rationality to evaluate their peers’ positions. They are expected to discuss about any topic, in a constructive and objective manner. A discussion may be used as a follow-up activity when the lecture has already been delivered. Similarly, a think-pair-share activity is used when students are encouraged to reflect about the previous lesson. They are expected to discuss with one or more of their peers. Finally they are invited to share their concerns with the class as part of a formal discussion. The instructor is responsible to clarify any misunderstandings. In this case, the learners need a background of the subject to identify and relate what they know to others. Students need to prepared with sound instruction before expecting them to discuss any subject matter on their own.

A class game is a very innovative way to learn, as it provides an opportunity for students’ to review the course material. It also helps the them to enjoy the subject in creative ways. Different games may possibly include; jeopardy and crossword puzzles which keep the students’ minds going. Videos: It transpires that relevant video clips support students in their understanding. It is important that the video relates to the specific topic that students are covering at the particular point in time. The lecturer may possibly include a few questions before you start the video so to engage the students to pay attention to the video. After the video is complete, the students may be divided into groups in order to discuss what they learned. They may also be requested to write a review or points about the video clip or movie.

Evidently, it is up to the instructors to determine the educational goals and objectives. They have to analyse the environment in which they operate, identify the factors which may constrain their approaches, and choose any curricular model and methods that suit to their students. A diversity of approaches and varying methods are to be encouraged. This contribution suggests that a strategy that promotes a student-centred learning is likely to be very effective. Yet, I believe that there is a need for a fair evaluation of the students’ background before any approach can be considered to produce better results than others. The teacher’s duty and responsibility has inevitably changed to a  facilitator of learning. The learner-centred approach suggests that the students are the responsible participants in their own learning  journey.  Such a strategy puts the student at the very centre of the educator’s realms.

References:

Bonwell, C.C. and Eison, J.A. (1991) “Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ERIC Digest”, ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports, The George Washington University.

Bruffee, K.A. (1984) “Collaborative Learning and the” Conversation of Mankind”, College English 46.7: pp635-652.

Handelsman, J. et al. (2004) “Scientific teaching”, Science 304.5670: pp521-522.

Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T. and Smith, K.A. (1991) “Active learning”, Interaction Book Company.

Mazur, E. and Hilborn, R.C. (1997) “Peer instruction: A user’s manual”, Physics Today 50: 68.

Michaelson, L., Knight A., and Fink, L., (2004) “Team- based learning: A transformative use of small groups in  college teaching”, Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Nietzsche (1891) “Decadence, and Regeneration in France (1891-95)” In Forth, C.E. ( 1993) Journal of the History of Ideas, 54:1 pp97-117.

Tien, L.T., Roth, V. and Kampmeier, J.A (2002) “Implementation of a peer‐led team learning instructional approach in an undergraduate organic chemistry course”, Journal of research in science teaching 39.7: pp606-632.

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Valuing regulatory instruments for sustainability reporting

Laudable corporate responsibility practices often involve the development of network relations, as both private and government actors are increasingly investing their discretionary resources in social capital. Societal governance is intrinsically based on a set of increasingly complex and interdependent relationships. Several governments are stepping in with their commitment for corporate governance as they are setting their social and environmental responsibility agenda through different policies and frameworks.

Many countries are following the guidelines of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as these organisations have provided highly recognised international benchmarks for transparent and accountable practices. However, there are other pertinent actors within the local levels of society, which may include civil organisations and industry practitioners. There may be different expectations and perceptions within each stakeholder relationship, which have to be addressed successfully to develop appropriate CSR policies. Essentially, such relational approaches are based on the idea that recent changes and patterns affecting the economic and political structure may transform the roles and capacities of various social agents.

The corporations’ political role has inevitably raised the need for further transparency and accountability of practices. Apparently, the so called ‘standards’ represent voluntary predefined norms and procedures for organisational behaviour with regards to social and environmental issues and are often valid on a global level. There are several well-known examples of such standards, which may contain considerable differences. These standards help corporations to be accountable to the consequences of their actions. Organisations are encouraged to assess and communicate their responsible activities (and impacts) on sustainable issues to their stakeholders.

Yet, it may seem that to date there is still no formal model which can be used as a yardstick to evaluate the standards’ strengths and weaknesses. The accountability standards reflect a shift towards a ‘quasi-regulation’ which is based on a substantive (outcome-based) and reflexive (process-based) law approaches. A ‘substantive’ law approach is regulated by prescribing predefined outcomes, whereas a ‘reflexive’ law approach is regulated by prescribing procedures to determine outcomes in a discursive way. Since most accountability standards are addressing corporations all over the world, their macro-level norms may appear to be quite generic and broad in their content.

According to the EU Commission Expert Group (2012), non-financial reporting enables investors to contribute to a more efficient allocation of capital, and to better achieve longer-term investment goals. It can also help to make enterprises more accountable and contribute to higher levels of citizen trust in business. Several experts have supported the idea of a principles-based approach, rather than a detailed, rules-based one. The EU Commission Expert Group suggested that their framework on non-financial reporting has given flexibility to the companies to decide the topics to report on. The European Union’s experts (hailing from the Directorate General of the Internal Market and Services) came up with an innovative approach, which incentivised the companies to report their non-financial information. Of course, materiality is considered a key concern by audit experts. The experts stressed that improving materiality of reports is useful to address the comparability issues. They advocated that the companies’ boards should have ownership on reporting, in order to make it relevant and effective.

Clearly, the experts did recognise that there were significant differences in national cultural contexts as well as in their respective reporting mechanisms. Some experts have indicated their concern about the consequences of adopting more detailed reporting requirements (including specific key performance indicators) into EU legislation. On the other hand, they did not reject the idea of proposing a list of topics which could be covered by any company when reporting its responsible practices. The current EU framework still does not provide a specific reference framework as to the expected quality of the disclosure of the non-financial reports.

For the time being, the instruments for sustainable reporting are not compulsory, although a wide array of CSR tools and standards have already been developed. The voluntary nature of private non-financial reporting can be a valid reason why governments and businesses did not take a hands-on approach in the development of CSR policy. The governments could possibly play a more pro-active role by setting the regulatory social and environmental standards. The introduction of standards, phase-in periods and use of innovative technologies can possibly bring operational efficiencies and cost savings to the businesses themselves. Such measures may improve the environment, and increase the organisations’ competitiveness. Adequate regulation can possibly contribute to the wider societal and environmental objectives.

Mark Camilleri recently completed his PhD (Management) degree at the University of Edinburgh

Valuing non financial performance and CSR reporting

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Creazione di Valore Sinergetico per la Sostenibilita’ delle Aziende

La letteratura sulla responsabilità sociale ed ambientale suggerisce che ci sono benefici ottimali per l’ imprese che si comportano con integrita. Con questo in mente, la metodologia integra intuizioni della teoria degli stakeholder (stakeholder theory) e la teoria delle risorse (RBV theory) per affinare la base strategica per gli investimenti lodevoli. Image

Inoltre, la tesi fa riferimento alla nozione di Porter e Kramer (2011) e della UE (2011). Tecniche di ricerca di triangolazione sono state usate per scoprire come le imprese turistiche stanno sfruttando la creazione di valore condivisi per se stessi e per la società. L’analisi quantitativa ha testato la relazione tra i benefici che risultano dalle responsabilita sociali ed ambientali in confronto alle risorse che dedicano (risorse umane, finanziarie e investmenti sostenibili nel ambiente). In secondo luogo la fase qualitativa di questo studio e stata effettuata attraverso la realizzazione di interviste con proprietari / gestori nel settore turistico e con esperti governativi che sono responsabili per la regolamentazione politica e per formulare le linee guida per la sostenibilità. I risultati hanno indicato che un comportamento responsabile delle imprese ha portato a risultati ottimali (finanziari e strategici), gestione efficace delle risorse umane, efficienza operativa e risparmi sui costi. Finalmente, la tesi presenta un modello empirico che puo condurre a la ‘creazione di valore sinergetica’  per la società e per l’imprese stesse.  (Dottor Camilleri ha completato la sua tesi alla universita d’Edinburgo, in Scozia).

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