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Active Learning Based on
Student Career Aspirations

Presented by Patrick J. Lyons, St. John's University
at the Fourth International Business, Economics, Environment and
Education Summer Symposium, Iona College, June 20, 2009.

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  1. Introduction

    1. "What Fifty Said" by Robert Frost

    2. Students today want to develop critical thinking and communication skills necessary to be successful in business.

      1. They seek class environments where they can not only obtain knowledge, but also learn to apply that knowledge to situations meaningful to their future careers.

      2. This paper presents an active learning environment (CALOPS) developed for an undergraduate operations management course based on the career aspirations of each individual student.

  2. Literature Review

    1. Auster and Wylie (2006) active learning framework - four dimensions of the teaching process:
      1. Context setting

      2. Class preparation

      3. Class delivery

      4. Continuous improvement.

  3. Context setting

    1. Establishing norms, expectations, and ground rules (Bonwell & Eison, 1991).

      1. Exercise 1 - using a career interest inventory to determine a realistic career

      2. Exercise 2 - finding an actual job opportunity consistent with their realistic career

      3. Exercise 3 - finding information about the organization offering the job opportunity

      4. Exercise 4 - formulating their career strategy for the next five years.

  4. Class preparation

    1. Unlike lecture, which focuses primarily on content, preparation for active learning requires attention to both content and process.

    2. Content - traditional class website with:

      1. Course outline -

      2. Calendar -

      3. Class discussion outlines -

    3. Class Participation Action Item (CPAI)

      1. Procedure -

      2. Modify Word document -

      3. CPAI Submittal Form -

      4. CPAI File


  5. Class Delivery

    1. Managing class participation effectively is an important element of class delivery (Auster & Wylie, 2006).

      1. Ensure well distributed “air time” (Bonwell & Eison, 1991; Keyser, 2000; McKeachie, 1999)

      2. Draw on student experience (Gross Davis, 1993; McKeachie, 1999; Meyers & Jones, 1993).

    2. CPAI - primary in-class activity is a short informal role play about how the student will apply a selected course topic to a realistic future work situation consistent with his/her career exercises.

      1. Student sits in desk next to professor.

      2. Student and professor have short informal role playfollowing Word document.

      3. In beginning of semester, professor follows outline exactly.

      4. Later, professor discusses topic and future work situation with chosen student, but asks class for application and improvement in operations.

    3. Application of Operations Management Presentation - expanded version of CPAI.

      1. Helps students answer open-ended job interview questions, such as, “In the next year or two, how might you help us improve our organization?”

      2. Based on case interview technique used by major consulting firms, where interviewee is given case situation and asked to solve a strategic question.
        See McKinsey & Company website

      3. Procedure -

      4. Modify PowerPoint -

      5. Modify Excel -

  6. Continuous Improvement

    1. Primary input is feedback from students.

      1. Quick verbal checks

        1. Class discussion outlines facilitate quick verbal feedback.
          Class following discussion of a given chapter begins with brief review.
          If no questions, then professor can be proactive and ask a few questions to obtain appropriate feedback.

        2. CPAIs may be used for feedback.
          specially when used in the volleyball (not ping pong) mode.
          Professor discusses topic and future work situation with a chosen student, but asks the class for volunteers to discuss the application and improvement in operations.
          This checks not only knowledge of topic, but also ability to apply it.

      2. End-of-term evaluations - anonymous paper-based form
        1. Career exercises - 35 students responded,
          13 saying that career exercises reinforced their existing career plans,
          22 said they gained new insights into career options.

        2. CPAIs helpful in understanding application of topics,
          6 students felt they could learn to apply course topics without CPAIs,
          29 students felt that CPAIs were helpful.
          Some did list topics they felt they will apply in their future careers.

        3. Application of Operations Management presentation,
          26 students felt they did improve their skill in performing a cost effectiveness analysis,
          3 felt they did not improve, and 6 did not respond.

  7. Conclusions

    1. First conclusion: because students found it straightforward and relatively easy to create and submit CPAIs, other faculty should consider creating similar exercises for their courses.

    2. Second: basing CPAIs on each individual student’s career aspirations increases student motivation and should be considered when updating courses.

    3. Third: the effort to create the CPAI file is well worth the improvement in class discussions.
      When students hear how others will apply course topics to future work situations, the other students gain more insight into application of operations management to business and become more engaged in the class.

  8. References

    1. Auster, E. R. & Wylie, K. K. (2006). Creating Active Learning in the Classroom: A Systematic Approach. Journal of Management Education: Vol. 30, No. 2, pp 333-353.

    2. Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J.A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. Washington, DC: George Washington University ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education.

    3. Gross Davis, B. (1993). Tools for teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    4. Holland, J. L. (1994) Self-Directed Search, Form R, 4th ed. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

    5. Keyser, M. W. (2000). Active learning and cooperative learning: Understanding the difference and using both styles effectively. Research Strategies, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp 35-44

    6. McKeachie,W. J. (1999). Teaching tips: Strategies, research and theory for college and university teachers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    7. Meyers, C., and T.B. Jones. (1993). Promoting Active Learning: Strategies for the College Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    8. McKinsey & Company, (2008) retrieved Jun 18,

  9. Links to My Presentation and Article
    1. Active Learning Based on Student Career Aspirations, (presentation outline) at the Fourth International Business, Economics, Environment and Education Summer Symposium, Iona College, June 20, 2009.

    2. "Active Learning Based on Student Career Aspirations", (formal paper) to appear in the Proceedings of the Fourth International Business, Economics, Environment and Education Summer Symposium, Jun 20, 2009.

                       (This page was last edited on June 12, 2009 .)