One of the strengths of the Principles of Responsible Management Education are the regional Chapters. There are thirteen different Chapters located all around the world. Each organise their own events and provide opportunities to connect and share resources. In the UK and Ireland Chapter, a number of special PRME days have been organised to focus attention on different issues of interest to Signatory schools. Most recently, Birmingham Business School organised a day related to innovative pedagogy for responsible business teaching. I spoke with Nishat Azmat, Delphine Gibassier, Madlen Sobkowiak and Raeni about the day, the examples presented and some lessons learnt.
What is PRME day and why did you organise it
Basically, a “PRME day “ is a get together of people interested in responsible management, whether in education, research or even professional services. PRME days started because the Signatories in the UK & Ireland Chapter were looking to make our community of schools more vibrant, to extent our network and to gain additional knowledge. It is easy to organize: you have to have: 1/ a good idea for theme 2/ someone willing to get together people 3/ a room 4/ a bit of money for sandwiches and coffee 5/ advertise in your networks internally, and externally get the support of your chapter to do so. People love these days because it allows exchanges on not only the theme, but on PRME in general, and it builds strong networks and friendships.
Sheffield Hallam University hosted a PRME day on plastic early April which included professional staff, companies and academics joining in on this theme. It ended with discussions on how to integrate plastic into the curriculum. It was great fun, and free for PRME members. The second one was in May in Bristol with the Schumacher Institute on system thinking. Again, a great day of thoughts around research and teaching on a theme central to sustainability. We also ended the day with themed groups and discussions for example on SDGs and system thinking.
Who was involved and how was the day organised?
We decided to organise a PRME day on “innovative pedagogy” and looked around us to see if we could find enough initiatives to present and share. To be honest it would have been best to showcase people from universities around us, but we did not have the time and network for the first one to do so. For the second one, the interventions come from multiple signatories, so that we can really share.
The day (which was actually a half day) involved presentations from 4 professors, our corporate relations manager and a Birmingham-based NGO on responsible leadership. We also looked at some of the challenges that we were each facing in teaching responsible business topics. We had the marketing team and responsible business project team set up a web page, posters and organize the lunch and tapped into the Chapter to promote it widely.
What were some of the challenges that faculty talked about in terms of delivering specific topics of responsible business?
There were several common challenges mentioned throughout the day. This included:
- How to engage students as active and reflective learners and in particular where and how to reach students with different levels of previous engagement or interest in topics regarding sustainability and ethics
- How to deal with resistance of students when responsible business is offered as an optional module.
- How to scale up our teaching of these topics from 8 students to 216 or more. How to fill background gaps with large group teaching.
- How to deal with lack of knowledge about professional ethics.
- How to make students understand that “gaming” is real learning.
- Trust – in social media versus traditional news
- How to move students from seeing these issues from a “third person” perspective to a “first person” or “second person” perspective and help students engage with it from a personal experience standpoint
- How to bridge the gap between the topic and the students as students are predominantly removed from the problem
- The challenge of bringing students on field trips to see ethical issues first hand which are not always possible and often too risky.
What were the approaches presented?
There were six different approaches presented.
- Role play: The aim of the role play was to enable students to live out ethical dilemmas and to foster the student’s ethical thinking and acting across the board. To do so, students were divided into small groups and assigned various roles of stakeholders within an ethical dilemma. Under the supervision of a professional actor, students then had to act out these ethical dilemmas within their assigned role in order to better understand the complexity of ethical decision-making and the consequences of professional behaviour on other stakeholder groups.
- Action learning: The aim of the action learning approach was to provide an opportunity for students to learn by doing a real-live micro investment decision using Kiva for micro-finance. To do so, students got a real monetary voucher to make a live sustainable micro investment. During this process, students had to evaluate various investment opportunities, understand and apply theoretical investment knowledge and justify their investment decisions.
- Social Action campaigns: The Social Action campaigns aimed to support students putting together real live campaigns. Students had to come up with their own social campaign, design all the material and convince investors to get funding for the implementation of the campaign. During the process, students were mentored and supported by outside staff and developed soft and hard skills necessary to set up a social action campaign. Additionally, students were able to keep the campaign going after the end of the project and to ongoingly work on making a change in the world.
- Immersive teaching: Another approach presented was the use of virtual reality material (VR), such as VR case studies, to provide an immersive experience into a real sustainability case. As part of that, students are able to become part of the case study by watching VR videos of the case environment and became part of the sustainability challenge. Additionally, the presentation included an example of a task for students to take a 360-degree image of irresponsible business to be discussed afterwards.
- Alternative Reality Gaming: Alternative Reality Gaming was also presented as an alternative approach to innovative teaching. Within that, students were asked to take part in a game in which they had to make decisions under alternative reality scenarios. In doing so, students were able to experience not just the decision-making process, but also to see the consequences of their decisions to be played out within the game. Additionally, students were able to repeat the game and improve their decision-making skills.
- Video: Lastly, the approach of using factual video and news resources to bring comprehension to complex or multi-layered problems and theories by providing different points of entry was presented. As part of that, an ongoing real live case study was being decided on at the beginning of the term which was then being followed throughout the semester using news videos. Students were encouraged to apply theoretical knowledge to the case and to understand how theories can be applied to real live examples. Additionally, following the case through carious videos allowed students to get a broad range of opinions and viewpoints and understand the case from different angles.
Any interesting insights from the day?
We found it really interesting to see the different connections. For example, the micro-finance example above could be used for a finance, ethics or poverty module. There were practical insights into how to make it “work”, as well as theoretical insights on why those methods are considered interesting approaches for responsible business learning. We also left with a lot of interesting questions (perhaps for another PRME day): How can you incorporate these new technologies into module assessment protocol and How to interest students particularly from more quantitative economics or finance backgrounds?
Another insight, and challenge was that several of the presenters were cautious about the amount of work needed to implemented these innovative teaching opportunities. For example, the theatre class requires guest speakers, and a field trip. The video for ethics requires the professor to actively seek current issue and engage with it in real time (and therefore adapt the teaching each time). They advised to pilot the courses whenever possible, before scaling to compulsory modules.
Any advice for other schools looking to organise a similar day?
It seems a lot of work, but it is not. That is why these “days” are great, because it is low work, but results in fantastic output and connections. I would really advise to build the days around a specific theme and hosted by a different Signatory each time. It is a great way to connect to the network get people to speak together on a theme and share. I would also use the PRME network to promote! The average turnout of those events is 20-30 people, which is great because the group is entirely connected by the end of the day!
The next PRME day at autumn. We have a theme, and we are already starting the preparation. We will have more soon on this! There are already proposals for the spring of 2020, they are very popular!