A strategy for engaged learning in an MBA programme
Jordaan, Johannes Albertus
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Engaged learning is a novel combination of known methods, all related to student engagement and aimed at improved learning of subject content and development of generic skills. This study describes the formulation, implementation and evaluation of a strategy for engaged learning in an MBA programme, where the engaged learning strategy was developed from first principles, implemented during a six-month intervention in an MBA Operations Management course, and evaluated through a mixed method study. The study starts with an analysis of a number of the most prominent epistemologies and learning theories and philosophies, from ancient times to the present. Elements that could be used in an engaged learning strategy are extracted from each of them. The most prominent epistemologies contributing to engaged learning are constructivist, cognitivist, connectivist and, to a lesser extent, behaviourist. Principles of andragogy are also applicable. Various learning methodologies that have been developed in the 20th and 21st century are then described and analysed for applicability in an engaged learning strategy. The use of the correct technological tools and assessment strategies to enhance engaged learning are also investigated. The elements of these methodologies, tools and assessment methods that would enable real learning and that would constitute real engagement are highlighted, and a selection is made of methods to include in an engaged learning strategy. Since learning has evolved from mere acquisition of knowledge to the development of a generic skill set that is required by employers, the skills required of MBA students are investigated, and the most required generic skills were chosen to be included in the study. A distinction is made between the often interchanged definitions of generic skills, employability skills and pervasive, soft or generic skills, the latter being chosen for use in this research. Recent research on the relative importance of generic skills for MBA students is described, and a selection of eight generic skills deemed the most important skills that a strategy for engaged learning could develop, is made. These eight skills are discussed, including the importance of each for MBA graduates, ways of developing each skill and instruments to measure the level exhibited of the skill. Evidence of the development of all eight these skills through 21st-century learning methodologies is summarised, and possible causal relationships between these skills are identified. From the principles of learning, as proposed in an array of 21st-century learning methodologies, a practical strategy for engaged learning is proposed, and an implementation plan compiled. This strategy was implemented during the intervention.To evaluate the success of the strategy for engaged learning, a QUANT/qual mixed method approach was used, and the instruments that were used for data collection was validated. Both the quantitative and qualitative methods are described in detail. The strategy for engaged learning was tested quantitatively through a questionnaire that was found to be valid and reliable. Through repeated sample ANOVAs and t-tests, it was found that not only did learning of subject material ensue, but that all the generic skills included in the questionnaire did develop. In all cases, the results are both statistically and practically significant. Following this, the results were triangulated through content analysis of reflection reports and from this analysis, mechanisms for the learning and developing of generic skills are proposed, as well as mechanisms through which the different elements of the engaged learning strategy add value, are proposed. The qualitative analysis not only confirms the quantitative results, but also provides a deeper insight into the mechanisms involved when the strategy for engaged learning is employed.The study concludes with a comparison of the research objectives and the findings, where it is found that all the objectives have been met. Conclusions are drawn, the most important one being that the strategy for engaged learning does result in learning. Some methodological conclusions are also reached. From these conclusions, some recommendations are proposed and the theoretical and practical contribution of the study as confirmed
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