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Activity or Action - Colin Simpson

Presentation at the HEA-funded workshop 'Activity or action? Theory and evidence to support the use of active learning pedagogies in Business Management'.

Based on a consideration of the constructivist underpinnings of Active Learning (AL) pedagogies and evidence from tutors who have incorporated group projects, business simulations and Problem-Based-Learning (PBL) into their courses, this workshop will support the notion that Active Learning pedagogies provide a radical and effective departure from traditional approaches.

This presentation is part of a related blog post that provides an overview of the event:

For further details of the HEA's work on active and experiential learning in the Social Sciences, please see:

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Activity or Action - Colin Simpson

  1. 1. Active Learning: Activity or Action? Colin Simpson University of Gloucestershire
  2. 2. Business Management graduates • Typical Business and Management honours graduates should have an enhanced ability “to develop and apply their own perspectives to their studies, to deal with uncertainty and complexity, to explore alternative solutions, to demonstrate critical evaluation and to integrate theory and practice in a wide range of situations.” (HEA, 2007)
  3. 3. Active Learning • Active Learning pedagogies are “action- centred” (Biesta, 2006) since they afford students opportunities to respond in unique ways to learning opportunities rather than reproducing the subject matter of a pre- determined curriculum.
  4. 4. What is Active Learning? • Simulations • Group projects • Problem-Based-Learning • Investigative Projects • Case Studies
  5. 5. Constructivist origins of AL • AL versus teacher-centred pedagogies • Knowledge construction versus transmission • Collaborative versus individual learning • Good questions versus finding answers • Negotiation versus transaction • Cognitive puzzlement versus gradualism • Managerial messes versus structure • Process or practice versus outcome
  6. 6. Joint Action • Conversational Realities • Rhetorical-responsive language use in messy indeterminate contexts • Relationality and authorship • The participatory nature of meaning construction in complex problem solving • Meta-cognitive skills and performance • Reflection on formal and informal theories of knowledge construction
  7. 7. Group work processes • Planning • Choosing group members • Division of tasks • Monitoring • Coordination of individual contributions • Discussion, debates and negotiation • Preparation and mutual support • Evaluating • Peer review of contributions • Task completion
  8. 8. AL as action-centred pedagogy • Activity can be seen as: • Imposed (teacher as authority) • Predictable (a series of set tasks) • Unreflective (students on autopilot) • Action involves: • Authorship (students pose their own questions) • Indeterminacy (unstructured contexts) • Metacognition (conscious reflection on skills)
  9. 9. Questions • Which AL pedagogies are used/designed into the courses at your institution? • What are the experiences of teachers and students on courses which use AL at your institution? • Any other questions?
  10. 10. Readings on Active Learning pedagogies, constructivism, social construction, action etc. • Berger, P.L. and Luckmann, T. (1967) The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise on the Sociology of Knowledge, London, Penguin. • Biesta, G (2010) Good Education in an Age of Measurement: Ethics, Politics, Democracy, London, Paradigm. • Danford, G. L. (2006) Project-based Learning and International Business Education, Journal of Teaching in International Business, 18 (1), 7-25. • Dochy, F., Segers, M., Van Den Bossche, P. and Struyven, K. (2005) Students’ Perceptions of a Problem-Based Learning Environment, Learning Environments Research, 8, 41-66. • Duffy, T.M. and Jonassen, D.H. (eds.) (1992) Constructivism and the Technology of Instruction: A Conversation, Hillsdale, Lawrence Erlbaum. • Evans, J., Kerridge and Loon, M. (2013) Campus Based Students’ Perspectives on Strategic Management Simulation: A Contextual Study, World Journal of Social Sciences, 3(2), 12-24. • Gergen, K.J. (1995) “Social Construction and the Educational Process”, in Steffe and Gale eds. (1995), Constructivism in Education, Hillsdale NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 17-39. • Heriot, K., Cook, R., Jones, R.C. and Simpson, L. (2008) The Use of Student Consulting Projects as an Active Learning Pedagogy: A Case Study in a Production/Operations Management Course, Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 6 (2) 463-481. • Lean, J., Moizer, J., Towler, M. and Abbey, C. (2006) Simulations and Games: Use and barriers in higher education, Active Learning in Higher Education, 7(3), 227-242. • Meyers, C. and Jones, T. (1993) Promoting Active Learning: Strategies for the College Classroom, New York, Jossey, Bass. • Nijhuis, J.F., Segers M.S., and Gijselars, W.H. (2005) Influence of Redesigning a Learning Environment on Student Perceptions and Learning Strategies, Learning Environment Research, 2005, 8, 67-93. • Plastow, N., Spiliotopoulou, G. and Prior, S. (2010) Group assessment at first year and final degree level: a comparative evaluation, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 47 (4), 393-403. • Salas, E., Wildman, J.L. And Piccolo, R.F. (2009) Using simulation-based training to enhance management education, Academy of Management Learning and Education, 8(4), 559-573. • Savery, J.R. and Duffy, T.M. (2001) Problem-Based Learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework, CRLT Technical Report No. 16- 01, Bloomington, Indiana, Center for Research on Learning and Technology, Indiana University. • Schraw, G. and Moshman, D. (1995) Metacognitive Theories, Educational Psychology Review, 7 (4), 351-371. • Shotter, J. (1993) Conversational Realities: Constructing Life through Language, London, SAGE. • Steinemann, A. (2003) Implementing Sustainable Development through Problem-Based Learning: Pedagogy and Practice, Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, 129 (4), 216-224. • Stinson, J. E. and Milter, R. G. (1996) Problem-Based Learning in Business Education: Curriculum Design and Implementation Issues, available at • Takahashia, S. and Saito, E. (2011) Changing pedagogical styles: a case study of The Trading Game in a Japanese university, in Teaching in Higher Education, 16 (4), 401-412. • Waddel, K. and McChlery, S. (2008) Beyond Enron: Introducing the risks of financial mismanagement to business and management students – a case study approach, International Journal of Management Education, 8 (1), 11 – 22. • Waters, L. and Johnston, C. (2004) Web-delivered, problem-based learning in organisational behaviour: a new form of CAOS, Higher Education Research and Development, 23 (4) 413-431.