Creating a learning space for growth
KAHLIL GIBRAN SAID a wise teacher “does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” Business schools need to move away from traditional education where the focus is on technical knowledge and skills communicated through lectures and even case studies with no behavioural and emotional components.
In 2005, Alice and David Kolb introduced the concept of “learning space” in an attempt to explain the complex, dynamic nature of learning. To create a learning space that promotes growth-producing experiences for students one needs to assume that students are the principle players in the teaching-learning transaction and not passive minds that need to be filled with the lecturer’s knowledge. There needs to be a shift towards perception, creative thinking and learning – involving the complete being, i.e. head (cognitive), heart (emotion) and hands (physical). The impact of the three modes stimulated together can shift a student’s perspective in a way that a focus on the cognitive part alone cannot.
Business Schools should recognise the complexity of the learning environment and enhance the learning space through experiential learning, which requires that the student actually performs the skill in an environment as close as possible to real life; it allows the student to immerse in the milieu, practise the skill and receive constructive feedback from an expert.
The role of the educator is thus to create the appropriate environment and observe, measure, report, debrief and provide a mechanism for expert feedback. Learning takes place through a process of trial and error with guidance and learning provided through the correcting of expert feedback – feedback that should be as immediate as possible but should not interrupt the learning process of actually performing the skill.
One can expect that the shift from the status quo to creating learning spaces aligned to new education direction will be difficult. But without the shift from the over-emphasis on the science, logic and teaching the optimal answers to conversational learning, acting and reflecting, feeling and thinking, and influencing, Business Schools will not allow students to take charge of their own learning. Modern management requires the practical implementation of skills learned, not regurgitation of theory. Hence, without application knowledge, students will struggle to adapt to the ever-changing workplace.