“Don’t Learn to Do, But Learn in Doing”

I was recently asked to speak at the Impact Hub Zurich’s event on the future of education: trends and opportunities. I am no educationalist but I am educator, so I decided to speak on what I was comfortable with, my own experience in teaching that I have worked out through trial and error over the last 10 years. I cut my teeth teaching in Singapore to Executive Masters students who would come in the evening for 3 hours of lecturing after a full day at work. They were understandably tired and so I peppered my lectures with as many case study examples as I could in order to demonstrate the real-life applications of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, especially in a place and time when CSR and SD were still very much theoretical ideas and not a day to day reality.

And so to my current class of Masters students at BSL, I continue to try and make my lectures as relevant to real life as I can, knowing that business students need all the practical tools they can to be competitive when they head into the workplace.

This term I decided to use the theme of food and agriculture to discuss as many facets as possible of sustainability and business responsibility, and there is no shortage of material in this sector – from farming practices, (labour, pesticide use, GMOs, animal welfare), to processing (use of palm oil, high fructose corn syrup), transport (carbon footprint), marketing (obesity, fast food, veganism), to food distribution and scarcity.

To learn by doing, I asked my students to interview someone who had something, anything to do with the food sector and get their take on sustainability issues. It could be a restaurateur, it could be their uncle who likes cooking, a farmer, a winemaker, an eminent professor or their mate who likes eating…I look forwards to sharing some of these interviews with you which they have written up in blog form (of course, as the blog is another practical tool the students must master).

And how best for students to learn than to meet people who are “doing”, who can speak with confidence about their career paths and what it’s like to be at the coalface of an organisation. So we were privileged to have some time with Mr Diarmuid O’Connor (Global Agrimaterials Sourcing Manager at Nestlé Nutrition) who captivated us because he didn’t give us the blarney but told us what he did and why, and how sustainability made business sense and that he’d been working for over 20 years to support farmers in producing high quality materials for Nestlé.

I’m looking forwards to some more straight-talking guest speakers coming into the classroom over the coming weeks including Mme Isabelle Chevalley, conseillère nationale in the Swiss parliament who will speak to us about GMOs in Switzerland and Mr Sebastien Kulling who is working on a start-up in the food sector.

Prof. Marina CurranAuthor: Marina Martin Curran PhD,
Professor at BSL

Using technology in the classroom

I was recently in touch with a friend whose company specializes in supporting schools to integrate innovation and new technologies into their teaching processes. It made me think about my own teaching methods and take stock of how and when I use technology in the classroom and beyond for educational purposes and whether it has added value. Most lecturers have little formal training in how to lecture, they learn how to teach on their feet, through trial and error, from feedback from students, and so when it comes to the use of technology this is something that has come to many of us only relatively recently. Continue reading

Is it better to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?

I recently read a fascinating book by Malcom Gladwell entitled “David and Goliath”. The subtitle of the book “Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” gives a good idea of its content.

Malcom Gladwell "David and Goliath"

The introduction explains how David beat Goliath in the Old Testament by using a totally different approach to fighting; his was based on velocity and mobility. It would be very difficult to summarize the whole book, given its diversity and the numerous topics dealt with, from David Boies becoming a famous lawyer in spite of his dyslexia, to the crucial role played by a picture in the history of the American civil rights movement in the 1960s. How to use a disadvantage to win is the common element of the different chapters.
Continue reading