Tip #143: Accelerated Learning in Croatia #4

Accelerated learning techniques include involving as many senses as possible for whole brain learning and to meet the needs of different learning styles. Color, music, touch, movement, visual stimulation, and the use of metaphor and story are all very important ingredients in an accelerated learning classroom.

After my first trip to Croatia to train trainers for the small business development centers in 1998, I returned four more times in March and July of 2000 and March and May of 2001 to work with the School of Economics at JJ Strossmeyer University in Osijek.. My assignment was to help them design the first European student-centered MBA program in Entrepreneurship and train the faculty there. My son Seth accompanied me on the first two trips, becoming a world traveler at the ripe old age of 10!

When I returned to Osijek in March, 2001, it was again a busy time:

  • Facilitating the 8 hour Team Teaching Primer workshop for 14 faculty.
  • Outlining the 20 hour Negotiation Skills course to be co-facilitated with Slavica and Ljerka.
  • Conducting consultations with seven faculty to: discuss interactive pedagogy; create, review, and/or revise lesson plans; and plan student projects.
  • Eliciting student feedback regarding the program to date, as well as desired content for inclusion in the Negotiation Skills course.

On the whole, I observed that the faculty appeared to be sincerely attempting to put into practice the interactive pedagogy that they had been taught. As with any new endeavor, some needed additional experience and coaching support.

Feedback from students indicated that they appreciated the program. They also saw visible evidence of professional growth and effectiveness of individual professors, citing the professor whom I had coached the last visit in particular!

The Team Teaching Primer generated a lot of good ideas among those present. They were aware of a continuing need to discuss their planned curricula with each other and integrate their lessons, where appropriate, to avoid unnecessary duplication.

Unfortunately, only a few full professors attended the Primer. It was clear that more would have to be done to minimize the impact of the traditional formal educational hierarchy on the partnership between the degreed and lesser degreed –faculty” in the program.

In order to establish a strong team identity and obtain commitment to shared team goals and procedures, I suggested a two day retreat:

The first day would be devoted to interactive team building training exercises designed to:

  • create a sense of team;
  • reinforce the importance of team work;
  • develop more comfortable interpersonal relationships; and
  • increase the awareness and appreciation of individual member’s strengths and capabilities.

The second day would be devoted to establishing the formal Entrepreneurship program team by:

  • identifying team procedures and expectations (in relation to the program, the program faculty, individual teaching teams, and the students);
  • discussing the key focus and approach of each course to identify opportunities to integrate or build upon content; and
  • opening up both formal and informal communication channels.

Although plans were made to schedule this retreat, the difficulty in coordinating schedules with the Entrepreneurship program and their other teaching assignments ultimately made this impossible.

As an adjunct to this retreat, or to accomplish some of the same ends should the retreat not be possible, I also recommended that program faculty meetings be scheduled and conducted in which the overall program philosophy, as well as the individual course content and design, would be discussed. The desired end result would be an integrated and consistent program curriculum.

Individual faculty were encouraged to observe each other’s lectures as well as to offer peer coaching, when requested.

In the interest of creating a formal systematized curriculum, I strongly encouraged that a written orientation to the Entrepreneurship program should be created for all continuing and ad hoc program faculty, so that there was a complete and consistent understanding of the mission, pedagogical philosophy, organization, structure, norms, and expectations.

It also seemed very important that annotated course outlines and lesson plans be created and/or compiled for each course.

After helping to draft and shape the curriculum, train the faculty in student-based teaching techniques, audit the courses, coach individual faculty members, and recommend ways to ensure a formal consistent program, I was eager to return for a brand new experience. During my fifth visit, I would actually join the faculty to present a negotiation skills class!

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