Tip #144: Accelerated Learning in Croatia #5

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 May, 2001, it was to be my last visit. However, this time I came as an honorary member of the faculty to co-teach a Negotiation Skills class with Ljerka. The course content was designed to meet the students’stated interests, based upon a training needs assessment. It included two days of Getting to Yes techniques, with a real-life negotiation homework assignment that walked them through the five steps. Because several of the students were seasoned negotiators, it also included two days of Getting Past No techniques, with a real-life negotiation homework assignment that walked them through the six steps.

After reviewing the nature of the negotiation situations with which the students were dealing in their homework assignments, it was clear that the last two sessions of the course needed to be focused on their issues, rather than case studies, as had been previously planned.

Consequently, the fifth session was redesigned to reinforce previously-taught concepts in order to prepare the students to successfully role play a real-life negotiation situation of their choice during Session 6. They worked in triads, with an observer providing an assessment, as well as each individual assessing his or her negotiation.

The homework assignments and in-session role play and assessments provided ample practice for the students in preparation for their course project. The project required them to complete similar negotiation planning worksheets, conduct a real-life negotiation, and then assess their performance. They submitted their completed project work to Ljerka after the class ended and she forwarded them to me by mail.

Ljerka’s expertise, creativity, and perspective were essential to the success of the Negotiation Skills course. She was actively involved in the course design, organization, selection of outside resources, and implementation. During the course, she translated concepts and terminology, as well as directed, observed, and provided feedback for the small group activities and role playing. She conducted the last session’s role playing activities with three students who were absent. She also collected the student projects, for transmittal to me.

The new training facilities were wonderful. The site in the old city was huge, with a beautiful sitting room and exquisite view of the river Drava and the old city. The sole drawback was that it was up three very long sets of stairs, which was a strong disincentive to any lecturer with heavy materials or audiovisual equipment!

The first generation of students in the Entrepreneurship masters degree program were extraordinary in terms of their experience, expertise, and commitment to the program.. It was clear that the lack of job and life experience of the second and third generations in the program would necessitate simplification of the current course content for Negotiation Skills.

As a result, we recommended that future Negotiation Skills courses focused in on a modified Getting to Yes content, with ample practice using each negotiation strategy in both prepared and real life negotiation exercises. We also recommended that the current Getting to Yes instructional materials be augmented with the staying calm and active listening skills exercises from the Getting Past No content.

All of the content and handout materials necessary for the redesign of the course for future generations were already in Osijek, with Ljerka. So it would be an easy matter to revise the lesson plan and create new participant materials.

After I left Osijek, I was able to read and grade the students’projects, which were all very effective and complete. They clearly understood how to apply negotiation skills in their work lives and had ample opportunity to practice them!

Although there were tentative plans for me to return again to conduct a team building session with the faculty, the occasion never arose.

I left this Croat training experience with more gifts than I can mention. The ones that jump to mind include the incredible opportunity to visit and get to know different people of varying ages, experiences, and backgrounds from throughout Croatia;

  • travel to and through Europe for the very first time;
  • make good friends in Croatia and in Hungary;
  • see the world and the United States from the Croat perspective;
  • enjoy the culture, the food, the architecture, the customs, the open markets, the art, the inland and Adriatic cities and the cosmopolitan capital, Zagreb;
  • watch my son build friendships and happy experiences that spanned language differences;
  • learn from the most stimulating economic marketing and entrepreneurship gurus;
  • be welcomed into different homes and family lives; and
  • stand in awe at the warmth, generosity, resilience, creativity, humor, and fortitude of the students, academics, and business people (and their families) I had the pleasure to meet.

And to treasure the gift of Joan’s friendship, business acumen, generosity of spirit, fierce loyalty, and networking that made it all possible.

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