Thought Leader: Turning education on its head

The first university in the English-speaking world was the University of Oxford. It was founded in 1167. It received its first international student in 1190. We’ve come long way since then. Or have we?

In the last decade views on the most effective way to deliver educational outcomes that are relevant and valuable to industry, have shifted dramatically. And it’s not about to slow down.
So what’s changing?
Primarily, it’s the continuing realisation that it’s the experience of doing things that enhances the educational experience. Being faced with problem to solve forces one to inquire about the circumstances of that problem and source the content that will enable them to identify, test and select solutions. The modern term for this approach is inquiry-based learning, in other words learning through discovery.

This is not new concept. Early pioneers such as Jean Piaget coined the term during the development of their constructivist learning theories in the early 1960s. However, opportunity still abounds to embrace this approach in improving educational outcomes for the community as whole.

As part of the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income’s Money Week 2012, the AUT Business School’s Auckland Centre for Financial Research co-hosted financial literacy symposium where it presented research findings on the relationship between financial literacy and financial decision making.
The study demonstrated that it is not necessarily the case that improvements in financial literacy lead to better decision making, but that this relationship is actually the other way around, through the decision-making process, people acquire more financial literacy. This finding reinforced the value of an inquiry-based approach in challenging students to solve real-life problems that had an important financial literacy requirement as key to the solution, such as going through the process of buying house.

Delivering relevant value to industry and the community is core to the AUT Business School’s vision and strategic goals. It goes without saying that academic professionals will always direct much of the research work they take on. However, embracing inquiry-based learning allows AUT Business School to embark on journey of identifying the key issues faced by particular industries. Academic resources can then be directed to provide valuable research and solutions for industry.

Led by Professor Bart Frijns, the Auckland Centre for Financial Research is delivering the Symposium of the New Zealand Capital Market on May 31. The first event of its kind in New Zealand, the symposium brings together academic researchers and finance leaders from industry to engage in discussions on the New Zealand Capital Markets. Debate will be focused around number of topical research papers related to issues facing our capital market in New Zealand that will be presented by academics and discussed by industry leaders. It is great opportunity to showcase the relevance of academic research for the New Zealand Capital Markets and ensure that academic experts are focusing research on immediate and valuable application to industry.

When looking at executive education, real potential still exists to move beyond traditional content-based programmes. At the highest levels of executive education, AUT Business School’s Engaged Conversations bring together industry leaders with common interest to debate key issues. These collaborative learning sessions are facilitated by well known industry experts to produce solutions drawn from the collective knowledge of the group.

Technology continues to influence education. MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, are providing new platforms for structured inquiry-based learning and exponentially increase out-of-class connections and opportunities for collaboration. They will put pressure on the traditional face-to-face value proposition of education.

Recent research indicates that gaming technology in particular, will play an important role in developing skills and learning approaches based on forming hypotheses, gathering information and testing solutions. Using such design-led thinking technology enables rapid prototyping and testing and will certainly provide powerful tool in strengthening student’s critical thinking and problem solving.

Given the early stages of this technology, education will surely continue to evolve and this should certainly be embraced. M

Dr Geoff Perry is PVC and Dean, Faculty of Business and Law at Auckland University of Technology.

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