Working in partnership to provide innovation in a crowded curriculum

This source preferred by Chris Shiel

Authors: Shiel, C. and Ridolfo, H.

Start date: 9 April 2003

Those who have been involved in curriculum design will be painfully aware of the ‘quart into a pint pot’ challenge that confronts the business studies programme designer. The Subject Benchmark, the demands of professional bodies, modular/credit structures and the competing interests of the traditional subject domains, all place demands that can squeeze out innovation and creativity. It quickly becomes apparent that there is very little room for ‘integrating activities’, let alone opportunities to develop in a more holistic way, experiences that mirror organisational life and allow students to engage with wider agendas. We are aware that students are becoming more instrumental in their orientation to their studies. It might thus, also be tempting to follow the same pathway and take a more instrumental view of curriculum design and accept that we cannot do it all. Yet, as educators, we are convinced of the importance of students developing a more critical and responsible orientation. How do we overcome the issues of a crowded curriculum and achieve this? How do we promote innovation and encourage students to take a more critical view?

This paper provides a detailed account of how the Business Schoolat Bournemouth University is addressing this agenda. Specifically it focuses on the first year experience of undergraduates and provides a detailed account of the development of the ‘business simulation’ exercise. Initially the business simulation week existed outside of the assessed curriculum and provided an opportunity to integrate core knowledge and test skills through the vehicle of an entrepreneurial activity. This exercise hasnow been developed and embedded within the curriculum. Critical features of the development include working with a corporate sponsor and enlisting the support of the Students Union. The involvement of a large local employer emphasises the ‘commercial’ credibility of what is seen asa ‘soft’ issue. The participation of the Students Union provides ‘street cred’. Partnership of this kind has allowed us to shift the focus of the activity to focus on more altruistic concerns and the concept of ‘citizenship’. The activity still achieves the goals of knowledge integration and skill’s development but is now also aligned with the wider agendas of all partners. The corporate sponsor was keen to improve its visibility in the community; the Students Union is involved in skill’s development and community action; and the School wanted to develop a ‘global citizen’ theme, where ‘local’ engagement is the first step in developing responsible citizens. Engaging with ‘not for profit’ organisations also provides students with a wider learning experience and the opportunity to develop a more critical awareness of the social inclusion agenda.

Creating a partnership like this is all very well but the success depends on the design and implementation of the idea. This paper outlines the activities, the roles of the partners and describes the assessment strategy. Examples of students’ outputs are provided. Finally, reflecting on the experience so far, the lessons learned are summarised and future developments are suggested.

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