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Learning by Doing

Posted by struscott | July 10, 2012

AMT Management Class Goes Experiential

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
—Confucius

Dr. Joan Ellis remembered the quote from the Chinese philosopher when revising the senior-level course AMT 440, Advanced Retail Management. Industry reps and AMDT alumni had indicated that students needed more management skills. Yet those skills couldn’t be learned passively from a class lecture alone.

Experiential learning“Adults learn by doing,” she said. “Most management skills are ‘soft’ skills, such as communication and conflict resolution. I don’t believe you can lecture on soft skills, and you can’t just read about them in a book.”

But how to transform passive learning to active learning? The answer came when Ellis attended the 2011 Western Region Teaching Symposium and heard Niels Damman give a presentation on structuring leadership with students. Afterward, Ellis approached Damman, staff development and Challenge Program coordinator for WSU University Recreation, and said she wanted to apply his ideas to her class. Ellis would serve as the course’s instructor, while Damman provided the experiential learning.

AMT 440 now combines pre- and post-assessments, journaling and reflective writing, in-class and team projects, and a final reflective learning self-assessment. Course segments cover teamwork, power, conflict and stress management, feedback, motivating others, decision-making and planning, empowerment and delegation, and effective communication.

And students are benefitting from the new approach. Katie Duncan said that after a few short weeks in the class, she had developed personal awareness and learned about her leadership style.

“AMT 440 has so far surpassed any other course I have taken at WSU,” Duncan said. “We are learning, ultimately how to be effective in all areas relating to working with people. I can already tell it has helped me in my group interactions.”

Chris James Hanson believes the class will be very useful in his professional career. “AMT 440 teaches me social responsibility and gives me a better understanding of how people may react in certain situations,” Hanson said. “People come from all sorts of different backgrounds and you should treat everyone fairly, but differently as well.”

For Ellis, the lessons on management aren’t limited to AMDT students. “Our goal is to open this class up to the whole university,” she said, “because everybody needs management skills, whether they’re working at a day care center, apple orchard, or laboratory.”

By Nella Letizia
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