This seminar is motivated in response to the question: How do teachers empower their students to engage actively in learning centred directly on students’ own needs, requirements, talents, and capabilities?
Strengths-based formal education and training was first introduced for business students at Unitec Institute of Technology’s international business school programmes in New Zealand from 2001.
In 2010, a pilot initiative was undertaken to extend strengths-based education within the business school for every student as part of a first-year compulsory undergraduate course in innovation and entrepreneurship. Specifically, each student was required to complete the academic requirements for the course through developing a professional learning agenda portfolio (PLA). The PLA assignment guides the student to identify, confirm, and build on their natural strengths through constructing a vision for their desired career in 2020. Furthermore, students elaborate on their career vision through identifying the short and medium term professional development steps they require to undertake. Their action plan includes identifying WHAT formal educational classes they will study, and - significantly - HOW they will approach their learning of their chosen courses.
All students in the class undertook the Gallup-Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 instrument as a key foundation for identifying their natural habits of thinking, emotional strengths, and inter/intra-personal disposition. A creative, enterprising assignment extending over the 12-week course provided one basis for students deploying their identified strengths to best effect within the context of a team project.
Several focus group discussions with the students towards the conclusion of the course revealed that nearly all students:
Valued highly the insights gained from undertaking the StrengthsFinder assessment and reinforcing course activities;
Requested that for subsequent courses in their programme of study, that all students in their assignment teams be required to undertake and reveal their StrengthsFinder talents as a basis for improving team cohesion, task allocation, and productivity.
The seminar presents the opportunity for students and staff to engage directly with two students who undertook the two courses in which the strengths-based approach was utilised. Nicolai Hovgaard and Louise Pedersen reflect on their strengths-based learning adventures whilst working within four teams across two courses in the Bachelor of Business at Unitec Institute of Technology. Their tutor, Peter Mellalieu, will discuss his observations regarding student-centred learning informed by a knowledge of an entire class’s StrengthsQuest results.
The seminar concludes with the implications of the strengths-based approach for student-centred learning within the business school, and the institute of technology as a whole.
Seminar presenters Nicolai Hovgaard is an international exchange student to Unitec’s Department of Marketing and Management from Via University College, Denmark, http://www.viauc.com. Nicolai is majoring in business operations management and strategy and intends to become a professional change and innovation consultant.
Louise Pedersen is also an international exchange student from Via University College, Denmark. Louise possesses exceptional talents for team leadership and development.
Peter Mellalieu is a curriculum innovator and tutor in innovation, entrepreneurship, lateral and creative thinking, strategic thinking, and education for sustainability at Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland. In July 2010 Peter launches a unique course in design enterprise and visual arts management at Unitec, DEVA-M.