Teaching through the themes – radicalism or realism?

At a recent workshop, I was fortunate to work with a colleague, who is part of a department teaching the new Business Management programme using the 6 concepts (CUEGIS) as the focus for their scheme of work. In the following post, Business Management teacher Danielle Maguire, of  Jumeirah English Speaking School, outlines the reasons why her department chose to use a thematic approach.

 

This year saw the introduction of the new concept based approach for IB Business Management, in which the 6 themes (Culture, Change, Ethics, Globalisation, Innovation & Strategy) will be assessed in Section C of Paper 2. This new focus on Concepts, Case Studies and Context did indeed provide some bedtime reading, notably to understand as teachers, how and where the themes ‘fitted in’ to the existing and traditional topic contents.

As a teacher who doesn’t want to stand still (how can you teaching such a dynamic subject?), this development in the specification for first examination in 2016 provided an exciting challenge. The challenge was accepted by myself and the department: to redesign the scheme of work, teaching in the 6 themes instead of the usual topic areas for example, Marketing, Finance, HR and so on. Now elements of each would be incorporated into each theme as to where we saw they fitted ‘best’. The important analytical tools, such as SWOT, would be taught within a theme and reinforced in others, e.g. taught in ‘Change’ and revisited in ‘Strategy’ and ‘Globalisation’.

The redesign of the course was time consuming, and of course, as any reflective practitioner understands, not without concerns. Predominantly, the concern of the lack of structure in terms of the scheme of work not following any logical path in the text book, or even in the actual order of the specification itself. The answer to this concern, in my opinion, lends itself to two important factors: Preparation and Explanation.

The timescales and inclusion of all topics was of upmost important in the preparation process. The preparation of this made the implementation of the new teaching order much easier. Additionally, to address case studies and contexts, we chose 6 businesses that will be in the ‘spotlight’ for the duration of the course, ultimately to make the subject ‘come alive’, for example Emirates and Amazon. This decision was made in order to make sure that students of all abilities have access to information and are able to discuss in detail an organisation of their choice for the 20 mark paper 2 essay question.

Furthermore, explanation to students was essential. How exactly does the course work? Students must be able to connect the dots. This has been challenging at times, for example, revising for tests when the text book is linear in nature. By providing detailed revision lists for each ‘theme’, this can to some extent be resolved. Each teacher also created a large wall display highlighting the links between topic content and themes. This has been very useful to refer back to the structure of the course and why we are teaching it in this manner.

So, why take the risk? Was it a radical move? Maybe it was. Why did we decide to so this? Ultimately, the IB is fostering an approach in which students have a holistic view and understanding of each subject they study. How does Business Management prepare the students to have global awareness and knowledge that they can apply to be informed, global citizens? I honestly believe that teaching through the themes makes the connections easier in terms of trends, relevant current issues, real life examples and contextualisation.

When examining ‘Culture’, we studied for example, ‘International Marketing’, ‘Conflict’, ‘Leadership’ and ‘Motivation’. Students start to develop the ability to make ‘links’ between topics from various functional areas possibly earlier than if studying, for example, Marketing as a complete topic. Students are engaged too – they understand the themes and find them dynamic and relevant in nature. If the aim of the new BM IB course was to inspire student creative and critical thinking, questioning and research skills’(Erikson), then I have seen this in action through the new approach. There is indeed a difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’, and the themes in question allow for the exploration of ‘big ideas’.

Of course, you could ‘tack on’ each theme to topic areas, and I also think this will work. We are all on a learning curve as to what will work best. My main concern is timing at the moment, but we are on track. If you are looking for a new challenge, give it a go. It is our role to provide opportunities for students to engage in higher order thinking to gain conceptual understanding. There is a new energy and buzz around the subject in the department as a result!

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