Recalibrating Education: Teaching Sustainability and Social Innovation

If there is one thing that teaching a project-based course to 205 MBA students in China, it is that we have to recalibrate how students are engaged, incubated, and engaged, and in this presentation, I spend 30 minutes speaking to how I have attempted (and at times succeed) in doing this.

5 years into this process now, for me the greatest lessons that I myself have learned are:

1. Sustainability has to be tangible

There is no one issue that engages everyone equally, and each issue offers different hooks. For many of my students, there is a balance between their personal concerns and the reality of their careers, true of executives as well, and for a course to succeed it needs to take this into consideration.

2. Sustainability needs to be consumable

The issues are huge, and if tangibility and engagement are to be maintained the messages need to be easily consumable. This is a function of tangibility at the end of the day, but more than that it is also a matter of understanding that it is a learning process that needs to occur in steps vs. a single download. Something I am myself learning to balance better as I learn to balance my own sense of urgency with the capacity of the students.

3. Sustainability must be learned experientially

Teaching from a book really needs to be rethought as we should not be teaching students to take a test. I leverage case studies, movies, and activities that are meant to allow students to explore, analyze, and embed the larger lessons of making better decisions. The issue is a medium of engagement, and I want students to be able to work out how to develop their own (relevant) process that maintains engagement, drives logic forward, and catalyzes conversation.

4. Projects must have a goal and must be supported

On average I am managing 30-35 project teams of 6 each year, with each team having an external partner (profit and non), a key to the success of teams is their ability to achieve a goal that matters.  Projects that are too hypothetical, or are designed without the ability for students to pass off to an internal resource, often fail to maintain student engagement because they want to know that their work is going to mean something.

For those of you who are interested in learning more, feel free to review my presentation slides here, or send me an email with questions.

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