Fundamentals of Education

Below is another article by Nick Selkirk. Nick and I have spent many hours discussing the fundamentals of education and how best to change it.

To keep you from running for the dictionary, these definitions might be helpful:
con·tin·gent [kuhn-tin-juhnt] –adjective
dependent for existence, occurrence, character, etc., on something yet certain; conditional

ped·a·go·gy [ped-uh-goh-jee] –noun
the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods.
Enter Nick:
Contingent Pedagogy

Business was always meant to be a practical subject. It's about understanding money, where it comes from, where it goes. It's about understanding the psychology of employees and customers. It’s about taking theories and putting them into practice.

It's more a trade than an academic exercise. A mechanic who only reads books about fixing cars isn't going to be very good at actually fixing them. So business colleges need to stop teaching students how to think and talk about business and start teaching how to actually do business.

Like most universities, Payap has policies about its curriculum design. In most cases, the largest contribution to a subjects grade is the final exam. This might be appropriate in some cases, but not in others. This is where the idea of contingent pedagogy comes in.

The idea is simple; try to asses a subject as close as possible to how it is assessed outside university. For business subjects this is astoundingly easy. The tasks involved in running a business have been analyzed and refined for centuries, laboratory tested everyday on every continent.

Academia could use the examples of performance appraisals in business. Like, when assessing marketing ability, it is inappropriate to grade based on tests. No business leader in the world is going to sit their marketing staff down to a pencil-and-paper test to see if they are good at their job. Marketing is about project work, it's about demonstrating understanding of consumers, of company products and how to communicate.

Therefore a marketing course that is project based and practically applied prepares the students for post-university and accurately assesses their ability.

Accounting on the other hand, is not project based. The subject is a hard science, with answers that are right or wrong. The statements balance or they don't. Here, testing should be a major component as it represents the real application of accounting. Something like: from the list of sales and expenses, adjust this quarters income statement.

To have the appropriate skills taught, assessments must be contingent. Those that are hard science, such as accounting, can usually be assessed effectively through testing. The subjects that are social science lend themselves much more to project work.

About 80% of business subjects are social sciences, with no clear right or wrong answers. About 80% of these are practically oriented. By changing the format of testing, you invariably change the format of teaching.

Here are some of the ideas I have come up with:

Marketing: Product and promotion plan for a new product.

e-Commerce: Create a website to sell and/or promote product.

Entrepreneurship: Physically selling the product and compare results to the marketing plan.

Micro/Macroeconomics: Prepare industry/country analysis reports.

Finance: Provide company and stock-analysis reports (as a financial analyst would do).

Operations Management: Observe a real business’ operations and assess.

Logistics and import/export: Physically arrange for the import or export of a product.

Ethics: Case study analysis of ethical breaches in history.

All the examples here are tasks businessmen perform every week. We should be training students on these. At Payap only the e-Commerce course gets close to this goal. Most universities are similar. Any university graduating students with 2 to 3 years of practical experience in business would be creating confident business leaders who know how to think about business and have the ability to actually do business.