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5/27/2012

Co-curricular activities: or learning through doing

There is much talk in the scientific literature now about co-curricular activities. What the heck are those?, you ask… Well, a few months ago I didn’t know either, although I have been doing them since I started teaching English in September 2000, and continued in a the university setting, first in Qu├ębec and now here.

Co-curricular activities are outside the classroom activities that reinforce the formal curriculum. In other words it is learning by doing. I teach the structure or framework of the theory/concept/process in class and then force (J) the students to explore, understand and use the structure to achieve the learning objectives for the course.  

A simple example. For my Introduction to Management Course I want the students to understand, use, apply and adopt the basics functions of management (planning, organizing, leading and the feedback loop). I teach it, we brainstorm events in class, I test it and I get them to organize an event outside of class in small teams and write a very short report (with photos) describing the initial vision of the event, and then the planning (and the re-planning), the organizing (who did what), leading (motivating, making sure the event runs smoothly) and then the feedback (opinion of “customers”, how much money raised, challenges, etc.).

This year, in both semesters, I have had the students organize a charity event. The guidelines are – nothing illegal (e.g. no selling birds caught on your farm – I do not care if it is your farm, we can’t sell little birds on campus!), held at the University, and everyone in the group has to participate.
Yes, the guidelines are lose, yes I want the students to be creative – do they complain – uhm, just a little bit. Do they come up with super cool ideas, not all the time, but all the time they have fun (at least until now).  No, there are no rules of how much money needs to be raised or who they give it to – but they have to explain what charity they are giving it to and why. Again, I am blessed with allies on the men’s campus at Zayed University – without the Student Life team my boys would be lost – but, Joy will not send the email out, Charif will not make the posters, but they will help and guide and teach. (Thanks as always guys).

Sometimes there are minor frustrations and mishaps, but the minor mistakes are made in a controlled environment, with tons of support available to make minor adjustments.

The next two weeks are going to be busy ones on the boys campus as karak is made and sold, teachers are used as targets for cream pies, Play Station is played and traditional items are sold.
This is just one example, you have read (or can now go read) about the many others described in this blog. Yes, it is easy to teach management through these types of activities – but there have to be a million ways to have the students “do” and “apply” and “incorporate” the learning objectives specific to your subject matter – just be creative…

I will let you know in a few weeks how the boys did, and yes, if there is a photo of me with a pie on my face I will post it – let’s just cross our fingers all the students have bad aim!

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