Academic journal article e-Journal of Business Education and Scholarship Teaching

Scaffolding Systemic and Creative Thinking: A Hybrid Learning Sciences-Decision Support Approach

Academic journal article e-Journal of Business Education and Scholarship Teaching

Scaffolding Systemic and Creative Thinking: A Hybrid Learning Sciences-Decision Support Approach

Article excerpt


Most students studying finance enter the working world without sufficient familiarity with the environment that they will be engaged with. This environment includes the challenges of dealing with imperfect information, complex tasks, and linking abstract theory to actual situations. Although much research has been done on this issue in other disciplines, limited research has been done in the finance area. Responding to this deficit, this research explores the applicability of authentic learning to finance education. Through scrutiny of, and reflection on, the project set for assessment in a finance subject, the importance and relevance of authentic learning is demonstrated.

Inculcating critical and creative thinking has become a top priority in school and university curricula around the world. For example, in the United States, the Partnership for Twenty First Century Skills (Greenhill, 2009) has specified critical and creative thinking, communication and collaboration skills and the ability to think across disciplines as desirable graduate attributes.

Examples of notable approaches towards the inculcation of critical thinking skills are those by Carrol (2007), Dunn (2007) and French and Tracy (2010). Carrol (2007) has used team-based role-play and assessment to teach students how to think critically in order to resolve conflict among teams, to understand more effectively how accounting information is used and to realize the consequences/impact of decisions made. On the other hand, Dunn (2007) has used the review of media reports to help students critically analyze how media influences viewers, the tourism industry and tourists. French and Tracy (2010) however, have asked students to interpret a problem specific to organizational theory and to develop their own arguments based on five sources of information, with the aid of a list of guiding questions. Subsequently, they summarize what they have learnt as well as the skills that they have developed. This self-reflection summary then contributes towards the students' graduate capabilities portfolio, which is accessible to the university and to future employers via Internet.

This study extends from the inculcation of critical thinking skills to the inculcation of systemic and creative thinking. We shall first consider lessons from the learning sciences, which form the foundational concepts to this paper; followed by key concepts from the decision sciences, implementation guidelines, findings and conclusion.

Foundational concepts from the learning sciences

Kolodner's (1993) characterization of creativity draws out the essence of creativity: creativity involves more than mechanistic, analogical substitution of elements. It is an incremental knowledge and skill refinement process, which requires goal-directed reflection and backtracking. Reflection and backtracking are central to inculcating creative thinking as they encourage the consideration of alternatives and consequently elaboration and evaluation of these alternatives in relation to the learning or task goal.

To scaffold goal-based contextual thinking, goal-based scenarios or GBS (Schank, Fano, Bell & Jona, 1993) is referred. GBS uses mission context. The mission context consists of themes that can be adapted into different cover stories with variations in situations, roles and challenges. These cover stories consequently, result in interrelated smaller missions structured from easy to difficult situations, roles and challenges.

Now that the learning goals have been clearly identified, case-based reasoning or CBR (Kolodner, Cox & Gonzalez-Calero, 2005) is referred to help students to learn from examples. CBR encapsulates each set of problem-outcome-solution-success/failure and corresponding reasons as a case. Each case is indexed by situations in which the case can be used and retrieved based on the learner's current goal. …

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