THE 3A APPROACH.
Implementing Practice-Based Interactive Learning Methods in the Middle East
INTRODUCTION: INTERACTIVE LEARNING IN THE MIDDLE
According to the majority of the management theorists, the most effective learning model is an integrative one which encompasses cognitive and behavioral change (Crossan, Lane, & White, 1999; Inkpen & Crossan, 1995; Miller, 1996). In the traditional context, classroom lecturing is an example of pure cognitive learning, which calls for information to be absorbed, analyzed and consciously integrated within preexisting cognitive structures (Inkpen & Crossan, 1995). Eventually, individuals may acquire proper behavioral skills later, through practice, like medical students or football players. On the other hand, interactive approach enables almost simultaneous cognitive and behavioral learning, where the students practice applying management principles learned from the textbooks.
Thus, more than a decade ago it was already established that the cognitive model of learning from the books and lectures was not enough. Yet, in most countries in the world with the exception of North America and some European countries, the rote memorization continues to be a norm. The paucity of interactive learning methods in emerging markets is impeded not only by the lack of trained instructors but even more so by the absence of locally developed training materials such as teaching case studies. When moving from a case-based top Canadian business school to a leading university in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), I set myself a goal to promote student-centered interactive learning methods in my new institution.
The Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) represents a fertile ground for transition to student-centered instruction. Unlike Western countries characterized by high individualism (Hofstede, 1980) and low contextual grounding (Hall & Hall, 1990), the MENA region is more collectivistic and contextual. Therefore, interactive teaching methods and local materials are even more important for MENA educational institutions than for those in the west (Apaydin, 2008). Thus, I have developed and implemented an interactive 3A approach, in the courses I taught.
In this chapter, I present the results of its implementation at the American University in Cairo (AUC) during the academic years 2009/11. The theoretical development of the approach has been omitted from this abridged version of the paper due to space limitation.
THE 3A APPROACH
Management literature has firmly established that the process of knowledge creation and transfer involves the stages of environmental scanning for data collection, interpretation and meaning making, learning through action taking, codification, replication, and reutilization (Argote, 1999; Argyris & Schon, 1978; Brown & Duguid, 1991; Daft & Weick, 1984; Huber, 1991; Zollo & Winter, 2002). The 3A approach combines these stages into three succinct A's:
• Awareness refers to a proactive scanning of the environment and noticing potentially beneficial opportunities in it. We know what we know and what we don't know, but the amount of things we don't realize that we don't know is much larger than the first two. Practicing awareness helps decrease the space of knowledge you don't realize that you don't know. In the context of a classroom, student achieve awareness through traditional methods of textbooks and lectures with the difference that first, they learn that this is just the first step so that they become aware of the whole learning cycle.
• Analysis refers to an evaluation of identified opportunities in terms of their expected benefits and drawbacks using a systematic and logical problem solving approach. This is the key skill required in any kind of managerial job. Being able to construct arguments and develop solutions is the basis of success in business. This is a typical case-method approach as practiced in the leading Western business schools.
• Action refers to proactive implementation of the decisions students have taken and solutions they developed. More often than not, our ideas remain unrealized because we fail to act in a timely fashion and miss the window of opportunity. This is a purely behavioral activity where learning moves from potentiality to actuality in Aristotelian sense. In this phase, students enact their decisions through a role play or quasi-consulting assignments with local companies.
This approach was implemented at the American University Cairo (AUC), Egypt, in 2010.