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The Need for Innovative Learning and Teaching

Diversity-The core issue

 

Diversity is a core issue across organizations. The globalized world coupled with technological evolutions has made the world a global village, where relationships, be it virtual or real, communication-real time or otherwise have taken center stage. The ideal catalysts for all these developments were Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization (LPG) of global economies, culminating in a cascading effect all over.

The recent recession was an ideal example portraying the aspect of “When American sneezes, the world catches cold” or shall one say “When China/emerging economies sneezes, the world catches cold” in a new world order, thereby proving the connected theory everywhere! Examples galore from successful Multinational Corporations (MNC), whereby they have leveraged these aspects of diversity to the hilt, resulting in the companies moving up the pecking order and being global leaders, across markets and industries.

On the other hand, some of the mid sized and small companies always viewed diversity as a problem, rather than an opportunity, which in turn had an adverse impact on the organizational development and growth. The issues related to diversity are therefore core to the strategy formulation of every organization, irrespective of their size, products or services being offered. The mobility of human population has increased manifold, which has resulted in newer challenges being encountered at the workplace and the society, owing to the diverse culture and allied issues.

Professionals of tomorrow and students of today, representing different domains and industries therefore need to know the nuances of managing diversity effectively. This would result in a win-win proposition for the organizations and societies alike. This backdrop and the underlying rational of adopting innovative pedagogical approaches, incorporated by the institute have compelled yours truly to incorporate the unique learning tool for the Higher Diploma Students, Spring 2010-2011 session of Ibra College of Technology.

Background

The students specializing in Human Resource Management are pursuing a course titled, “Management of Diversity”, where the managers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow are supposed to learn the intricacies of managing and leveraging diversity for the benefits of their  enterprise. The bigger picture portrays the significance of diversity management for the society and national growth. Apart from the routine pedagogical tools like case studies, situation analysis, story telling, role plays, debates, group discussion, a teacher has to continuously probe his/her students so as to ideate novel learning techniques which would not only increase the involvement and interest of the learner, but would also enable them to extract tangible takeaways from the learning exercise.

More importantly fun based learning can lead to a faster absorption with better retention ratio. The ever enthusiastic students community, willing to embrace new techniques of learning accepted this as a challenge and performed  to the best of their abilities, which enthralled the audience present, not to forget the own admission of the learner of learning’s about different cultures and the related challenges therein. The benefits accrued can be summed up through the ways and means zeroed upon by the learner to overcome all the diversity related issues. They were confident of these exercises having a positive after-effect for the organization they represent and the society they hail from.

The exercise

The students were asked to form groups. Each group was asked to select a country and present the following in the form of a display chart/collage, predominantly through facts, figures, diagrams, news clippings, small stories, case-lets, personal experience from known contacts and networks representing that ethnicity. Referencing the sources so as to avoid plagiarism was also a parameter of evaluation. The major focus of the study hovered around the following-

(1)   Culture of the Country.

(2)   Major Languages Spoken.

(3)   Food Habits.

(4)   Religion.

(5)   Societal habits.

(6)   Clothing.

(7)   Origin.

(8)   Individual and Group Behavior.

(9)   Dress sense.

(10)Work Habits.

(11) Major issues and challenges the group would face if they are working with those people in their country or in the Sultanate and solutions to those issues.

(12)How such issues can be converted into an opportunity in the larger interest of the society, country and the organization at large?

The participants were motivated to consider this novel assessment technique as one of the learning tool through fun and group work, thereby making them understand the nuances of group dynamics as well. They were also asked to refrain from the routine power point presentation and the chalk and talk method. Instead the presentation was in the form of an exhibition where the visitors dropping in would be detailed about the aforesaid points, who in turn was supposed to evaluate the learner for their efforts.. The students decided to choose the following countries so as to conduct an intense research on diversity related issues and analyze the impact on the society and organization- United States of America (Is’Aad Abdullah Sa’Eed Al Maskari, Shamsa Sa’Eed Hamad Al Balushi, Zayyana Sa’Eed Hmeid Al-Harthi) South Africa (Basma Hamdan Haamid Al-Haimali, Rayya Ahmad Saleh Al-Habsi, Aa’Yda Sa’Eed Khamis Al-Munthiri) Japan (Hameeda Mohammad Udayyem Al-Maskari, Siham Rashid Sa’Eed Al-Ma’Awali) France(Najla Salim Mubarak Al-Sa’Di, Amal Saleh Jum’Ah, Asma’ Sa’Eed Ahmad Al-Harthi) Canada(Hana’ Hilal Ali Al-Sooti, Fatma Mohammad Hammad Al-Hajri, Zainab Saleh Aa’Mir Al-Maskari), China(Ruqayya Saleh Aa’Mir Al-Maskari, Nasraa’ Mesee’Id Salim Al-Isma’lli), Philippines(Yousuf Said Ali Al Rawahi, Ahmad Sa’Eed Hmeid Al-Harbi) and India (Fatma Abdullah Sulaiman Al Balushi, Ayda Mubarak Saleh Al-Julandani, Shamsa Sa’Eed Hamad Al Balushi).

The Deliverables

The study brought to the fore the innovation and creativity of the students as they not only completed a thorough research (from primary and secondary sources) about the chosen country and the potential diversity related issues which one may encounter if one is managing staff from those respective nations either in Oman or during an overseas assignment elsewhere, but also coined newer ways of presenting the knowledge, which included art, experience sharing, acting and the like. Apart from depicting the concepts, issues through pictures, hand made sketches, some students decided to present the pictorial representation of people from a country, while at work and during leisure activities. Interviews from nationalities working in the Sultanate were also part of the exercise which made them realize the issues, first hand, related to diversity. These issues varied from one set of nationality to another, which in turn had a multiplier effect on the overall learning environment of the collage exhibition. A group presented the language of that country by speaking a few sentences and then translating it into English for the understanding of the august audience. A second made the audience taste the foods of the country; some mimicked and acted while many other discussed many issues threadbare pertaining to the culture of the country they were representing. The knowledge reinforcement and maturity of the student was witnessed from the fact that all the groups considered the differences as opportunities, which they agreed in unison, and were of the opinion that if these are viewed positively with a right frame of mind, one can very well blend all the good practices, resulting in solutions to many a complicated problems being faced by modern day organization and society. The active assistance from academic advisors like Mr. Raghuraman in helping the groups through their live inputs or insights from lecturers like Ms. Mary Pauline Santos was indeed praiseworthy. The evaluators like Dr. Paul, Mrs. Salma and Mrs. Aida enabled the presenter to put forth their opinions, views, perspectives and ideas. The constant encouragement received from the Head of Business Department, Mr. Abdul Jaleel, who witnessed all the presentations and Head of Sections, Mr. Vasheem Hashim and Ms. Reshma D’Souza were encouraging for the students and the faculty concerned. The perfect icing was the gracious presence of the college dean, Dr. Khalid Abdulaziz Khalid Ambusaidi who complimented and motivated the students on the exercise.

Takeaways

The exercise had takeaways for the student community and the teacher fraternity, including yours truly. The students gathered first hand information about the culture of different countries, issues which they may have to face when they join organizations as professionals and ways and means to tackle such issues, how to metamorphose diversity into an opportunity and the like. They could understand Management of Diversity from the Omani perspective. As a teaching faculty, it was important to reiterate the belief and perennial importance of motivating the students, which in turn enables them to discover their latent talents, otherwise kept hidden during the routine work. This can create wonders for the teachers and the students as miraculous results are achieved!

Snaps

The snaps can be seen by clicking on the link below-

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