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From Lifelong Learning to Professional Development

Posted by Stephen Lemire on June 28, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Over the past 25 years, I have taught dozens of incredibly talented and motivated adult learners as an adjunct faculty member in graduate management and health services administration programs. A typical student has been an experienced medical clinician (RN, technologist) who was now earning a Master’s Degree to gain career advancement into a management role.
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The core of my classroom philosophy consists of three key points: 1) to create an environment where students are encouraged to share their professional experiences; 2) to allow students the opportunity to process the impact of what is discussed and apply it to their workplace; and 3) to challenge students to develop their own concepts, support their own ideas, and learn from each other.
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I know these principles have an impact when a student begins to think less about process (like a clinician) and more about outcomes (like a manager). The students also begin to realize that the classroom work is their first investment in lifelong learning which will give way to an ongoing commitment to professional development.
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What has influenced my classroom style and how has it evolved over time? From the outset my goal was to construct an environment that borrowed many of the elements from the most effective instructors that I had as a graduate and college student. This foundation has since been most influenced by what I’ve learned from my students. Notably, if I am successful, I can tap into the wealth of information students carry and promote a way that they can teach one another through sharing of experiences, stories, practice styles, and lessons learned.
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In each class I provide an agenda and set of objectives, as my goal is to facilitate as if we are in a business meeting. I try to keep the session crisp with short bursts of structured lecture interspersed with abundant group discussion, reviews of cases examples, and role playing of management exercises. I also add a segment called “Real Life Stuff” in which I outline non-curricular items such as resume writing, interviewing techniques, business social protocol, and professional networking. I encourage my students to be direct, succinct, and clear in all oral and written business communications. The projects that I assign, and the exams that I give, are not based on information that students are expected to memorize, but rather, on scenarios in which the students must develop their own ideas and are challenged to support them.
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Additionally, I believe that a large part of a student’s education needs to take place in the community – through internships and site-based projects. Students need practical hands-on experiences to apply what is discussed in the classroom to understand the application of the structured learning.
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A student’s overall education, though the responsibility of the academic institution and its instructors, is best served through a partnership with the region’s employers who can provide curricular input, at-work training (e.g. internships), and, ultimately, gainful employment. The critical component of this relationship is the internship so that, among many things, the student may learn practical hands-on applications while the employer may assess the student’s potential employability and, ideally, offer the student a full-time position upon graduation.
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Based on objective evaluations and feedback from students, my teaching philosophy coupled with this classroom style has been effective. I believe that this, along with partnerships with employers, has provided students with many tools to succeed.

Categories: Education, Executive Directors, Management

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