If Yoda taught Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC), he would most likely be considered a Constructivist.
Yoda was the teacher of Jedi knights in Star Wars. He was the senior leader, the Grand Master, of all Jedi masters. He was strong in the power of the Force. As a teacher, he urged Luke Skywalker to see an outcome and work through the problem until the outcome manifested into reality.
The design model for Constructivist Learning Environments (CLEs) conceives of a problem, question, or project as the focus of the environment, with various interpretative and intellectual support systems surrounding it. The focus of the CLEs is the question or issue, the case, the problem, or the project that learners attempt to solve or resolve. Students learn domain content in order to solve the problem.
To instruct my students in IMC, I use Case-Based Learning. Based on my 35 years of experience as an organizational communication management professional, I develop case studies that mirror real world situations that the students will face when they enter the job market.
Applying IMC to real life situations is quite complex. There is no “one size fits all” strategic thinking and management solution to contemporary organizational situations. Therefore, my instructional design must accommodate the development of strategic thinking skills and abilities that graduates can apply across a wide spectrum of organizational problems and opportunities.
Constructivist learning assumes that knowledge is individually constructed and socially co-constructed by learners based on their interpretations of real world experiences. As an instructor, I must become Yoda, that is, to be coach and helper in that construction. But instead of saying, “Student, use the Force,” I say, “Student, use your strategic thinking skills.”
To develop those strategic thinking skills, I use a combination of what instructional designers Wiggins and McTighe (1998) called “backward design”, which is similar to Stephen Covey’s 1989 advice, “begin with the end in mind.” Backward design is seeing an expected outcome and working to manifest it into reality. It is very Yoda-like. For example, a relationship problem with a key public. What is the organization’s desired end result or outcome? A mutually beneficial relationship with that key public.
Now I must teach learners how achieve that outcome. I must teach learners a strategic way of thinking that will lead them to the right actions. Following Wiggins and McTighe’s model, that includes three basic steps that my instructional design must follow:
- Identify the desired results or expected outcomes. This is what the learners must know, understand, and be able to do to be successful on the job. In other words, to think and manage IMC strategically.
- Determine acceptable evidence. This refers to how I will know as an instructor that learners have achieved the strategic thinking skills and abilities necessary to be successful on the job. What evidence of students’ understanding and proficiency will I accept?
- Plan learning experiences and instruction. This refers to the activities I must design that will equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful problem solvers on the job in real world IMC situations. What do I need to teach? How will I teach it? What materials will I need to prepare?
I believe that having students work with case studies provides the best learning to prepare them for success on the job. Combined with internships and participation in student professional associations (PRSSA and IABC student chapters), I believe that students will have a well-rounded education to develop their skills for career success.
Or as Yoda might say, “Strategic thinkers are we, not this crude matter.”