Teaching Café “Sustainability in IB Education”

During 2021 AIB conference, Miguel Cordova and Marina Schmitz jointly hosted one of our now well-established Teaching Cafés on the topic of “Sustainability in IB Education” on June 28th and 29th, 2021.

Together with participants, they explored why sustainability is important for IB in the first part of the café. Amongst some of the critical perspectives and topics, we need to draw our attention to environmental damage, fraud, poverty, loss of biodiversity, social inequality, climate change and others. Exploring critical perspectives can be achieved by allowing us to move away from a mechanistic to a holistic worldview. As a second step, the question of how sustainability can be integrated explored some examples used across different HEIs, e.g., the SDG Teaching Map or institutional trainings (e.g., Climate Interactive or the Carbon Literacy Project), as well as micro approaches, e.g., (gamified) tools/scenarios and teaching formats (e.g., 21-Day Challenge, Sustainability Escape Room, Future Scenario Workshop etc.). All these micro approaches can benefit to foster futures thinking or futures literacy to jointly imagine and making a future come true that benefits us all alike. The third part was building the bridge to explore how we can seek integration across topics (e.g., digitalization) and disciplines/concrete business functions.

After this short input, a MIRO board was shared to explore different questions together:

  • Activity 1: What courses do you teach in your institution?
  • Activity 2: What sustainability-oriented outcomes do you feel your students would need to achieve in your course?
  • Activity 3: Which of the critical perspectives in sustainability can you identify in those desired outcomes?
  • Activity 4: Which teaching format or tools do you think could promote an in-depth discussion of these critical perspectives in your courses?

The following figure is one of the boards developed in the Café. The exercise sequence allow them to reflect how they could incorporate sustainability dimensions in their IB courses.

Teaching Café: “Leading a Critical Discussions in the IB Classroom”

Following the theme of the 2021 AIB Conference: disruption, megatrends and transformation, Daria Panina and Mary Leung hosted a Teaching Café on the 28th and 30th of June 2021. The discussion, Leading a Critical Discussion in the IB Classroom, covered the challenges of bringing up sometimes controversial topics in the classroom.

The Café started with two main questions. Firstly, what kind of discussion in your class would we consider as critical. Secondly, how are we engaging students in these kinds of questions?

To start with, it is important to distinguish between critical thinking and critical perspectives which are interrelated. Critical thinking requires students to assess a situation from multiple perspectives and assumes there is one right way to answer a question or address a problem. On the other hand, critical perspectives are an individual education process where students are trying to decide for themselves how they will approach a problem. This differs from the conventional approach where students reproduce the materials they learn from the lectures. Students must look at the issues from different perspectives and decide which one is the best and in what context.

One of the critical discussions is ethical dilemmas. Students need to think about individually at a personal development level and realize that not everybody, even those with similar cultural or professional backgrounds, share the same values. Yet it could be a challenge for students to share their views in the classroom.

A discussion between participants followed about what perspectives we teach in international business classes. How applicable is the western-centric development theory of modernization and does it still speak the truth on developing countries? How much should we discuss country development from the global north perspective or particularly from the former-colonial powers’ perspective? As educators and students, we should be critical of the paradigms we have taught and researched for many decades. Educators should let the students understand the development of perspectives of international business and challenges students about their perspective on the understanding of international business.

In engaging students in these questions here are some suggestions from the participants:

  • Encourage self-reflection – apply a dialectical approach to engage students. Students should be given the opportunity and time to reflect on the issue or topic under discussion. Silence in the classroom for example allows students to think first what their answer might be and then share their views in small groups. This approach helps students to consider initially what they don’t know. In addition, showing the ways to ask questions can help students to learn how to ask questions themselves to other students. Many students don’t know how to ask questions and what questions to ask. This approach helps them to develop their skills in asking questions to others.
  • Blend topics in the lectures – ask some short questions during the lecture and allow students to discuss among themselves. It is a good practice to introduce different paradigms or frameworks during interactive lectures. Students can be asked about any shortcomings of a paradigm or discuss the disadvantages of different approaches.
  • Create a safe place for inclusive discussion for both home and international students – on occasions allow students to use their native language in group discussions, in a small group setting with four to five students in a group, where each student can have a chance to be the spokesperson. Students can be given opportunities to share in front of the class. One essential point is not to always call out on students as this may discourage the quieter students from expressing their views.
  • Keep students in the same group throughout the semester and term. Ask the students who they think they are and help them to know their fellow students and understand themselves.
  • Establish ground rules or policies for participation – give a list of ‘Do’s and ‘Don’ts’ to students at the beginning of the class to enable a fair and open discussion.
  • Roles play and films – in a negotiation class students can through role play to see from different perspectives, for example as senior manager of MNEs, representatives of the local community or local government. Movies or documentary films are also good sources in engaging students in the discussion.
  • Use online content or activities to start or extend class discussion, such as voting online or creating a word cloud with students.

The Teaching Café offers an excellent opportunity for participants to share relevant resources or lead a critical discussion in the classroom, for example https://philosophy.hku.hk/think/. Finally, the team welcomes the open discussion among the participants and encourages more IB educators to lead critical discussions in the classroom in a changing world.

Teaching Café: “Teaching Online – Opportunities & Challenges”

In the AIB 2021, the last two Teaching Cafés on the topic “Teaching Online – Opportunities & Challenges” were hosted by Aušrinė Šilenskytė. The cafe started by a short presentation, in which Aušrinė shared her experiences about teaching online gathered over the last five years. Then, followed an interactive discussion, in which participants exchanged their insights, tips and tricks when teaching online for audiences in different parts of the World.

In the introductory presentation, Aušrinė emphasized that teaching online synchronously and asynchronously requires different pedagogical approaches and tactics. When teaching online synchronously, it is very important to offer unique content, energize class before the start of the lectures, focus on explaining how theories apply to the career of the learners instead of merely explaining the theories, and create opportunities for exchange of views and insights among the audience. When teaching asynchronously, educator should act as a personal coach, create interesting and engaging activities that focus on knowledge application and creativity, create a feeling of live classroom via video recordings and forums, and gather group reflections in addition to their deliverables.

Participants of the Cafés shared the insights how to address unstable internet challenge. It was suggested to benefit from using zoom transcript function and providing lecture transcript after the lecture is over. The same zoom transcript function was considered to be very handy for teaching in the classroom where learners may have challenges to follow English.

Then, participants extensively discussed how to encourage participants to switch on their web cameras. It was noticed that policies regarding the web cameras vary significantly across the countries. While in some countries it may be obligatory, in others it might be recommended, and in others it might be unacceptable due to religion. Creating safe environment and personal relationship with students help dealing with the ‘black screen’ problem.

Finally, participants exchanged ideas where to find materials for the classes, and AIB T&E SIG members presented the Video capsule project and invited everyone to participate creating short video cases and interviews with firms from different parts of the world.