Personal Application Assignment

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THE PERSONAL APPLICATION ASSIGNMENT (PAA)

A variety of texts and articles over the past few years have argued for the use of an alternative approach to teaching organizational behavior, one that emphasizes experiential learning. This approach "emphasizes an existential, emergent view for learning organizational behavior" (McMullen, 1979), where the role of the instructor is that of learning facilitator, responsible for designing experiences for students to base learning upon, rather than as teacher, responsible for lecturing on theory and concepts. While gaining wide acceptance, this approach has nevertheless created problems in the assessment of students' performance. Significant learnings in this model of teaching occur not only from the development of concepts, but also from the experiences themselves. McMullen (as well as others) has proposed the use of a personal application assignment to help solve the problem of performance assessment. This assignment is based upon the experiential learning model formulated by Kolb (1971). This model is discussed in more detail in the text chapter on learning styles.

Kolb's model argues that learning occurs through a process which might begin with a concrete experience, which leads to reflective observation about the experience. Abstract conceptualization follows in which models, paradigms, strategies, and metaphors are applied to the results of the experience. Active experimentation concludes the cycle as the concepts are then put into practice, thus generating new concrete experience. Figure 1 shows the model more clearly.

Figure 1: Experiential Learning Model (Kolb)

| | | | | | | | | | | | |Concrete experiences | | | | | | | | | | | | | |Testing implications | | |Observation and | |of concepts in | | |reflections | |new situations | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |Formation of abstract | | | | | |concepts and generalizations | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

In one sense, persons able to learn using all four modes of the model will be better able to take away learning from the variety of contexts in which they interact. We feel that the Personal Application Assignment is a useful tool for both evaluation of a student's work in courses taught using an experiential approach; and further, that the Personal Application Assignment can serve as a way to help students learn to learn. The PAA is both an evaluation and a teaching technique.

Our past history of teaching using this method has shown that the PAA, in order to be most useful, must include clear guidelines for the student. To that end we have undertaken to set forth the guidelines below to help students to...
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