Curriculum design and innovation in field-based learning: lessons from the Doctoral Program in Leadership and Systematic Innovation in Argentina
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"Designing educational innovation in a doctoral program on Leadership and Systemic Innovation is a matter of matching form with content. The challenge to create new experiences for curriculum design becomes one of experiential integrity for learners. This requires matching curriculum content with an appropriate real-world opportunity for positive change. Classical case study methods fall short as vehicles for exploring VUCA situations — those characterized as Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. However, it is hard to find appropriate alternative methods that provide experiential learning environments for generating useful and systemically well-balanced responses to VUCA situations. This paper presents the experience of an international team of five doctoral faculty members, aided by two second year doctoral students and a social innovation expert, to design, introduce, facilitate and model a programmatic curriculum that spanned the first year (five course modules) of the ITBA (Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires) Leadership and Systemic Innovation doctoral program with 22 students. Each course module focused on a distinct aspect of systemic innovation. This required the faculty to create a cross-cutting, field-based experience that interwove the learnings from one module to the next. In addition, the focus of the field-based experience was designed so as to expose students to a “wicked problem” (a VUCA situation that could not be addressed on the basis of one disciplinary perspective or approach alone) without requiring them to fix, resolve, or otherwise provide a solution to it. Instead, students were invited to explore various aspects of the situation from an empathic and holistic evolutionary perspective. As detailed in the paper, a significant challenge to what we called “the Interweave Model” was communicating exploratory methods to the students, and distinguishing this experience from what would be expected in classical case study research. The greatest challenge for students appeared to be holding a whole-systems perspective of the entire VUCA situation across five distinctly different subjects of the curriculum while generating opportunities for design responses within each subject that could be coherently combined."