International universities do their best to design a worthwhile graduate study experience aimed at building the mindset and skill set for a successful career. However, their top-notch academic content can only reach students through the appropriate teaching methods such as research and experiential learning. A good mix of methods adapted for the different types of Masters programmes and learning styles ensures that students acquire the skills and knowledge they require.
While learning at graduate school is a healthy combination of classwork and extracurricular and social experiences, this article sheds more light on the value of some of the most effective teaching approaches in the graduate school classroom. Discover how evergreen fundamental approaches combined with latest developments can shape your learning experience for career growth.
Empower your skill set with academic writing
One of the learning philosophies of Barcelona’s ESADE Business School says that before you can learn to act, you must first learn to think. Essentially, this means that students need to go through a lot of reading, writing, and processing of the information they are taught to be able to apply it in practice. Although learning by doing is an equally important approach in education, the principle followed by the Spanish school rings true even in today’s fast-paced environment.
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Graduate students can expect to dive into academic assignments from day one of their programme. A main focus here is the academic nature of writing. As college and undergraduate diploma holders, Masters participants will inevitably have some idea of what it takes to go over specialised academic texts and write similar assignments. Still, Masters courses often go to the next level and in-class tasks and homework can be more intense than in a standard Bachelor’s degree curriculum. “Writing at Masters level means being able to explain more complex ideas at a greater length and depth. This doesn’t mean sounding ‘more academic’ and using more complicated sentences to impress your readers. It does mean being able to communicate more developed ideas in a clear way,” explains the University of Reading (UK) website.
Ground your curiosity and innovation in research
Finding appropriate evidence and using it to back up the arguments in your assignments is one of the essential components of academic writing, but it is also the backbone of good research. As a graduate student, you will inevitably get used to conducting a lot of research, either as part of different courses, or for your Masters thesis at the end of the study. Programmes often feature an entire subject dedicated to teaching students how to conduct research. The “Research Methods for Management Studies” course within the MSc in Management at the University of Nottingham (UK) consists of both qualitative and quantitative analysis as well as an introduction to management research.
While learning the essential research approaches is a must for those graduate students who want to pursue a career in academia, the experience is just as valuable for the rest of the class. Research projects enable you to dive deep into a particular issue and analyse it objectively by consulting relevant sources of information and by collecting data yourself. The process develops critical thinking, a keen eye for detail, and the ability to use bits of data to look at the big picture – qualities which are in high demand in today’s workforce.
Grow through experiential learning
Of course, graduate school studies go way beyond reading and writing. Practical projects are usually a favourite and much anticipated part of the curriculum for students. “We believe that the best way to learn how to do something is by doing it,” says Vlerick Business School (Belgium). Their action learning methodology includes a mix of guest presentations, roleplaying exercises, multidisciplinary group work, company visits, and hands-on assignments. All of these activities sound fun, but can also be quite challenging. So why are they good for you? Experiential learning is known to develop the decision-making skills of students and to increase their processing speed and skills.
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According to a detailed report by Imperial College London (UK), the point of such interactive teaching is to immerse students in the process of discovery and innovation and even allow them to make mistakes. This approach in turn enables them to think as experts. “It provides them with a higher sense of agency and purpose as they are going through the curriculum,” the report explains. Although practice-based learning is not a brand-new invention, schools around the world are finding innovative ways to utilise it and mix it up with other approaches to create a holistic study experience. The French NEOMA Business School combines e-learning with experiential in-class exercises to enable students to reflect in their own way on what they have learned. Their activities such as simulations, flipped classrooms (a method in which students first learn about a new subject at home and then have discussions on it in class), project management, and case studies are immersive and interactive. At the same time, through the blended learning approach professors can give students personalised guidance to help them deepen and reflect on their new skills.
Build up your character within diverse teams
They say that teamwork makes the dream work. However, to master this art successfully Masters students need to set realistic expectations for their graduate journey. Students who are specifically headed abroad should be prepared to deal with potential cultural and other differences at the school they will call home for the next one or two years.
Firstly, the environment at a particular programme may feel very different to another programme, sometimes even within the same university. Some programmes choose to accept hundreds of applicants, making the classroom a vibrant place buzzing with people. Others prefer to keep their class size much smaller, making the experience more intimate for programme participants. There is no right or wrong when it comes to the two options but each will impact the teamwork that takes place in class in a different way. Either way, you can expect to see various communication styles and hear diverse opinions, all of which you should be able to deal with in your school teamwork.
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Secondly, remember that the university experience is a multicultural experience. Some of the best Masters programmes team up people, students as well as professors, of many nationalities, ethnicities, and backgrounds. You will quickly mingle not only with your classmates, but also with a diverse mix of faculty members and professors as well as with plenty of locals and expats off campus. Getting to be part of a team with all of these different individuals and working together on a common task is an invaluable learning opportunity which will benefit both your personal and career growth in the long run.
If you want to experience these diverse teaching methods and make the most of each of them as per your preference, hop on the Masters train. The unique blend of learning approaches at your graduate study programme should prepare you for the exciting career journey that comes next.
This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2019-2020 annual Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “Something Old, Something New”. The latest online version of the Guide is available here.