‘When people- couples, coaches and athletes, managers and workers, parents and children, teachers and students- change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth takes plenty of time, effort, and mutual support.’
- CAROL S. DWECK, MINDSET: The New Psychology of Success, 244 (Ballantine Books, 2008)
Concept of the Seminar
At the Faculty of Law at Chuo University, we offer academic seminars constituted by a small number of undergraduate junior and senior students (approximately 15 students in total). In recent years, I am responsible for 2 of these seminars.
Both seminars are held once a week, each with the same members. The two seminars have different members and work on different projects. In one seminar, students aim at participating and winning through a business competition tournament held in Chuo University, while in another seminar, students decide on the research topics by themselves relating to certain business activities in certain enterprises. The former seminar was introduced in a short story in the February 2014 university newspaper (written in Japanese).
Although the members and topics of each seminar are completely different, I set a common framework and provide the following concepts to the students to help them act like an administrator or a manager of the seminar.
First, the students are expected to raise awareness of the reason why they are participating in the seminar every week.
Second, the students must understand the relationship between each other as an individual person, and the seminar as a group gathered by those individuals, for the functioning of the activities in the seminars.
Here, I would like to share my experiences from the seminars at Chuo University.
Activities in the Seminar
It is significantly important that the students have the occasion to think about themselves early in the new academic year. I asked professionals including the consultants below to ensure enough time for students to think about their life-planning.
Chuo University provides a Center for Career Planning (http://www.chuo-u.ac.jp/career/center/literature/) where we regularly visit not only to research job-hunting skills, but also to design the life-planning for each student.
I also had a chance to be acquainted with Mr. Naoto Sasaki recently who is a manager of a consultant firm (http://nab-company.com/). Mr. Sasaki mainly develops and manages the carrier planning program for university undergraduate students as well as young workers in various companies. About twice a year, he visits the seminars and helps the students to discover the skills that they are lacking in order to accomplish their dream.
From this experience, the students are able to understand what needs to be done right now. The students become aware of how they can implement their tasks to make their dreams come true.
Also, the seminars provide a valuable experience for the students as they learn to reach an agreement with each other about the projects they are in charge of, and build on their experiences.
The projects, whether they are related with the academic topics that they are studying, or another topic of interest, they should be decided by the students. Each student must understand his or her proposal correctly and provide an appropriate and persuasive explanation to others to run their own project. An agreement is reached under these premises.
In the seminar focusing on business competition, I provide an assignment that is interesting and catchy to the students, for example, the most popular products sold this year and the reason of its popularity. After that, the students must decide on the project to compete in the business competition tournament held at Chuo University (http://www.chuo-u.ac.jp/campuslife/business_award/). The students’ projects include the following topics: Extending the drink shops in town festivals, and providing novelty promotion methods to change consumer behavior.
In the other seminar, there are no visualized events like the business competition. Therefore, the students are mainly focused on discussing business case studies. In that sense, they are forced to research and present specific business activities of companies by analyzing many published documents. For instance, the discussion topic may be the reason for entering into other unexplored markets.
Problems of the Seminar
I have stressed that students propose and decide on the seminar topics by themselves.
During the preparation and the discussion of projects among students, we often face difficulties trying to conclude the agreement, which is mainly caused by the differences of the intentions of the participating students.
For instance, there are students who enthusiastically participate and manage the seminar, those who are hesitant and quiet, those who just want to have fun with friends, and those who stay away from projects and focused on themselves. In any group or organization, we usually see these kind of different types of people, and in the seminar they are forced to work towards an agreement. Whether it is successful or not, this becomes a significant learning experience.
In some cases, students have also faced so-called ‘failed attempts’ by not making any output or failing to conclude an agreement when compared with the other groups. This was often caused by the limited preparation time of 2 to 3 weeks.
As a teacher, it is absolutely not a problem for the students to experience failure. Rather, it is essentially important to experience failure in class. I ask my students to think of failure in following terms.
Failure becomes a milestone for students to change their mindset from “fixed” to “growth”. By thinking positively, they thereby question themselves, ‘What can I learn from this?’, ‘How can I improve?’ or ‘How can I make a good relationship with other students?’ CAROL S. DWECK, Ph.D., MINDSET: The New Psychology of Success, 215, 244-6 (Ballantine Books, 2008)
Therefore, in principle, I only advise the students in my seminars, and never join or lead the students’ discussions except in exceptional circumstances, for example when a large number of students stop to have any discussions.
I explain my intentions described above to the students regularly in the seminars.
Performance of the Seminar
The students in the seminars have made great achievements and have showed outstanding performances each year.
In the business competition seminar, they continued to show remarkable results in 3 straight years; in 2011 winning second prize and the audience award; in 2012, first prize and qualification to participate in the Business Entrepreneur National Convention held outside Chuo University (Third prize); and in 2013, second prize. In the other seminar, the students are mainly focused in the classroom learning. These students research and analyze the successful strategic behavior of certain firms in recent years, and look into the strategies to bring success. They focus on the evidence they find and learn how to prove a hypothesis. It is difficult to measure the results that each student has accomplished.
I would not disagree that the performance the students have shown us in the business competition seminar is NOT the only criteria for measuring their abilities. And the results that we may not be able to acknowledge would NOT be deemed to be made critical, either. Moreover, at the time of graduation, few students may say that they have done and achieved everything they wanted to during their university life.
I repeat my point that facing and dealing with many kinds of failure becomes the true strength for university students to build on. The most significant feature of the seminars is to be stuck with difficult tasks until they are finished.
After having new students enrolled in both seminars, it is great to see that they have already planned to learn both collectively and cooperatively with others, both in and out of Chuo University. I strongly wish that they would proactively follow their intellectual spur besides their classroom learning.