M. Bonifacio1, L. Angeli1, M. Stoycheva2

1Università degli Studi di Trento (ITALY)
2Junior Achievement Bulgaria (BULGARIA)
Teaching methods have drastically evolved in the last decades. Education has taken under its hood the role of actively engaging students and trainers, and this has been especially seen in Higher Education (HE). In particular, due to the increasing speed in knowledge generation, learning goes beyond the acquisition of technical notions, and includes important elements of “meta knowledge” or “soft skills” such as social skills, creativity, critical thinking. In short, this unfolds in an increasing interplay between the capacity to master “content” (notions and technical knowledge), and “process” skills, addressing the need of “teaching how to learn” due to an accelerating knowledge obsolescence.

Along this narrative of “process oriented” learning, team/group working (TW) has taken a key role, based on the hypothesis that the very engagement in a collaborative effort enables the acquisition of these skills. In particular, the most widely adopted methodologies share a view in which groups of learners are placed to resolve a given case/issue. Whatever this stands for, students use tools and frames to confirm the path that history has already undertaken: much like when proving a theorem, the goal of the exercise is to “demonstrate that”, rather than to “check if” the theorem is true.

Indeed, a main scholar in the field of innovation (March, 1991) has shown that the knowledge creation dynamic is twofold. One the one hand there is an exploration dynamic in which divergent/contradicting views are generated; on the other there is an “exploitation” moment in which each view is consolidated and justified. The mainstream approach to TW in HE typically frames the rules of engagement as a matter of “exploitation” of a given truth, while neglecting, both in literature and practice, opportunities for “exploration” by considering the possibility of alternative “truths”.

The aim of this contribution is to further explore this gap proposing a new TW method able to engage students in divergent/collaborative learning dynamics. In doing so, we will showcase some of the instances in which we brought our approach into the classroom and attempt a first level generalization of the very logic that underlies such a method.

This instantiation is here called “Technology Battles” where “technology” is motivated by the student field of study (in this case ICT) and “battles” refer to the divergent dynamic that the process aims at achieving. To create such a context, an ambiguous situation is created to allow for alternative contradicting pathways in which “history” could have gone. Here, ad hoc “what-if” scenarios are built jointly by students and trainers, considering a known given story (e.g. the D-Day) and placing in a counterfactual (e.g. its failure bcs of weather conditions) able to allow for alternative futures to develop. Since, obviously, none of these can be said to be true or false, the goal of the battle becomes that of justifying the plausibility of each of the possible stories.

To this purpose, based on a “British parliament” model, each group provides statements, and the opposing team rebuttals in a structured but not excessively binding fashion. The final product of this confrontation is an attempt of conciliation between the two views thus enabling double-loop learning dynamics (Argyris 1976) that can be put as a basis for future exploitation. This method is here showcased in the context of the EIT Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship courses.