If you read my previous blog entry 'All changed, changed utterly', you‘ll be aware of my mixed feelings about teaching the new Junior Cycle Business Studies specification. Well thankfully my worst fears were not realized and I am now reminding myself not to worry so much in future!
At the outset I asked the students to complete the anticipation exercise at the beginning of the Chapter 1 Student Activity Book, find a definition for ‘resources’ and then make a list of some resources which are available to them. I am happy to report that they did this brilliantly and with great enthusiasm.
We had a chat about the definition and we looked at the different versions offered by students. The interactive white board was used to record everything. In the end we focused on the key elements and common features from a variety of student definitions (“things we have”, “things we use”, “they can help us...", ”they are scarce...”, "they are useful/valuable” etc.). I had to ask a few questions to get the students thinking about what we use resources for and following a number of specific examples, one student eventually suggested “whatever your goals are”.
When it came to their resources, students managed to come up with a very long list which included items under most of the main resource-type headings. They offered things like money, computers, the internet, mobile phones, trees, community centres and even ‘people’ as possible resources. Nobody specifically mentioned 'time' but when I suggested it, most agreed that it fitted our definition and should be added to the list.
The students seemed happy with the idea that access to resources was more important than ownership and they also understood that knowing how to use resources was essential. Some made reference to the illustration on page 2 (fig.1.1) of Time for Business. We discussed further examples offered by students, from their experiences and their imagination. As I was keen to encourage student involvement at this early stage I was happy to stand back and listen. I was reminded (in a good way) about just how imaginative some first year minds can be!
A Missed Opportunity?
One area where I could have focused more attention was the impact of their use of resources on others. When teaching this topic next time, I will make a specific point of referring to it at this stage. While it was discussed in much greater detail in the subsequent ‘needs and wants’ debate, I think I missed an opportunity to broaden the discussion here.
On reflection I was perhaps too focused on keeping the discussion ‘personal’ to them and neglected the obvious links to LO’s 1.9 and 3.1 which arose here. Also, when students completed the traffic light review at end of chapter, this was the most common ‘orange light’ indicated by students. Note however that chapters 15 and 40 deal with this aspect of the learning outcome in great detail, so I am not concerned that this key message will be lost, but just that I missed an opportunity to signpost it with students at this early stage.
Freedom, Flexibility and Layering!
If you wanted to tackle Learning Outcome (LO) 1.1 in a less linear fashion you could indeed take a detour into those other chapters, but I think it’s very important to embed the concept of personal resources with students first. Only then would I consider looking at the impact on others which arises from the students' own use of resources.
Remember also that the Business Studies Specification allows for great freedom and flexibility when it comes to WHAT and HOW you teach…. it is even the case that the LO’s provided may not be exhaustive. What we as authors have tried to do with the textbook is provide teachers with a resource which covers as much relevant material as possible. Please remember though, that the material provided is neither prescriptive not exhaustive. You are encouraged to cut, expand or modify it in order to ensure it fits the context of your classroom and students and the time available. I am very aware of this ‘time’ issue already and know I will need to manage it carefully as the year unfolds.
Generally speaking students had a clear understanding of the needs versus wants debate and were very engaged by it. It was a little harder for them to think about their future needs and wants, but most were able to offer realistic examples. Overall it is important for them to realise that their needs and wants will change over time and this understanding will be reinforced later when dealing with personal financial life cycles (Chapter 4). This also illustrates the importance of ‘layering’ when tackling this new Business Studies Specification. This means there are lots of situations where concepts are revisited in later chapters or Strands. This is a deliberate teaching strategy and it is designed to promote deeper understanding and recall of key concepts. Do not be afraid to teach students similar or closely related material. It is useful revision for them and will help you as the teacher to gauge their level of understanding and recall. In some cases it may also test their ability to apply existing knowledge to a new situation. This should be one of the ultimate goals for our students and suggests that deep and genuine learning has taken place.
When discussing the impact of our choices and resource use on others, most students accepted that everyone should be treated fairly and resources should be divided equally. Two students expressed a different view and felt that everyone should look out for themselves and just get what they can. This generated a short (and heated) debate amongst the students and the majority view seemed to win out in the end.
Financial and opportunity costs were well understood and all students were quickly able to offer other examples. We watched the Paul Pogba opportunity cost video on the Time for Business blog which students enjoyed and I think it greatly helped their understanding of the concept.
Read more of my reflections of teaching the first chapter on 'Getting the most of out a valuable resource - part two'.
Co-author of Time for Business Joe Stafford teaches Junior Cycle Business Studies in a mixed ability setting in a co-educational school with four 40 minute classes per week.
Click below to return to the 'Time for Business' website