Self-Assessment and Reflection
“[The paper] is helping prime the students to start thinking about their own experiences and connecting them to the academic content we discuss” –Leighton Wilks
Leighton Wilks, an instructor in the Haskayne School of Business, teaches Organizational Behavior and Human Resources (OBHR) 493/793, a course about Business Negotiations taught at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Although the students at the two levels are very different, the courses are very similar in terms of the teaching method and assessments. Students are given regularly given opportunities to negotiate different scenarios with one another during class. The key lessons of the course are learned through these experiences. One major component of negotiation is self-reflection. It is important to know one’s strengths, and weaknesses in order to successfully plan and navigate negotiations. The final assessment in both the undergraduate and graduate course is a self-appraisal paper that encourages students to reflect on their own abilities as negotiators, and how they connect back to the big ideas and content in the course.
Throughout the semester, students participate in various different simulations of negotiations. Wilks provides the background information about the scenario one week before the class period where the negotiation will occur. Students use a planning sheet that helps them define the goals of their position and outline a strategy. Throughout the semester, the negotiations get more challenging, moving from one-on-one discussions to partner and group negotiations, to integrating real-world situations such as negotiating with different cultures. While all of these scenarios are debriefed and discussed as a class after they are finished, each student learns different aspects in different ways. Readings about the theory of negotiation help connect concepts to the experiences. Both levels of the course address similar content and use the same approach.
The self-appraisal paper is assigned close to the end of the semester, once students have participated in many different negotiations and have learned most of the course content. Although it is graded by Wilks, it promotes self-assessment and personal reflection. The ten-page paper has to integrate the individual experiences of each student with key concepts in the course. Students have to connect their skills and abilities to the lessons they learned from the negotiation activities to the content in the readings and class discussions. This paper is an exercise in self-reflection because students have to think about their overall course experience and how everything that they have learned from the simulations and course readings connects to making them into a great negotiator.
Students at both levels tend to be quite insightful on their papers. Students like having the opportunity to really assess their own growth throughout the course. Many note that they had a shift in attitude. Some student come into the class feeling that they are excellent negotiators, but realize they have a lot of room for improvement once the simulations start. They get a lot of benefit from learning the negotiation strategies. Others initially lack self-confidence, but realize that with the right preparation, their negotiations skills are quite good. The self-appraisal is a great opportunity for students to see how their thinking and approach has changed as they have developed new skills and learned about the theory of negotiation. Wilks says that all of the students, both undergraduate and graduate, come out of the courses as better negotiators than before. The feedback, both formal and informal, that he receives is overwhelmingly positive. Former students even contact Wilks and tell him that they used techniques from the course to help negotiate for a higher salary in their job, or other successful negotiations that they have had. Negotiation is used in many different ways in a person’s career and life, so Wilks hopes that by developing and reflecting on their skills in his courses, his students are prepared for success.