You know the expression ‘you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family’? The same might be said about the teams you have to work with or manage. In this article Dr Robert Lewis, senior Les Roches faculty, writes about group work and reflects on its importance.
AN IDEAL CAMPUS SETTING
Les Roches International School of Hotel Management enjoys a privileged geographical location and facilities to support its learning environment. Set in the midst of the Valais Alps, at the linguistic borders of three of Switzerland’s national languages, Les Roches provides a prime location in terms of opportunities for students and professors to interact.
The lobby area on campus provides opportunities for informal exchange between students and professors that enriches students’ learning experience. Sports activities, culinary trips, and cultural outings also provide great opportunities to interact with others from different backgrounds.
There is a particular emphasis on the use of group projects at Les Roches. Working with, and getting to know, people from various backgrounds develops one of the most highly prized skills in the market place: global fluency.
1. Collaborative real-life projects
At several stages of students’ programmes, they experience what it means to collaborate and work in teams in real-life settings. These projects (which usually take place over several weeks throughout the school term) are developed to bring together students’ knowledge in an integrated fashion. This involves the formulation of a theme to be explored, based on an actual business problem.
Thereafter, students work in groups to carry out their project with the support of their professors. This group aspect is not only meant to allow students to share their work amongst themselves, but rather to learn from each other during the entire process.
These integrated projects involve an oral evaluation, whereby students are assessed not only in terms of their application of theory to practice, but also through the illustration of their presentation skills in a group.
Presentation and group skills are particularly important for them to hone. These skills also allow them to put their ‘people’ skills into practice.
2. Pooling knowledge
Students are required to make oral presentations on a variety of subjects, which may include Food and Beverage Management, Facilities Management, Human Resources Management and Rooms Division Management
This task requires students to share their learning within their respective groups in order to present their findings collectively. The outcome can be surprising: students’ learning can grow exponentially through their interaction and involvement with other group members.
3. Cross-cultural learning
This interactive group learning also provides an enriching learning experience in terms of cultural benefits.
Many students, either through their personal backgrounds and/or their work experience (often during their studies at Les Roches, for example during their internships) gain precious cross-cultural and language experience. This is reflected in the international outlook of students and their ability to quickly adjust to new working environments.
In the classroom this is evidenced when students work together in multi-cultural groups. They discover that the ‘right’ answer is not always the most appropriate for every situation.
They understand more deeply the consequences of decisions through wider perspectives because their vision is developed through group exchange. Students’ ability to explore these aspects of working in international settings is a skill that will support them throughout their careers.