I believe strongly in learning through embodied experience — learning that registers in the body, brain and mind. When you use all of those, it makes it easier to apply what you've learned to the person you wish to become and the impact you wish to have on the world.
"When I helped coach basketball at Bucknell as a graduate student, I realized that I liked the teaching aspect of coaching," says Doug Allen '88, M'90, professor of management and chair of the markets, innovation & design (MIDE) department in the Kenneth W. Freeman College of Management. "But learning doesn't happen by lecturing alone. It's practical application, like playing the game versus reading about it."
Allen, who helped develop the MIDE major, is the first recipient of the David J. & Deborah West Professorship of Management. He believes that kind of application integrates management with liberal arts, using frameworks from social theory to better understand consumer culture and behavior, and foster progressive thinking about marketing.
"The program was expressly developed as a way to compose a major rooted in marketing, but connected throughout campus to all Bucknell has to offer," he says.
Allen's approach is also one that has developed over more than two decades of teaching at Bucknell, in which he's seen students themselves change from passive learners to much more engaged ones.
"In my first 10 years or so, students' expectations were much more traditional: taking notes from lectures and memorizing information," he says. "Now, students are much more attuned to and receptive of practical and embodied experiences."
Allen fosters that experience through a number of exercises, which take place both in and out of the classroom. In the "child's eye" exercise, students walk a route throughout campus that they've taken countless times before — but by walking it slowly and deliberately, observing the surroundings as though seeing them for the first time. It's an exercise that allows students to look at something with a fresh perspective, Allen says, an invaluable tool for seeking an innovative approach to marketing.
Another exercise is "failing forward," in which students write a "resume" not of their success, but their failures. Students then discuss those failures in depth with each other, encouraging them to look back on what has and hasn't been successful.
Allen appreciates the academic freedom that his method of teaching affords him at Bucknell.
"It's really important to have that, because I work in a very business-oriented field and I approach it from largely a critical perspective," he says. "In this field, there's a tendency not to scrutinize current practices, but if we want to continue to innovate, it's important to think critically."
Posted Sept. 22, 2017
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