On Thursday, October 12, the Kenyon College Center for Innovative Pedagogy hosted David Brobeck P’02, associate professor of graduate education at Walsh University.
Brobeck, who currently researches how people learn most effectively and perform at optimal levels, also has an extensive background in the K-12 classroom touting 17 years as a high school teacher, followed by a myriad of administrative roles such as assistant principal, principal, and superintendent for various districts. The Common Hour session, titled “Cognitive Style and Group Work” introduced participants to the basics of Emergenetics — a personal profile based on four thinking attributes and three behavioral attributes emerging from both our life experiences and genetic traits — and its potential effects on student group dynamics and group work.
He began his session by discussing the attributes that make up the Emergenetics profile in the context of a real-life group of students in a course with a professor with the highest F-rate on Walsh’s campus. The three behavioral attributes examined in the Emergenetics Profile are expressiveness (the outward display of emotions toward others and the world at large), assertiveness (the style and pace with which you advance thoughts, feelings, and beliefs), and flexibility (the willingness to accommodate the thoughts and actions of others), and the four thinking attributes being analytical (reasoned, objective, rational), conceptual (inventive, imaginative, innovative), structural (detailed, methodical, organized), and social (sensitive, intuitive, supportive). Brobeck insists that knowing the thinking and behavioral preferences of each participant in a group allows the teacher and individual group members to really understand and respect the differences between one group member and another, enabling them to function more efficiently as a group. This faculty-to-student and peer-to-peer understanding encourages group members and faculty to see these individual preferences as an approach or strength rather than weakness. The use of the Emergenetics profile in the particular class of students mentioned above, brought a course with multiple Fs to a point where the lowest grade was a D, by understanding the individual students better, making space for students who think and behave in different ways within a group, and embracing those differences in new ways.
Attendees in the common hour session were asked to consider our own thinking and behavioral preferences through the completion of short questionnaires and then moved around the room according to the different preference groups with which we aligned. In doing so, we were able to talk with like-minded individuals in the groups we belonged to and discuss the strengths, weaknesses and needs of individuals with those particular thinking and behavioral attributes. This prompted a wider discussion on how we handle group work in our curricular activities and posed the question of what makes a group more successful--having a group full of people who think in the same way, or having a group where analytical, conceptual, structural, and social thinking come together? How can this kind of understanding of individuals be done in our classrooms here at Kenyon so that we might maximize our student group-work dynamics?
For further information on Brobeck’s talk and the Emergenetics Profile, email firstname.lastname@example.org.