Invite students to deconstruct stories and experience shared meaning making through reflective critical discourse

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Management learning theorists (Musson, Cohen & Tietze, 2007) call for teaching approaches that could help business students become acutely aware of the process of "meaning making" - particularly when hearing and telling "stories." They posit that learning exercises which introduce basic "semiotics" and "reflective critical discourse" toward ascertaining the meaning of a particular story can encourage students to surface and examine the underlying assumptions and beliefs that frame their understandings and evaluations of the story being told. Toward these ends, we developed a classroom learning activity in which discussants gain first-hand experience in using storytelling, semiotics and reflective critical discourse to interpret and construct meaning regarding an audience member's recounting of a selected business experience. In particular, we have found it helpful to invite audience members to participate in "deconstructing" a story into a distinct set of events, activities and behaviors. Then, discussants are asked to reflect upon how semantics and meaning construction endeavors may impact the "evaluative criteria" they utilize to interpret and construct meaning about selected behaviors in the story. This approach encourages students to gain experience in surfacing, sharing and reflecting critically upon the typically subliminal assumptions, beliefs and pre-conceived notions they may hold about a selected behavior under discussion. As students participate in collaborative meaning making endeavors within their classroom, motivated learners may envision ways to effectively deconstruct, interpret and evaluate other complex business scenarios in the future.

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