Hospitality school promotes ‘mastery’ in management

By: Valentina Palm/Contributing Writer


Starting in spring 2019, the FIU Chaplin Hospitality and Tourism Management school will become the first to align its curriculum with the competencies established by the National Restaurant Association for a restaurant management class.

The class will pilot the implementation of competency-based learning to assess its establishment throughout all school areas.

Chaplin Professor Andrew Moreo, who is pioneering the re-development of the restaurant management class, explained the novelty of using the Association’s  competencies to pilot competency-based learning.

“We are aligning the content of the classroom with what the industry is looking for,” said Moreo. “Working with the NRA, we realized there aren’t any other universities or academic institution to ever truly align their curriculum with what the NRA says its important.”

The competencies are specific skills defined by the Association in conjunction with their industry members for their apprentice program explained Moreo. Some examples include revenue management, profit and loss statements, and customer service.

“The reason for using these competencies is they are agreed-on by industry professionals and it is a powerful thing to have because it validates the material we are teaching,” said Moreo.

Hybrid-courses, in-class hands-on activities, badges, and fast-paced learning are some of the characteristics Chaplin students can expect in the future if taught under a competency-based learning approach.

Moreo said that with the new format, classes will be mainly focused on activities where students can put their learning into practice, and outside the classroom, students will be using systems like “Lynda” and “Typsy” to learn online.

“Instead of having professors lecture students about what to do in a situation where an employee has a conflict, students will actually learn about that outside of class and inside the class do role-playing activities and videos demonstrations,” said Moreo.

The restaurant management section piloting the new learning approach will be split into 3 modules: food and beverage products, employee relations and consumer experience. Each will follow the industry’s management cycle: planification, organization, direction, and evaluation.

Moreo told Student Media that the first module of food and beverage products is going to take students through the stages of planning and organizing food and beverage products, and then they will through all of the stages that real restaurants go through.

This pilot course developed by Moreo is the proof of concept for an even bigger change pursued by the current Chaplin Dean Michael Cheng.

“My focus is to strengthen the school’s foundations by changing it towards competency-based learning approach,” said Cheng.

Cheng said that learning objectives will be the same, but the change will be how students can demonstrate to employers what they’ve learned.

“The key difference is going to be the demonstration of mastery of the competency. In a traditional class, you can get a grade but that doesn’t tell the employer anything about your skills, said Cheng. “Competency-based learning will allow the employer to know you have mastered those kinds of competencies.”

The grading system is also expected to change in order to prove competency mastery combining current letter grades with certification badges. Moreo will also pilot this system in the spring restaurant management class section.

“The individual modules are badges so students can get food and beverage badge, human resources badge and customer experience badge and once you get those three smaller badges that will equal to your restaurant management badge,” said Moreo.

Moreo said that industry partners are not so concerned about GPA, but rather they want to see if a student knows how to meet the competencies. The badges along with the grades will show employers this mastery.

Cheng believes fast-paced learning is also a valuable aspect of implementing the new learning approach as it is an effort to prepare students for their future work environment.

“In the industry everything is fast-paced and in academia, we’re kind of slow-pace. So, we are trying to accelerate the way we teach to match the industry’s work environment,” said Cheng.

Cheng and Moreo said that they expect a significantly positive impact in content mastery and student engagement with the new curriculum, and that students will be able do things at their own speed.

“The ultimate goal is to show the students who enroll in this new format achieve better mastery of those same competencies that were taught in a traditional setting, because we are giving them the freedom to do it at the pace that they want to. They may finish in five or ten weeks because it’s focus is concept mastery demonstration,” said Cheng.

Cheng said  that this change within is meant to ensure and maintain the validity of the content taught in class.

“My belief is that everything we teach should always be validated by the industry to prepare our students and graduates for the 21st century by finding a way to make sure our work is valid ten or fifteen years from now,” said Cheng. “Building a curriculum the industry wants, the Chaplin School is able to quickly adapt and produce skill sets relevant to what the industry.”

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