Monday, November 9, 2015

Fostering critical thinking skills in students

Professor Harm-Jan Steenhuis, Ph.D., who has a research interest
 in 3D printing, and items produced with his home 3D printer.
Harm-Jan Steenhuis, Ph.D., professor of international business and MBA program chair, is originally from The Netherlands. He has lived in a host of places including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Washington, and other countries around the world, before relocating to Hawai‘i this past summer.

There were several factors drawing Steenhuis to Hawai‘i. He and his family wanted to be somewhere warmer and closer to the ocean. As for the appeal of Hawai‘i Pacific University and the College of Business (COB), Steenhuis first noted the diversity of the student population.

“It’s attractive to be teaching international business when you have a lot of international students in your classes…because they can come in with examples from their own countries,” he said.

Likewise, Steenhuis has much to offer international business students. His global research and business experiences include developing an export plan for an Indian company producing transformers; studying the transfer of production technology to an aircraft manufacturing company in Romania; and looking at innovation and commercialization of carbon dioxide as an environmentally friendly replacement for water in manufacturing processes at a Science and Technology Center sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

On the COB faculty delivering education with an emphasis on project-based learning, Steenhuis points to its value as it “forces students to work in teams, which happens in the workplace.”

He also notes the intentional design of the new COB headquarters at Pioneer Plaza — with its many conference rooms to accommodate frequent meetings of student teams — supporting project-based learning.

“The feedback I give to one group of students (on their project) is not the feedback I give to another group of students,” he said. “In my course for example, I require students to meet with me once a week so that they can check the progress they are making and where they are struggling.”

Looking at education holistically, Steenhuis stresses the importance of developing critical thinking skills.  In his MBA course, he gives students a business card that has a definition of critical thinking and requires the students to think about the definition throughout the semester.

“In my view…the value of education is in learning a way of thinking,” he said. “For example, when you get presented with evidence what kind of conclusions can you draw.”

Beyond teaching, his latest research interest is 3D printing, which he became intrigued by last year while visiting an aerospace manufacturing company in South Africa developing the technology. Steenhuis now has a home 3D printer and a collection of items produced from it including a comb, a whistle and the shark from the Katy Perry Super Bowl half-time show.

“I think it’s going to change the way we have manufacturing industries,” said Steenhuis.

In his capacity as Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Steenhuis and colleagues are working on a special issue focused on 3D printing research, covering different angles including industry, consumers and commercialization. The issue is planned for release at the end of 2016 or early 2017.

When Steenhuis is not working, he finds time to enjoy his passion of competitive swimming. He is a certified USMS coach, has served as a USA Swimming official and has competed in the FINA World Master Championships, LEN European Masters Championships and many U.S. national championships.                             

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