ERIC Number: EJ1093694
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Reference Count: 8
Rube Goldberg Salad System: Teaching Systems Theory in Communication
Linabary, Jasmine R.; Long, Ziyu; Mouton, Ashton; Rao, Ranjani L.; Buzzanell, Patrice M.
Communication Teacher, v30 n2 p77-81 2016
Systems theory has been a staple in organizational communication textbooks since the field's inception (Miller, 2015; Poole, 2014). Nevertheless, the authors' classroom experiences have revealed that systems theory may not seem applicable to students due to its complicated nature. While examples and cases can help students make sense of the various components, processes, and properties of systems, the authors propose an interactive learning activity that invites students to design an organizational process, specifically, a Rube Goldberg-style system for creating a salad. Rube Goldberg was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American cartoonist and inventor whose name has become synonymous with elaborate, complicated, and multistep machines that perform simple functions (Wolfe, 2000). Although Goldberg-based activities have been used in engineering and science, they also offer unique teaching opportunities in communication classrooms. Specifically, designing Rube Goldberg systems--highly complex, interdependent, and dynamic processes as opposed to linear assembly lines--allows students to acquire hands-on experience in applying abstract theoretical constructs to solve specific organizational design problems. Rube Goldberg systems are complicated, absurd, and, most importantly, memorable. Students gain better theoretical understanding through the activity, but also practice collaborative problem-solving and decision-making skills with their classmates.
Descriptors: Organizational Communication, Teaching Methods, Systems Approach, Learning Activities, Undergraduate Students, Educational Strategies, Educational Practices
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive; Guides - Classroom - Teacher
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A