How MBA teaching must change

130826 sleeping student croppedIn a recently released book Bond University researchers George Hrivnak and Amy Kenworthy examined some of the challenges involved for graduate management education. They provided MBA News with a snapshot of their research.

The pressures on business schools today are unrelenting and complex, much like the pressures on most other industries.

Changing customer demographics, economic fluctuations, financial pressures, more demanding stakeholders, new technological developments, and increasing competition are just a few of the more commonly cited challenges. These pressures also directly and indirectly affect business faculty; perhaps none more so that the constant pressure to publish and the often conflicting demands of research and teaching. All too often, the scales are heavily tipped toward the former with comparatively little time and resources directed toward the latter.

Combined with doctoral programs designed primarily to train new faculty to be researchers as opposed to educators, it is easy to understand how so little of the research on learning has permeated graduated management programs.

In our recent book chapter called “Overlooked and underappreciated: What research tells us about how teaching must change,” written with our colleagues Ken Brown and Ben Arbaugh, we turned to the extant cross-disciplinary literature to find out what we should be doing when we teach in graduate management education. There is much to be learned about effective teaching and learning from broadening our scope to look outside of our traditional domains.
Some of our key messages for business school deans, faculty and administrators of graduate management education programs include:

  • Faculty members should be aware of, understand, and work to integrate tenets of the four different types of knowledge – content, pedagogy, pedagogical content, and technological pedagogical content in their teaching and learning environments. Many of us will have mastered one or two of these, but it is the intersection and mixed application of all four of them that will have the greatest impact on student learning.
  • There is much to learn from our colleagues in other disciplines and their work in the areas of learning processes and outcomes. Related to this, our current systems for measuring learning are not as effective as they should and could be with a deeper understanding of this cross-disciplinary literature.
  • Reflecting upon our own management practices and internal mechanisms is critical to understanding what we are teaching our students. It is no longer acceptable if we don’t practice what we preach.
  • While MOOCs may be the disruptive change du jour, online and blended learning is not new. There are some very clear principles that we can draw upon from extensive research that exists with respect to creating effective online teaching environments. Let’s not run toward (or away) from such emerging threats without considering what we can learn from theory and research.
  • Experiential learning is, and will arguably always be, the cornerstone of effective graduate management educational practice. Research can help us maximize these experiences for everyone involved. We cannot afford to ignore research related to this teaching platform – it underpins everything we do and teach.

In our chapter and throughout the entire book of which it is a part, Disrupt or Be Disrupted: A Blueprint for Change in Management Education, readers are confronted with the challenges of graduate management education today and provided with evidence-based tools for meeting those challenges. The literature is vast. The research is out there. The pressure is on us all. We simply can’t keep doing what we have been doing. For faculty teaching in graduate management education programs today, we have to move forward or be left behind.

Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (