Trends in Business Curricula: The View from AACSB

By Ryan, Cathy | Business Communication Quarterly, March 1999 | Go to article overview

Trends in Business Curricula: The View from AACSB


Ryan, Cathy, Business Communication Quarterly


Note: This commentary reflects a phone conversation with Charles Hickman, Director of Products and Special Services, AACSB (The International Association for Management Education - formerly American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business) on 16 November 1998. Our conversation ranged over several topics pertinent to communications requirements in AACSB schools. We are grateful to Mr. Hickman for allowing us to summarize his views in this issue.

AACSB tries to avoid prescribing the content or approach of the business curriculum. Instead, we support schools in their efforts to improve what and how they teach by pointing out interesting curricular models and new developments. We also help them implement strategies for measuring the results and outcomes of the changes they introduce.

SKill Development

There has been a new emphasis on skill development, not to replace our traditional focus on knowledge, but recognizing that particularly in terms of measuring subsequent career success, those skills are important (core skills - leadership, communication, teamwork). Another emerging direction is teaching students about managing diversity.

Assessment Tools

One of the more interesting things happening is that schools administer assessment tools as students enter the curriculum, aimed at giving students a snapshot of their strengths/weaknesses. The results/feedback are then used to help students develop individualized learning plans, which include selection of courses, internships, and extra-/co-curricular activities that will help them develop skills they need. Particularly as more of the MBA curriculum is based on study groups/teams, schools need to be conscious of selection on the basis of skills the team has and skills that individuals need to develop (not a strictly demographic selection).

Exit Exam (Assess Impact of Programs)

There's still more to do here in terms of evaluating and getting the students to go through some battery of exams as they graduate, to measure the impact of our programs. I really struggle to think of any university-based business schools that are doing this sort of assessment. I had other reason this past week to call around to schools that I think of on the front-edge of this thing. The result? I don't think there are any good models to tell of yet.

Integrated Curriculum

Business schools need to look at, adapt, and improve on programs that currently exist. Certainly there are varying degrees of integrated curriculum, particularly in full-time, daytime programs (Babson, Tennessee) that combine a number of disciplines together in one course or "mega case" that attempts to help students see business as an integrated whole (e.g., just-in-time learning). But this is a hard approach to implement particularly in terms of faculty performance awards. There are unique personal stresses.

In the last decade, there have been quite a few schools who have made a run at integrating at least the first-year core curriculum. There are variations on the model (retreats at the beginning, middle, end of first year/program; international study tours; case study; team building field assignments; networking). The University of Oklahoma has an integrated model at the undergraduate level; Rochester, Duke, Wharton, Michigan, and Minnesota all have various degrees of integrated programs at the graduate level. Small schools such as the Catholic College, Bellarmine (Louisville, KY) have also successfully integrated the business curriculum.

Curricular Design/Complex Learning Models

There is a hierarchy of 700 MBA programs in the country, with approximately 300,000 MBA students. Some set of those students are willing to pay the extra dollars it takes to design and deliver complex learning models (Harvard, Yale) and some are not. Some donors believe in this kind of curricular design; some want their money to go in some other direction. …

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