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BW Businessworld

Evolution of MBA Pedagogy

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While MBA needs to evolve to keep pace with the changing environment, the goals to a large extent remain the same - to create future business leaders. The purpose of pedagogy is to create strong self-belief in the students. This self-belief enables them to solve complex problems using their experience and knowledge, most importantly to "get the job done".

The pedagogy also needs to create more "market ready" entrepreneurs, leaders and managers. In his recent article, Dr Srikanth Datar of Harvard Business School says "Schools also seem to have lost it where practical skills are concerned."

We need innovation in pedagogies. There should be three important pillars — redefining faculty as a consultant and coach rather than a lecturer, use of workplace for instantly experimenting with the learning, and use of technology for repository and collaboration.

Faculty as a consultant and coach: We have embraced a "Problem Based Learning" curriculum. This is an approach in research over the last 20 years and has seen usage at Stanford, Ohio and some other colleges. I often define this as a bigger, broader canvas than a "case" to paint on. While a typical case is designed for 1-2 hours of classroom participation, a problem can span weeks. These problems represent a business problem or an activity which students work on. For example, making a business plan is a business problem. The faculty in this approach takes the role of mentor and coaching to solve the
problem. We have seen this allows the students to constantly see the big picture and connect the dots.

Use of workplace as a learning playground: A recent article talks about "FIELD", a new initiative by Harvard to send students for a week inside companies. One learns the most while on the job. (This btw, is expected to increase the cost of the program by another 5-10%). We have adopted a pedagogy that builds on working professionals' experiences. We constantly use existing company as a reference point to understand business. We want to use a FIELD-like experience for the whole year rather than 1 week.

Use of technology for collaboration: We use technology for "social learning", i.e. learning from each other in a fun, lightweight environment. This includes collaborative problem solving, connecting to each other as people and fellow team members and accessing a large knowledge repository. Very similar to what one would do in business. This, blended with physical contact programs provides the right kind of interaction between students, faculty and industry.

Our pedagogy focus is on "being"->"applying"->"knowing" rather than the traditional knowing"-> "applying"->"being". Our belief is that this will impart the right combination of execution and management skills to create future leaders for our industry.

The author is Director of Sunstone Business School