How can business schools design educational experiences that are the most relevant to students and their future employers? How can schools motivate faculty to reframe the way they view their role in the classroom? These questions inspired lively roundtable discussions during “Innovative Trends in Teaching Business Trends,” an interactive session on Monday at AACSB’s Deans Conference. The deans attending agreed that transforming the classroom—and faculty’s traditional approaches to teaching—would be no small feat, but one that was imperative for their schools to accomplish. Many highlighted ideas from their schools that tackled the challenge head on, such as flipped classrooms, semesterlong live consulting projects, a semester dedicated to experiential learning, and workshops where faculty can experiment and become more comfortable with new modes of teaching.
Many of their ideas coalesced around another common question: How do we bring more practitioners into our classrooms, in ways that meaningfully inform our programs and student learning? “AACSB has recognized that the role of the practitioner is important to what we’re doing in business schools,” said one attendee. He emphasized that business schools have to make room for them in the classroom in ways that go beyond speaking engagements to encourage practitioners’ contributions to course content and delivery.
Deans offered a variety of suggestions to facilitate more seamless links between academia and industry. They included:
- Requiring faculty to take sabbaticals in industry to ensure a fresh flow of practice-based ideas into the classroom
- Creating exchanges of information in the classroom, where business leaders and entrepreneurs come in to present business problems and student teams design and deliver potential solutions
- Engaging young, successful alumni five years into their careers to participate on advisory boards and develop early relationships with the school
- Establishing DBA programs that not only provide a strong practice-based approach to research but also bolster teaching and connections to industry
- Forming partnerships with companies, so that students can spend part of their classroom time out in the field, learning on-site at the companies themselves
The consensus among these business school leaders was clear: Practitioners should no longer be relegated to the periphery of business education. Instead, business schools should find more imaginative ways to place practitioners’ expertise, energy, and input—and their appreciation of the fresh solutions that students bring to their companies’ real-world problems—at the center of the student learning process.