New Challenges for Business Educators

6 December 2007 at 12:35 pm 6 comments

| Peter Klein |

Tuesday’s WSJ ran an interview with Daphne Atkinson, vice president for industry relations at the Graduate Management Admission Council (the organization that owns and administers the GMAT and provides various recruiting services for business schools). The interviews focuses on the challenges schools face in attracting and educating the newest generation of MBA students (the so-called Millennials). A few passages caught my eye:

[The current generation has] the sense that it is either irrelevant or meaningless to “pay dues.” It can be disappointing to find out that you won’t be president of the company in two years. Millennials want their dream job as early as possible. But entry-level jobs are seldom dream jobs, although they may be at dream companies or in dream industries.

Could the current emphasis on entrepreneurship, creativity, and the like — we are all entrepreneurial and creative, we just have to discover and nurture our inner entrepreneur — be partly responsible?

And this:

Q: What deficiencies do employers see in millennials?

A: While millennials bring skills in multitasking, technology and working in teams, they tend to demonstrate less ability in oral and written communications and interpersonal interaction. They also have been socialized since childhood to get constant feedback and are going to look for it in the workplace too. As a result, some employers consider them high maintenance.

The lack of basic oral and written communication skills, the need for constant feedback — these are familiar problems to educators. What is the root cause? Deficiencies in primary and secondary education? The telecommunications revolution? Modern culture?

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Education.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve Rosenbaum  |  6 December 2007 at 1:16 pm

    One of the major problems in both secondary schools and college is that they are geared to an old academic model rather than an efficient, accelerated learning model.

    Let’s take the example of a typical undergraduate business degree. It’s usually a four year degree. Why? Right now I think the answer is, that’s it’s always been four years and it fits with all the other four year degrees.

    So, what’s the strategy. You fill up the four years with subjects. Nice and neat. Very easy for teachers and administrators.

    The goal is now to complete the series of courses rather than to achieve a desired outcome. Let’s say, being a productive employee or a successful entrepreneur.

    If you structure education differently, you get a better result in a significantly shorter period of time. The way to do this is to define an outcome and level of proficiency. Then you determine the fastest way to get there. Instead of years and subjects, you think of start to finish.

    Then instead of sitting in classrooms, you try to figure out was is the education, experience and practice require to achieve your goal. Could be time listening to a lecture but probably not a lot of it?

    Think about leanring to give a dynamic group presentation. It takes a little bit of instruction, a lot of coaching and several hundred presentations for practice. Colleges usually leave out 2 parts of this equation.

    So I think it’s less the millenials and more an education system that hasn’t changed much in a couple hundred years.

    I just posted something on digital learners on my blog.

  • 2. srp  |  6 December 2007 at 7:53 pm

    Interesting interview. The biggest potential weakness I can see in this cohort is a devaluing of craftsmanship in doing work–getting the analysis right, accumulating skills, and so on. The dislike of negative feedback is tied into this, because it’s hard to get good at things if you don’t react properly to having flaws identified in your output.

    I am pretty skeptical about the value of jazzy multi-media approaches to keeping students interested. It’s much more important to raise their boredom threshold–to show them that important abstractions are not boring at all by linking these ideas to matters of consequence.

  • 3. stevphel  |  6 December 2007 at 9:36 pm

    I agree that the dislike of negative feedback is a problem.

  • 4. REW  |  7 December 2007 at 12:35 am

    I just finished teaching a course this term that offers some hope. 55 students from 7 colleges and 18 different majors forced to write about 60 pages of prose: term paper, 2 position papers, three essay exams, 5 short journal entries. Most had two required drafts with lots of negative and positive feedback, from peers, profs, and two rhetoric teachers who beat them up on grammar, argument structure, and style. They also had to present a 10-14 minute oral presentation on a subject related to the course. The student presentations were all PPT-based, but the instructors didn’t use PPT. It was all old-fashioned discourse, fueled by having three profs goading, challenging, and engaging each other and the students each night.

    All students decried the fact that they hadn’t had a similar experience prior this (most are seniors). All were grateful for the chance to improve their writing and to argue openly about social issues. They didn’t mind negative feedback as long as they got a chance to rewrite and resubmit. They wanted to craft their outputs.

    Burn your thumb drives and PPT handouts. srp is right about the potential in the classroom. The failure is ours, not the students’.

  • 5. Steve Rosenbaum  |  7 December 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Here’s what I like about your approach. You’ve put in a lot of practice and feedback which is where most learning really happens.

    You’re also getting what we call a 2fer or a 3fer. You’re doing one activity and learning mutliple skills. I bet while they were writing they improved their computer skills and research skills.

  • 6. Gary Peters  |  7 December 2007 at 1:34 pm

    The interview is entirely consistent with phenomena (challenges) in the Accounting academe. Traditionally, the accounting industry can be seen as a “pay your dues” career. Historically, it “was” a well understood arrangment (or stereotype) that you pay your dues for a few years in Public Accounting and then advance to executive positions in industry.
    Most accounting firms are now struggling with the fact that this unwritten “understanding” is no longer held by incoming accounting majors. As a result, many of the largest accounting firms are targeting their efforts on how to train and manage millenials. See the BusinessWeek article “The Best Places to Launch a Career- The surprise in BusinessWeek’s second annual ranking: Accounting firms have raced to the head of the pack”

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