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Additional Business Management Material

Material I've written as currently unstructured collection from various MBA-related forums.


Why Did You Undertake an MBA

c.f., http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/life/is-the-degree-outdated-20130325-...

A fluff piece, bouncing random ideas with vague assertions without any theoretical foundations and barely a hint of empirical backing.

The only hint of something useful is the recognition of lifelong learning, and it is on that point some elaboration.

Since finishing at Chifley, I have gone on to undertake my fourth degree, this time a Masters in Education, specialising in adult and tertiary education. One of the major theoretical themes in this area is the recognition of how education is necessarily shifting in grade (i.e., more people having higher education), but also across time (i.e., more people obtaining second and third qualifications etc).

The two forces that are pushing this change are increased real economic growth through technology (a shift from manual tasks to automation), and a dovetailed change in the development of knowledge; as a previous poster mentioned "the half-life" of knowledge has declined.

Whilst the article does mention in passing that higher education does give the "impression of a desire for continuous learning", this does not give due emphasis of its requirement. It is not just desire but the need for lifelong learning in a contemporary society that is a driver. We may be thankful that the Australian government realised these drivers a long time ago and a result, our population has managed - more or less - to keep up in the game.

Undertaking an MBA is an outgrowth of this situation. With more complex technologies and social environments (globalisation) management, especially with a technological orientation, has increasing importance.

Some handy reading material on the subject:

Candy, P. C., Crebert, G., & O’Leary, J. (1994). "Developing lifelong learners through undergraduate education". Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

G.Foley (Ed.), (2004) "Dimensions of adult learning: Adult education and training in a global era". Crows Nest, NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin.


How To Teach An MBA (or any other higher education course for adults)

The relationship between motivation and learning outcomes is quite a strong one, although there is some empirical difficulties. For example, whilst intelligence is considered to be one of the strongest predictor of outcomes, people with high intelligence also tend to be highly motivated [1].

Nevertheless, there are a number of empirical tests that have been conducted, based around content, reward, and environmental changes, which show that it is quite possible to encourage (or retard) involvement and motivation, of which I'll mention just a couple.

The first is that adult learners are more prone to increasing intrinsic motivations, rather than extrinsic ones. Extrinsic motivations include fear of punishment, loss or gain of social status and/or wealth, whereas intrinsic motivations include self-identity or value for its own sake. There is good empirical research that supports this development [2].

So now we know what motivated adult learners; the next step is how. There are some good practical strategies - again backed by empirical research - which have been documented [3], which I'll address just as dot points.

* Knowledge is retained when embedded in an conceptual organising structure. Knowledge of facts is handy, but understanding is much better as it allows the learner to elaborate their knowledge into new constructions.

* Ensure that the students are learning new material that builds on what they already know. Good instruction will elicit prior knowledge; it builds confidence, it provides an opportunity to explain congruence and misfits for what will be learned. Encourage learners to ask their questions and present their problems using the conceptual frameworks taught to test validity. Take the role of an active peer in the learning process.

* Ensure that the material is contextually relevant, attainable, is frequently tested, with plenty of explanatory feedback. Select material that can be actually used by the learners in their life, or at least approximates it. Selecting several small items of assessable material is much better than one large one. Positive feedback encourages and satisfies. Negative feedback discourage and threats will be treated with utter contempt with adult learners. Don't say "You are wrong", rather, show what is right.

* Cooperative and collaborative learning works surprisingly well; students tend to avoid in activities that may result in failure and a collaborative environment allows for the opportunity to engage in both immediate feedback to their ideas, integrate themselves into a community of practise (much better than competency testing for learning outcomes), and engage in a division of labour.

* Allow for a component of self-assessment and autonomous learning and evaluation. Put the adult learner in a situation (e.g., a laboratory) where they are able to test their own knowledge independently, discovering and evaluating for themselves the level of know-how that they've achieved. Do not fear the possibility that adult learners will "cheat" in this context, awarding themselves high marks.

References

[1] e.g., Rohde, T.E., Thompson L.A. (2007). Predicting academic achievement with cognitive ability. Intelligence. Volume 35, Issue 1, January-February 2007, Pages 83-92 and Schmidt, F.L., Hunter, J.E. (1998). "The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings". Psychological Bulletin 124 (2): 262-74.

[2] Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (Eds.), (2002). Handbook of self-determination research. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press andSheldon, K. M. (2009). Changes in goal-striving across the life span: Do people learn to select more self-concordant goals as they age?. In M. C. Smith (Ed.), Handbook of research on adult learning and development (pp. 553–569). New York: Routledge.

[3] Svinicki, M. D. (2004). Learning and motivation in the postsecondary classroom. Boston: Anker an Montague W.E., and Knirk, F.G. (1993), What works in adult instruction: The management, design, and delivery of instruction. International journal of educational research, 19(4).