Outcome Goals and the Learning Process

Kenneth R. Thompson, Daniel J. Koys, Toni Ungaretti, and Katherine Karl

We preach, "The importance of goals."

We often practice, "Little direction is provided as we do not set learning goals."

We preach, "Having a clear vision of the outcomes will produce greater effort."

We often practice, "We are done when the course is completed."

We preach, "Design and innovation can support organization and individual learning."

We often practice, "Follow a text that is designed to disseminate knowledge rather than teaching students to think."

We preach, "Create and manage an environment that will lead to superior outcomes."

We often practice, "Don't be critical, students will resent it and you will pay on the student satisfaction survey at the end of the course."

We preach, "Align goals, structure the environment, and support behaviors to create a culture of engaged participants focused toward reaching organizational goals." We often practice, "There is little connection between outcomes, class design, and class environment."

There seems to be a continual lack of using fundamentals of effective management in the design and delivery of management courses and programs. Research findings show a number of ways to best manage, but when it comes to applying what we know to management education, we seem to have lost a sense of what to do and even how to do it (e.g., see Chia & Holt, 2008).

The end result is that management education is less than it can be. Faculty, students, and other stakeholders are frustrated that actual outcomes are not up to their potential. Resources are wasted when students are not engaged in their classes—students live in a world that offers more exciting challenges than sitting through an hour-and-a-half lecture. The world faces critical environmental, competitive, and human problems—issues that management education can help solve if key management principles are applied on a consistent basis.

AACSB and other accreditation associations are slowly focusing on the need to assess outcomes in management education. However, these attempts seem to lack the comprehensive approach that is needed to focus on the total development of the student. This is critical in management education. Not only does management education have the content dimensions of the discipline, there is the additional behavioral skill-building responsibility that is not prevalent in some other business school disciplines.

These are some of the key challenges that management education faces, yet there has been only a lukewarm acknowledgement of them. In this chapter we will conduct a metareflection about management education programs. Our approach to program evaluation is just one way among others. However, we hope that our line of reasoning will inspire management educators to further acknowledge these key challenges and work to solve them. Failure to define the key measurable outcomes of management education and the failure to translate them into an aligned set of goals are major maladies of the current management education environment; a failure to practice what we preach.

This chapter applies what many of us preach to three facets of the learning process: developing overall measures of success, making the classroom experience richer, and managing the classroom experience. In doing so, we suggest ways to align goals, structure the environment, and support behaviors to create a culture of engaged participants focused toward reaching organization goals. In outline form:

1. Developing overall measures of program success.

(a) We preach the importance of goals.

(b) We preach that having a clear vision of the outcomes will produce greater effort.

2. Making the classroom experience richer using authentic learning through action learning and reflective practice.

(a) We preach that design and innovation can support organization and individual learning.

3. Managing the classroom experience, particularly managing student interactions to reduce student incivility.

(a) We preach that creating and managing the environment will lead to superior outcomes.

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