WE PREACH, "THE IMPORTANCE OF GOALS"

Setting solid outcome goals is a central part of what we teach in management education. There is a large body of evidence showing that general goals are more effective than no goals, specific goals are better than general goals, more difficult goals (to a point) lead to more productive behavior than easy goals (see, e.g., Latham, 2004). Kerr (1975) pointed out the importance of choosing the appropriate goals. His ideas and other research led to the conclusion that outcome goals produce better performance than activity goals. Almost without exception, research has supported the efficacy of goal setting as a central part of providing direction to an organization (see, e.g., Mitchell, Thompson, & George-Falvy, 2000).

One of the best examples in the use of academic outcome goals in the United States is the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Stout, a Baldrige Award recipient[1] in 2001 which is still measuring outcomes. In its application for the award, it used several key measures to assess its results: graduation rates, percentage of graduates employed in their field, average salary of current graduates, and average salary 4 years after graduation. The focus in this institution reflected the students' key requirement of finding employment in their areas of preparation. Collaterally, the university focused on the key requirements of its second key stakeholder, employers. In developing its educational programs to meet the competencies required by employers, UW-Stout's graduates would be desired in the work environment.

UW-Stout used these quantified outcome measures to track performance and align programs toward meeting these organizational outcomes measures. Instead of just looking at number of graduates as a measure, the university focused more on the quality of the program in developing employed graduates and how well they met the needs of the employers. This is a radically different approach than that used in most universities. Many of them may look at employment rates at graduation, but they seldom do much about those rates, and they hardly ever use those data to improve program performance. There is a failure to really define outcome measures and then use those measures to drive specific curricular improvements. It may be because curricular matters are considered the purview of the faculty not the administration or it may be that there is not a clear shared vision of the values, visions, and mission of the university among senior leadership, staff, and faculty. In any event, goals are not a vital force to shape the quality of the learning that goes on in most universities.

WE PREACH, "HAVING A CLEAR VISION OF THE OUTCOMES WILL PROVIDE GREATER EFFORT"

Without outcome goals there is less of a guiding star to focus the efforts of others in the university. The model that UW-Stout provides is a beginning of setting a set of outcomes important to the stakeholders (universities, students, employers, community). These measures can be the guides that help align the various programs in the university. This alignment should be the next step in creating a vision of the outcomes that will encourage the extra effort needed to create a more meaningful program. This requires that we determine what careers graduates enter from specific programs. Knowing the prevalent career paths of the graduates helps us determine the knowledge and skills needed for those careers. This linkage can be made using data provided the U.S. Department of Labor in its occupational information network database or O*NET (n.d.).

The O*NET (n.d.) database provides career-related data for 974 occupations, including itemizations of the knowledge and skills needed for specific job categories. Since the data are collected from thousands of job incumbents in a representative sample of the national labor force, this database can be a reliable indicator that can be used for designing programs and specific course content. Rubin and Dierdorff (2009) used 52 managerial occupations in the O*NET database to analyze MBA curricula. However, the O*NET database goes beyond business degree-type careers to a full gamut of careers that could apply to most university programs.

Here is an example of how this alignment to create a clearer vision of what should be in a program might occur. Using the same 52 managerial occupations used in the Rubin and Dierdorff (2009) study, we analyzed the knowledge and skills job incumbents deemed important for their jobs (Thompson & Koys, 2010). Table 8.1 shows the percentage of the "bachelor's jobs" (Bachelor in Business Administration-BBA) and the percentage of the "master's jobs"[2] (Master's in Business Administration-MBA) where specific knowledge and skill areas were rated important, very important, or extremely important in the results of the O*NET survey.[3] To be included in the table, we set a cut-off of 33% (one-third of the 26 bachelor's management occupations and one-third of the 26 master's management occupations). These results give a starting point for developing learning goals in management education.

Table 8.1. O*NET's Knowledge and Skill Data Help Set Management Learning Goals

% of Jobs

% of Jobs

Knowledge

BBA

MBA

Skill

BBA

MBA

Administration/

96

100

Active listening

96

100

management

Customer service

85

96

Critical thinking

92

88

English language

69

96

Reading comprehension

88

92

Education/training

65

42

Time management

88

77

Personnel/human resources

62

73

Speaking

85

81

Mathematics/statistics

54

69

Monitoring/assessing

73

54

Law/government

54

Judging/decision making

62

69

Computers/electronics

50

Coordinating with others

62

58

Production/processing

46

Motivate/develop/direct/

62

50

select

Clerical

38

Instructing

58

Econ./accounting/finance

35

46

Writing

58

Psychology

46

Social perceptiveness

38

42

Sales/marketing

35

Active learning

38

38

Safety

35

The focus on processes has not been extensively addressed in management education research. More organizations are realizing that if they focus on managing key processes, they will be more effective in reaching their desired outcomes (Crotts, Dickson, & Ford, 2005). The key processes used in most educational institutions are teaching students and adding to knowledge through research. The teaching process can be broken down into the sub-processes of curriculum development, course development, course delivery (see AACSB, 2009, p. 35).

With the skills and knowledge needed for the careers that were selected in the O*NET database, the curriculum committee could then consider what skills and knowledge to select and which courses would introduce and which courses would then develop the desired levels of knowledge and skills (Thompson & Koys, 2010). This is demonstrated, in part, with Table 8.2.

Table 8.2. Skill Coverage in a Management Department's Courses

Skill Coverage in a Management Department

Once the knowledge and behaviors determined as important for the major or degree program are allocated to the various courses, then individual class learning metrics can be developed.

Table 8.3 shows an example of some key knowledge and skills that have been identified for students majoring in management. One key learning outcome for that job is the ability to manage personnel (defined as motivating, directing, and developing workers, plus identifying the best people for the job [O*NET, n.d.). The employee training literature indicates that learning outcomes can be categorized as cognitive, skill-based, or affective (Kraiger, Ford, & Salas, 1993). Table 8.3 addresses the cognitive and skill-based aspects of the learning outcome in columns two and three.

Columns four and five of Table 8.3 address the key outcome of customer engagement. Two important customers of business schools are students and employers. We include student engagement because AACSB says that students and faculty have the responsibility to engage each other in the learning process (AACSB, 2012, Standards 13 and 14; Benware & Deci, 1987). In addition, we provide an example of employer engagement which can support building a curriculum that is more relevant to the needs of the business community. This will better prepare students and increase business' demand for graduates of the program. Further, employer involvement creates greater visibility for the school through these opportunities.

Table 8.3. A Sample Process/Outcome Matrix at the Course Level

Key Internal Subprocesses for Educating Students

Key Learning Outcomes: Motivating, Developing, Directing, and Selecting Subordinates

Key Customer-Focused Outcomes: ts Engaging Student

and Employers

Cognitive

Skill-Based

Student

Employer

Topic and Pedagogy: Motivation

Examination score for knowledge of motivation theories

Observation rating of student's performance in a group project where a team member is not motivated

In-class discussion on motivation problems and solutions students encountered when doing group projects.

Involve an organization that employs students in the development of a practical application of motivation

Topic and Pedagogy: Performance Assessment

Examination score for knowledge of performance assessment methods

Observation rating of student's behavior in a mock

performance

appraisal

meeting

Inclusion of homework where students describe the best and worst performance appraisals they have received.

Involve an

organization

that employs

students so as to

include

practical

problems

encountered

when doing

assessments

Topic and Pedagogy: Reinforcement Theory & Practice

Examination score for knowledge of reinforcement theory

Score on case study that requires the student to apply the Behavior Contingency Management model by Luthans & Kreitner

Inclusion of a case study where students determine the best

reinforcement practices for people of their generation.

Involve an organization that employs students in the development of a practical application of reinforcement theory

Topic and Pedagogy: Leadership

Examination score for knowledge of leadership theory

Rating score on a Vleader leadership simulation

Inclusion of an exercise that shows the student's current

leadership style.

Have potential employers interact with students in leadership topic panels

Topic and Pedagogy: Identifying (selecting) best people for the job

Examination score for knowledge of person/job fit, reliability and validity

Score on an assignment that requires the student to choose the proper person from among several people.

Inclusion of a project where students match their

knowledge, skills and abilities to the characteristics of jobs.

Work with a lawyer from a local

professional association on avoiding law suits related to selection and assignment

The rows of Table 8.3 are examples to demonstrate areas in the learning process (left hand column) that are necessary to fulfill the chosen learning and customer-focused outcomes. The cells within the matrix have defined measures to assess and track process performance. This creates an alignment between internal processes and desired outcomes (column headings).

Table 8.3 demonstrates how to define a school's performance based on specific metrics related to outcomes desired by most students, employers, and society. We advocate that specific college programs should be anchored to these overall metrics and then anchored again, through O*NET, to specific occupations or career knowledge and skills. The O*NET knowledge and skills list for an occupation or career is then translated into specific observable, measurable, metrics of learning through aligning course performance to known skills and knowledge needed to do well in the field of study (derived from the O*NET list). Having the overall quantified goals that are then aligned with degree or major curricular outcome metrics will help to channel effort toward designing and continuously improving the overall curriculum for the program and in fine tuning each course to meet the goals of the program which are now aligned to the key measures of the university.

But how do we design the course to make it a better learning environment for students? We now turn to the design of the class and the use of action learning and reflective practice as a means to improve authentic learning and assessment.

  • [1] The Malcolm Baldrige National Performance Award is the United States' highest award for quality in organizations and is current administered by the National Institute for Standards and Technology, a unit of the United States Department of Commerce.
  • [2] The O*NET data base indicates what sort of degree is required or usually recommended for a particular job. In this case we deliberately chose jobs with undergraduate degrees recommended or graduate degrees as recommended.
  • [3] The methodology used for O*NET data base can be found at onetcenter.org/overview.html
 
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