Understanding Students’ Engagement in Higher Education

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Alexander Kofinas of University of Bedfordshire. Dr. Kofinas recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Managing the sublime aesthetic when communicating an assessment regime: The Burkean Pendulum,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Kofinas reveals the inspiration for conducting this research :]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

When looking back to this piece of work I realise that the main motivation for pursuing the publication of this conceptual work is the sympathy I have for the students and their perturbations. I think sometimes the academy is relatively dismissive of the emotive aspects of learning and the sheer terror that some of my students seem to feel when facing new concepts, new ideas and new knowledge. At times, it appears like a small death; the death of the students’ previous state of knowledge and being. And yet looking back at my own learning journey it is in those small deaths and re-births, in those moments where I felt the abjection, the fear, the pressure; in those moments memories grew memories that I hold dear. And in those moments, my then classmates, housemates, friends, and teachers became an important aspect of my interpretation of my story. Thus there is something attractive in this fear and in overcoming it, and the closest word to describe this feeling of attraction has been the sublime as described by Burke.

What is the most important/ influential piece of scholarship you’ve read in the last year?

It is hard to isolate a single influential piece of scholarship; it is in blending them that I get insight. So better to talk about a specific blend that helped with this published work. To make sense of the sublime and its connection to the learning journey of my students I tapped into an eclectic range of literature which rarely focussed on Higher Education. However, the breakthrough for this article was only possible when I made the connection between productive failure (which is akin to Argyris’ double-loop learning), with the way Kant was treating the feeling of the sublime; it was the realisation that Kant was treating the sublime almost as a failure of cognition to conquer the external world that provided that mechanism behind the burkean pendulum.

What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?

As usual, there is much that did not make it to the final manuscript. The original manuscript had 3x the concepts and ideas and was a bit of a… mess. Arguably the most important part removed was probably the section on flow and terror management theory; in the original manuscript I had suggested that flow (as in Goleman’s flow) is part of the terror management process and thus a way to overcome the sublime. There may be here scope for a future paper that seriously examines the beauty side of the aesthetic motivation and its link to flow. Terror Management theory (TMT) also would be good to explore explicitly, I was sad to remove it but in the end it was the sublime thread that was the priority. However, I still think that the TMT authors in that field have tapped something that may be uncomfortable to many but it is of primary importance to acknowledge and investigate; Death is a vital part of our life and that in learning both life and death are present…

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How Educators Should Respond to Culture, Gender, and Moral Ideology on Sales Ethics Evaluations

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Youngsu Lee of California State University, Chico, Timothy Heinze of California State University, Chico, Casey Donoho of California State University, Chico, Christophe Fournier of the University of Montpellier, Ahamed A. F. M. Jalal of Binus University International, David Cohen of Lincoln University, and Eike Hennebichler of the University of Montpellier. They recently published an article in the Journal of Marketing Education entitled “An International Study of Culture, Gender, and Moral Ideology on Sales Ethics Evaluations: How Should Educators Respond?” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Heinze reflects on the motivations for conducting this research:]

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My motivation for working on “An International Study of Culture, Gender, and Moral Ideology on Sales Ethics Evaluations: How Should Educators Respond?” fundamentally centered on the need to facilitate ethical orientations and practices in sales. Globally, sales is one of the most difficult positions for hiring managers to fill. However, though professional sales positions are readily available and offer lucrative financial and lifestyle benefits, many college students do not desire sales careers. This fact is of particular concern in marketing where the majority of students must begin their professional careers in sales. Therefore, the paper is an attempt to better understand the global nature of sales ethics. If we can understand the drivers behind ethical sensitivity and decision making in sales, we can better develop pedagogical tools to effectively teach sales ethics.

The most challenging aspect of the research involved coordinating data collection across five countries. However, the international nature of the study also provided several interesting and unexpected findings. For example, we found that cultural traditionalism doesn’t necessarily yield increased ethical sensitivity. Indonesia is technically more traditional than the U.S., but Indonesian respondents were not as ethically sensitive to sales improprieties. This finding aligned with prior research which uncovered that collectivistic societies such as Indonesia tend to have lower levels of ethical sensitivity.

Another interesting finding dealt with gender and ethical sensitivity. Females were more ethically sensitive in all countries, save Germany (where females and males shared similar sensitivity levels). Germany was the most secular country studied, and the disappearance of traditional gender roles in secular societies might influence sensitivity levels.

Finally, the research confirmed that moral ideologies impact ethical sensitivity. Individuals who subscribe to absolutist ideologies (high idealism/low relativism) are the most sensitive to ethical misconduct in sales situations.


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Mobile Business Retailing

cafe-691956_1920[We’re pleased to welcome authors Sarah Fischbach and Veronica Guerrero of California Lutheran University. They recently published an article in the Journal of Marketing Education entitled “Mobile Business Retailing: Driving Experiential Learning on Campus,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations for conducting this research:]

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Almost everyone knows what you are talking about when you say Food Truck, however, when you start talking about Game Trucks, Fashion Trucks, Mobile Pet Services Trucks, Mobile IV Trucks, you will find less true understanding and knowledge. In 2014, I attended a 7-year-old birthday party for one of my neighbors’ son. It seemed like the average birthday party with a cake, piñata and of course a food truck. After a little while a couple more trucks pulled up including a Mobile Game Truck and a Mobile Beauty Truck. Inside the climate controlled Game Truck there were six 55” LED TVs with video game consoles, tons of games and controllers for up to 24 players. I was amazed and it took me by surprise, what other types of mobile business are out there. My research lead to the American Mobile Retail Association (AMRA) http://www.americanmra.com and after a couple of conversations with the founders Stacey Jischke-Steffe and Jeanine Romo, I knew that this was something that students needed to know about. The way companies and place our products with the consumer is changing, drastically.
I began working with the AMRA to set up mobile business truck events on campus and it has been a big hit. One of the challenges that I faced was the commitment of the mobile business owner. If they didn’t want to set up their shop or drive it up to campus, they didn’t have to, they were mobile. Another challenge that I found was peoples’ perceptions with mobile businesses since their first and only experience was with food trucks.

The most innovative aspects of the research focus on experiential learning and the use of mobile business truck format. Sometimes students are less motivated in a marketing course when their major is finance, accounting or management. The novelty of the mobile business project allows the students outside the marketing field to see how this could be important at all levels. The mobile business owner is the marketer, manager and the entrepreneur. In business, we wear many hats and this is a great way for the students to see it first-hand.

I have learned that research in pedagogy can be very rewarding. As a professor and a marketing researcher, I enjoy blending research into my courses and testing out new ideas with the students. It is great when these two intersect and the research is helping to improve student learning outcomes. I encourage more professors to apply their research skills to classroom activities.


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Food Truck photo attributed to Free-Photos. (CC)

Overcoming the Problem With Solving Business Problems

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Todd Bridgman of the Victoria University of Wellington, Colm McLaughlin of the University College Dublin, and Stephen Cummings of the Victoria University of Wellington. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Overcoming the Problem With Solving Business Problems: Using Theory Differently to Rejuvenate the Case Method for Turbulent Times,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Bridgman recounts the motivations and innovations of this research:]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

Our interest came from our experiences as case writers and teachers. Early cases we developed were well received, so we attended case writing and teaching workshops to further our skills. This led to two realizations. First, we came to see that analysis of the cases largely took place in a theoretical vacuum. This seemed limiting, because we had always found theory useful for seeing situations from multiple perspectives. Second, theory, when it was applied to cases, was only given a narrow active role. It was only seen as useful if it was a ‘tool ’applied to fix or solve real-life ‘business problems’ which were generally seen in immediate financial profit and loss terms. This struck us as too narrow. Wasn’t there more to studying management than solving business problems? And doesn’t theory have more useful purposes than being a profit-maximization tool? These experiences got us interested in delving deeper into the history of the case method and the role of theory in utilizing cases in teaching.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

We’ve watched closely the global political-economy since the financial crisis hit a decade ago, and we see parallels with what happened in the United States following the financial crises of the 1920s and 1930s. Both periods of turbulence were followed by a deep questioning of the prevailing free-market capitalist model. We see today in Brexit, American politics, the rise of nationalism in Europe and elsewhere a fundamental challenge to a 30-year consensus around neoliberalism. This has implications for management education, because business schools that have been strongly aligned to the neoliberal worldview now risk being seen as out of step with this new political landscape. We were interested in looking back to the 1920s and 1930s to see how business schools like Harvard responded to the crisis, to give us insight on how schools might respond today. In HBS’ past we found the seeds of a critical, reflexive management education, which encourages students to question dominant assumptions and ideologies. The aim of the paper is to think about how we could adapt the case method to incorporate this kind of approach.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

It is widely accepted that we should learn from history, but what is less understood is how we are limited by the histories that we have. Our paper is innovative by exploring the case method’s forgotten past at HBS. In response to the crises of the 1920s and 1930s HBS’ leaders understood the need for a business education that didn’t just blindly support capitalism but seriously questioned its development for the good of humanity. But these events have been largely airbrushed from the school’s history because they challenge the neoliberal worldview that the modern HBS wished to promote in the last half of the 20th century. HBS has a more diverse and interesting past that is conveniently forgotten by supporters, and therefore unseen by the critics. Our paper will have impact if it stimulates new research on the case method and if it provides greater legitimacy for case writing and teaching that does more than train students to solve immediate ‘business problems’. We want to inspire a rejuvenated role for theory and a more reflective and thought-provoking case method that is a better fit for today’s challenging, multi-faceted times.

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Is RateMyProfessors.com Unbiased?

classroom-1910014_1920[We’re pleased to welcome authors David Ackerman of California State University Northridge and Christina Chung of Ramapo College of New Jersey. They recently published an article in the Journal of Marketing Education entitled “Is RateMyProfessors.com Unbiased? A Look at the Impact of Social Modelling on Student Online Reviews of Marketing Classes,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations for conducting this research:]

JME(D)_72ppiRGB_powerpointOur paper “Is RateMyProfessors.com Unbiased?: A Look at the Impact of Social Modelling on Student Online Reviews of Marketing Classes” was definitely motivated by personal experience. My colleagues and I early on noticed that there was a huge mismatch between the one or two student ratings per semester on online rating sites such as RMP and the 100 or more ratings from the student evaluation measures collected at our universities. Some seemed to hit it right. They had a great rating or two and then subsequent ratings were good. Others seemed to hit it wrong, with a really bad rating or two from a student unhappy with his or her grade and then subsequent ratings were bad.

We compared SEMs and found those who had both good and bad RMP ratings all had good SEMs. Those were my personal observations though I know there has been some research suggesting that RMP can be similar to SEMs and some suggesting the opposite. I didn’t look into it at the time because I felt sites like RMP provide a place for students to vent their anger or express their happiness, kind of like a virtual public bathroom stall.

An external event that sparked this specific research paper was the rise of “social media mobs.” Groups of anonymous raters would attack a rating site and leave a lot of negative ratings about a particular business, product or service. Though most of these raters were anonymous, the ratings depressed future ratings that were posted. Before the attack, ratings might be moderate to positive, but afterward, primarily negative ratings would be posted.

So, my colleague and I set out to see if this pattern held in online teaching ratings and it did. The results of this study suggest that several highly positive or negative ratings have an oversized influence on subsequent ratings, who model the previous ratings, which can compromise the validity of the ratings. We are also looking into whether they also influence the willingness of people to do an online rating if their views are contrary to the prevailing positive or negative salient reviews. These results suggest that rating sites should do all they can to remove unverified ratings, especially if they are extremely negative or positive to maintain the validity and integrity of their rating system.

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Classroom photo attributed to Wokandapix. (CC)

Systems Thinking and Population Ecology

bubble-19329_1920[We’re pleased to welcome authors Karen Macmillan and Jennifer Komar of Wilfrid Laurier University. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Population Ecology (Organizational Ecology): An Experiential Exercise Demonstrating How Organizations in an Industry Are Born, Change, and Die,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Macmillan speaks about population (organizational ecology) and its applications:]

 

 

Organizations are embedded within complex, interdependent networks.  Yet it can be challenging for business students to conceptualize how organizations interact with others on a broad scale. This type of systems thinking does not come naturally. Most individuals tend to have difficulty understanding non-linear, interdependent connections when the relationships are distant in time and space.

One line of management study that takes a systems view is population (or organizational) ecology.  Rather than observing how an individual company evolves over a brief period, population ecologists look at all of the organizations within an industry and examine how certain characteristics (e.g., size), the environment, and random chance affect organizational outcomes. Population ecologists identify how industries change over many years, often finding patterns across industries in how organizations are born, change, and die.  This approach differs from traditional management theory in two key ways.  First, all members of a targeted population are included in the analysis. The premise is that to focus only on the most successful organizations (e.g., the Fortune 500) leads to an understanding of only a small portion of the total range of organizations. It can be useful to examine not only the winners, but also the losers, and even the runners-up. Second, population ecologists examine how processes evolve over relatively long periods of time. This can lead to different insights than a cross-sectional approach.

In order to help students develop systems thinking through a consideration of population ecology, we have developed an in-class exercise that allows participants to see first-hand in one class how all of the organizations within an industry interact over a long period. Full details are included so instructors can easily integrate this activity into the classroom. This process makes the theory come alive by asking students to put themselves directly into the role of an organizational decision maker in an evolving industry.

The exercise dramatically highlights how an organization affects, and is affected by, its context, and will help to prepare students to operate effectively within a multi-faceted business environment. This activity could fit within discussions on organizational design, organizational structure, organizational change, or inter-organizational relationships, and it complements instruction on more micro organizational behavior topics, or more linear or analytical approaches to management.  It challenges the idea that management is solely about control, and helps students see that each internal decision influences how the organization fits within a broader system, and affects, ultimately, its ability to survive.

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Thinking photo attributed to PublicDomainPictures. (CC)

Assessing Leader Development From a Historical Review of MBA Outcomes

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Angela M. Passarelli of the College of Charleston, Richard E. Boyatzis of Case Western Reserve University, and Hongguo Wei of the University of Central Oklahoma. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Assessing Leader Development: Lessons From a Historical Review of MBA Outcomes,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Passarelli recounts the events that led to the research and the significance it has to the field:]

JME_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

We began collecting outcome data 30 years ago on our MBA students. We were trying to determine what they were learning that was crucial to their success as managers and leaders – namely, the competencies from performance-validated studies. This particular project was born when we hit a major milestone in the ongoing assessment program – 25 years of data collection. The 25-year mark prompted us to reflect on how the data were being used. Each year we examined the data to determine how students in our full-time MBA program developed emotional and social competencies during the course of their 2-year program. This information provided a basis for modifications to the curriculum. For example, a downward trend in teamwork competency development prompted a pedagogical innovation in which project teams remained the same across multiple courses and were given coaching not just on performance outcomes, but also on how they functioned as a group. While these year-to-year adjustments were helpful, we came to the realization that we were missing potentially important trends that would not be evident by looking at just one or two cohorts at a time. This realization became the motivation for examining trends in competency development from a birds-eye view – across the entire 25-year assessment effort, rather than in small pockets at a time.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research

The most challenging aspect of conducting this research was contending with advances in instrumentation. We improve the tests psychometrically about every 7 years, which helps reliability, model fit and validity but creates comparability challenges in longitudinal research. Although these changes improved our confidence in inferences made on an annual basis, they impeded our ability to analyze the data set in its entirety. To deal with this, we chose to focus on a period of time in which the survey instruments were most similar and conducted graphical trend analysis. This allowed us to see trends over time, such as the saw tooth effect. It also helped us figure out what we should contemplate doing to minimize such threats to learning and positive impact.

Relatedly, collecting data of this nature and for this length of time is difficult. Our assessment program faced a variety of obstacles over its history. Personnel changes led to knowledge gaps whereby informed consent was not administered or data were not appropriately retained. Computer crashes resulted in data loss, and funding deficits threatened financial support for the effort. Having a faculty champion whose intellectual curiosity aligned with the assessment program was critical to overcoming these obstacles.

Were there any surprising findings?

The downturn in competency development during times of leadership upheaval was possibly the most striking trend we saw in the data. The idea that toxicity at the most senior levels of leadership was trickling down to the students had been proposed in earlier research. But this study offered confirmation by showing a rebound in competency development once leadership stability was restored. In the paper we postulate that students were affected by this leadership turbulence via declines in faculty climate and satisfaction. Research designed to directly test this interpretation is still needed. Without knowing the exact degree of negative effects, educators would be well advised to try to mitigate the deleterious effects of toxic leadership on student outcomes.


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