How to Improve Written Case Analysis and Reduce Grading Time

[Professors Kirsten A. Passyn of Citadel Military College of South Carolina and M. J. Billups of the Baker School of Business recently published a research article in the Journal of Marketing Education which is entitled “How to Improve Written Case Analysis and Reduce Grading Time: The One-Page, Two-Case Method.” We are delighted to welcome them as contributors, and their article will be free to read for a limited time. Below, they reveal the inspirations behind this research.]

I learned and became a believer in the case method while pursuing my post-doctorate at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Case learning was a regular part of the curriculum at both the undergraduate and MBA level. It was an excellent way to engage students in business problem-solving. Later, at other schools where the case method was not a regular part of the curriculum, I found the case method overwhelming for both myself and my students. I couldn’t find a method in the literature to use cases that would work in my new position, so I determined to find a way to easily and effectively use cases. I developed the One-Page, Two Case Method over a period of years with a series of trial and error testing. The method presented in the paper not only improves student performance on cases but significantly decreases faculty workload. I’ve successfully tested the method at other schools and received feedback from colleagues, all with similar positive results.

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Balancing Profit and People: Corporate Social Responsibility in Business Education

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Shannon Deer of Mays Business School, and Jill Zarestky of Colorado State University. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Balancing Profit and People: Corporate Social Responsibility in Business Education,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Deer discusses the research:]

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Together several events and circumstances motivated us to research sustainability education in business schools.

  1. My co-author, Jill, and I have PhDs in Education and Human Resource Development, with an emphasis in adult education. Jill has a background in mathematics and mine is accounting and finance.  Our experience in the PhD program really highlighted for us the lack of attention to issues of social justice in business and STEM disciplines. I could see a strong desire in my business students to make a difference in the world by addressing significant problems. This study, and the associated business solutions to social problems class, were one way for us to give them an outlet for exploring such issues.
  2. Mays Business School just developed a new strategic vision. Our vision statement is advancing the world’s prosperity.  To achieve this vision, we are challenging our students to broaden their focus from primarily profit driven to all three Ps – people, planet, and profit.  In the class studied in this article, students explored profitable ways to address problems we don’t always talk about in business schools – hunger, literacy, and human trafficking.  At Mays, we believe businesses can help fill the gap left by government and nonprofit organizations in solving the big economic, environmental, and social problems facing the world.  We are excited to see our students make an impact in this area in the future.
  3. At the same time, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) updated their requirements to require sustainability education in business curriculum. As instructors and researchers, we wanted to make an impact, but we were developing a new course with a paucity of research related to incorporating sustainability into business curriculum.  There are some programs that have done it well for a while, but limited information on how they did it and to what effect.  We wanted to research our process in implementing this curriculum to help others starting this journey.

A happy accident in the research was finding sustainability curriculum is also a great vehicle for teaching critical thinking.  The students chose problems they were motivated to solve – big problems without simple solutions.  The students gained confidence in their ability to solve big problem through exposure to the curriculum.  The course culminated in a case competition. The winning team developed a prototype for a backyard cricket farm using repurposed food barrels.  Families, especially in developing countries, can use the system to produce a quality protein source.  Though unconventional, cricket flour is becoming a popular, healthy alternative to wheat, even the US.  This was an innovative use of existing materials and technology to solve an emerging problem, which demonstrated the critical thinking skills we hoped students would develop.

As scholars, we took away a renewed hope in our students. Despite some faculty who grumble about Millennials, we saw a students who are truly committed to doing the work to help improves the lives of others was really heartening. These rewards are what make teaching worthwhile.

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Refugee Resettlement Volunteers: Committed or Compelled?

map-of-the-world-1005413_1920[We’re pleased to welcome author Kirstie McAllum of the Université de Montréal, Canada (Ph.D, University of Waikato, New Zealand). McAllum recently published an article in Human Relations entitled “Committing to refugee resettlement volunteering: Attaching, detaching, and displacing organizational ties,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below McAllum summarizes her research and findings:]

HUm coverBy summer 2015, one in every 122 human beings was a refugee, internally displaced person or asylum seeker. Volunteers play an essential role in helping newly arrived refugees adapt to their new country and local community, but sometimes volunteering can be difficult or disappointing when refugees do not want to be helped or expect volunteers to deliver the help differently. When this happens, volunteers can find staying committed difficult, and they often drop out.

This study focused on how the network of people around refugee resettlement volunteers influenced their involvement: the non-profit organization that recruited and supported them; the refugees they worked with; and their own families, friends, and work colleagues. These ‘others’ made a difference in decisions about committing depending on their presence (they were there for volunteers or they expected volunteers to ‘be there’ for them) or absence (they were not there when volunteers needed them).

Volunteers felt forced to be present at the beginning of their six month placement because of the small number of volunteers and the needs of highly vulnerable families. The organization focused on how volunteers could manage this pressure by creating ‘boundaries’ that would protect them from getting over-involved. Over the course of the placement, volunteers found these boundaries hard to manage. Over-worked and under-funded staff at the non-profit organization were frequently ‘absent’ or unavailable to help volunteers to furnish refugees’ new homes or deal with crises like the arrest of a family member. Their absence pushed volunteers to step in to make sure that refugees received support. Refugees, on the other hand, encouraged volunteers to be continually present. Volunteers were pulled toward the relationship for several reasons: the learning and pleasure involved in the placement; awareness of refugees’ needs; and at times, refugees’ demands that they visit more often, stay longer, or support them in a range of activities, even including driving lessons. Volunteers were only able to maintain their presence when their own family and friends supported them.

After six months, only a few volunteers kept up their relationships with families and the organization, because the organization had been there in difficult moments. Most volunteers stopped volunteering for the organization, but kept in touch with the family. They did not think they needed the organization’s help, since they had managed so far without it, but they felt guilty about stepping back from a rich, rewarding relationship with a family who needed ongoing emotional support or had major problems. A third group of volunteers abandoned the role completely. Guilt didn’t ‘work’ for the last group of volunteers, for whom volunteering had been a highly negative experience: the organization had been absent, their own social networks pressured them to be present elsewhere, and refugees had made too many unreasonable demands on them to be present.

Although the non-profit organization cannot influence the quality of the relationships that volunteers develop with refugees, the findings suggest that having professional staff to help volunteers deal with crises and manage day-to-day boundaries might stop experienced volunteers from dropping out. To do this, this non-profit organization needs to lobby decision-makers for more resources for volunteer support.

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Migration photo attributed to kalhh. (CC)

 

Can Critical Thinking Be Taught in Business School?

In her editorial of the September issue of Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, Melinda Knight explains,

There is universal agreement among educators in the academy and managers in the workplace that critical thinking writing-on-laptop-1197801-mskills are essential for success at all levels. Over a century ago, the American sociologist William Graham Sumner defined what we now call critical thinking as “the examination and test of propositions of any kind which are offered for acceptance, in order to find out whether they correspond to reality or not.” He further argued that “it is our only guarantee against delusion, deception, superstition, and misapprehension of ourselves and our earthly circumstances,” and education “teaches us to act by judgment” (Sumner, 1906, pp. 632-633).

Hiring managers have long recognized how important critical thinking is in their talent searches. Wall Street Journal reporter Marisa Taylor (2010) argued that “while the ability to think critically is, well, critical in the workplace, employers have long complained that many of the young college graduates they hire seem to lack this skill.”

But what can be changed to help improve the critical thinking skills of college graduates? In their article “Cultivating Critical-Thinking Dispositions Throughout the Business Curriculum,” Janel Bloch and Sandra E. Spataro explore what can be done in the business school module to promote these skills.

The abstract:

Critical thinking is an essential component of managerial literacy, yet business school graduates struggle to apply critical-thinking skills at work to the level that employers desire. This article argues for a dispositional approach toBPCQ.indd teaching critical thinking, rooted in cultivating a critical-thinking culture. We suggest a two-pronged approach of (a) clearly defining critical thinking and selecting an accessible model for applying it and (b) integrating critical thinking consistently throughout the business curriculum. We illustrate implementation of this strategy in our revised MBA curriculum and conclude by challenging others to consider adopting a cultural and dispositional approach.

Click here to read “Cultivating Critical-Thinking Dispositions Throughout the Business Curriculum” and here to read the September editorial entitled “Finding Ways to Teach Critical Thinking in Business and Professional Communication” for free from Business and Professional Communication Quarterly. Want to know about all the latest from Business and Professional Communication Quarterly? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Teaching Business Students to Think Effectively

Editor’s note: We are pleased to welcome Dr. Gerald F. Smith, Professor of Management at the University of Northern Iowa College of Business Administration. His article, “Assessing Business Student Thinking Skills,” is forthcoming in the Journal of Management Education and now available in the journal’s OnlineFirst section.

UntitledMy paper tries to provide a substantive account of thinking skills that can inform their effective teaching.  Although it was written for and published in a management teaching journal, most of the paper’s contents apply to higher education in general.

In writing this paper, I was motivated by dissatisfaction with the very superficial way in which higher order thinking has been conceptualized and taught, in business schools and elsewhere.  The fact that very few students who graduate from college can think effectively is, in my opinion, explained in large part by our simplistic accounts of “critical thinking” and consequently ineffectual efforts to develop student thinking skills.  The article’s contents are based on my teaching and extensive research on higher order thinking.

IJME_72ppiRGB_150pixW don’t think it’s easy to develop students’ critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making skills, but I hope this article inspires faculty, in business schools and elsewhere, to engage more seriously in the teaching of substantive thinking skills, both in dedicated thinking skills courses and across the curriculum.

Read the article, “Assessing Business Student Thinking Skills,” online in the Journal of Management Education, and click here to learn more about the journal.

How Digital Distraction Affects Our Workforce

Thanks to the vastness and immediacy of electronic media, we have the world at our fingertips. But are we better informed as a result? “Driven to Distraction: How Electronic Media Are Affecting the Brain and the Implications for Human Resource Development in the Future,” published by Edie Williams of George Washington University on August 10, 2012 in Advances in Developing Human Resources, raises some poignant questions about the way heavy electronic media use is impacting our present and future workforce:

If the millennial generation is so well informed, why are test scores dropping and why are we spending millions of dollars to coax them into math and science programs? Is simply providing employees access to vast amounts of instantly available information a path to maximizing human capital?

Millennials and the generation behind them, the authors explain, “may be experiencing a reduction of their ability to think critically and analytically.” The effects of electronic media on the brain extend to memory, cognitive ability, decision-making skills and more:

The millennial generation actually prefers skimming and scanning to traditional modes of reading. They have been conditioned to skim over greater quantities of often superfluous information but seldom take time to read deeply and fully and digest the meaning of what is being read and then turn that meaning into deliberative, critical thinking.

Click here to read the full article in Advances in Developing Human Resources. You can learn more about the journal by following this link.

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