How Important are Teaching Styles in Business Schools?

By - Dec 5, 11:20 AM Comments [0]

Teaching Style in Business Schools

Today’s post comes from Manhattan Review Germany, a well-known provider of test prep and MBA Admissions Consulting in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich for Top Business Schools.

Most MBA applicants, when choosing target schools, often ignore teaching styles in favor of rankings, location, career offerings, and culture. Granted, there are many different aspects of an MBA program to consider, however, teaching styles just do not seem to factor into the search. At Manhattan Review, we advise applicants to place enormous focus on teaching styles because they will, without a doubt, impact the applicants’ enjoyment of a program, not to mention the quality of the skills and knowledge he/she will best absorb.

While there are similarities across MBA programs, each school has a different teaching style. Some employ more than one style. There's the case study method; lecture and discussion; and the experiential learning and team-based focus approach. What’s more, many schools offer immersion programs over and above the standard course of study.

Some schools concentrate almost entirely on one style, while others utilize a combination of styles depending on the professor’s preference, the type of material being presented, and the main methodology of the school. Business schools that offer a combination of teaching methods do so with good reason. Their theory is that employing more than one teaching style works to better prepare the students for challenges they will face in the business world. Getting students comfortable with more than one teaching method tends to make them incredibly versatile and more adept at learning at a faster rate than those exposed only to one teaching style. Let’s take a look at these teaching styles a little more closely.

  1. Case study.

    This method encourages students to participate in the classroom with the end result of fostering leadership. Typically, in an MBA case study, students get to examine an actual business scenario and discuss possible avenues to resolve the inherent issues always working toward the best possible outcome or solution. Students learn how to dissect an issue from different angles and viewpoints and work successfully as part of a team. If you’re the type of person who enjoys participation and thrives on the excitement of solving a challenge, this method might be a good fit. Shy individuals, on the other hand, may not do well with the case study method, as they are generally uneasy speaking to groups of strangers. This method has been praised for many years, but recently, criticism has surfaced.

  2. Lecture and discussion.

    This is the traditional university teaching method, therefore, the one most familiar to undergraduate students. A professor lectures the class explaining theories of economics, statistics, and other significant topics, while students listen and take notes. After the lecture portion, there is usually time for discussion with a question and answer period. Sometimes the professor may opt not to moderate this part of the class, instead dividing the class into groups to encourage discussion. Professors in favor of this approach claim "…it’s the best way to teach business concepts and theories." Further, they believe they can get more information across and that case studies are time-consuming. We’ve been told that in the same amount of time, a professor can cover either two cases in a cast study classroom or five theories in a lecture classroom. What’s more, for students who are more introverted, it can be the best approach.

  3. Experiential learning.

    There is no doubt that the typical college student is becoming more complex. Due to this trend, there is a greater demand for diverse methods of learning. Unlike the lecture and case methods, which focus on theory, experiential learning encourages students to learn by doing. Simply put, experiential learning combines experience with learning for the benefit of one enhancing the other. Proponents say it develops skills and knowledge; applies theory to practice; and prepares students to be analytically more reflective.

    Experiential learning can happen in or out of the classroom by incorporating civic engagement and education through:

    - community-based projects

    - problem-based simulations

    - team challenges

    Faculty members believe this is an effective way for them to address errors; increase understanding of course content; and proficiently guide students during the learning process as opposed to after a homework assignment. At Manhattan Review, we believe this type of hands-on approach is truly effective for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.

A great way to get valuable insight into a school’s teaching style would be to set up interviews through the Admissions Office with faculty. When you meet with professors, here are a few questions you might want to ask.

- What do you enjoy most about teaching at this school?

- What kind of interaction is encouraged in your classroom?

- Do you belong to any professional associations?

- Do you do any industry consulting?

- Does the program encourage students to seek faculty help outside the classroom?

- Are the school’s teaching and grading styles determined by the individual professors?

To review, first get in touch with the type of teaching method that is most appealing to you. Then you’ll want to take the extra time needed upfront to do some investigating before applying to your target schools. Keep in mind: if you’re uncomfortable with or unresponsive to a particular teaching style, it will be very difficult to truly pay attention and learn what you’ve signed up for. So take the time beforehand to be better prepared for what awaits you in the MBA program of your choice. Good luck!

For more insights into the MBA application process we recommend that you attend our free interactive MBA Admissions Webinars where you gain lots of useful insight into the MBA Admissions process from Manhattan Review’s director of Admissions Consulting, a former member of Wharton’s admissions board. Alternatively, please call +1-800-246-4600 or +1-212-316-2000 to arrange a free MBA admissions consultation.


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