One of the more commonly overlooked aspects by candidates during the school selection process is teaching methods at their target schools. Given that business school is in fact “school” and students spend a lot of time in the classroom, this area should warrant a lot more attention.
Teaching methods at certain schools like Harvard Business School and UVA’s Darden School, where the case method dominates, are core to the entire MBA experience for students, so it is important to know what you may be opting into. Most schools do not take as homogenous of an approach to teaching methods as these programs, so expect more of a mix from the majority of other schools.
The four types listed below are the most common teaching methods you will find in MBA programs.
Lectures are probably the most common teaching method found in business schools. With this format, students are typically greeted by slides via a PowerPoint presentation during the lecture and engage with content through this mechanism. Lectures tend to be more of a “lean back” or passive experience that is driven more by the professor. This teaching method will be the most natural to students as it is very similar to the way many undergraduate classes are structured.
The case study format involves a professor leading students through a historical analysis of a business situation. The “cases” are largely the product of Harvard Business School, which has pioneered the use of the case method. In case studies, students are expected to come up with a solution to some of history’s toughest business problems. Cases are commonly used as the driver for interactive classroom discussions and there is an expectation of strong class participation from all students.
One of the more truly immersive teaching methods is experiential learning. This method allows students to operate within a specific topical area or industry of interest. Classes ending with the moniker “lab” fall into this bucket. Think your global lab, venture lab, asset management practicums, and many entrepreneurship classes. Also, many internship programs fall into this category. This method is all about learning while doing, a trend that continues to grow in many MBA programs.
Simulations are probably one of the least common, but still prevalent, teaching methods. This teaching method primarily uses technology recreations of common business scenarios. One of the most popular is the “MarkStrat” simulation used in marketing strategy courses.
The teaching methods at MBA programs are as diverse as the programs themselves, so do your research and make sure you are choosing the program that is right for you.
Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.