Saturday, August 14, 2010

Attributes of an Effective Teacher in a Graduate School of Business (GSB)

Based on a paper written by Francis de la Cruz in 2003 for a Masteral course on “Instructional Leadership.”



Being a teacher in a Graduate School of Business (GSB) myself, I am naturally inclined to determine what makes a good teacher in GSB.

The idea first came to me when, during a casual conversation, my former professor at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), and more importantly my mentor-friend, Dr. Jacinto C. Gavino Jr. suggested that I undertake some research on the topic of “what actually makes a good teacher.” I believe he was inspired to suggest this because at the time he was being consulted on the topic of “teaching excellence” in relation to a Metrobank Foundation project.

Later on I became even more interested in the topic when I read the book “Unveiling Teaching Expertise” which was authored by my current professor, Dr. Flordeliza C. Reyes. Pertinently, it was in her class that I decided to actually write a paper on the subject.

Although there are materials available on the subject of teaching expertise, an excellent example of which is Dr. Reyes’ book which serves as a solid foundation for any study on teaching expertise on whatever academic level (i.e., basic, intermediate, tertiary), I have not found any research material that focuses solely on teaching expertise in a GSB. The only relevant materials that I encountered were the concise Business World editorial article by Prof. Albert Villadolid regarding the De La Salle University Graduate School of Business, as well as the Business World advertisement of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business, both of which, serendipitously perhaps, came out at the time that I was writing this.

This paper therefore is a synthesis of the following:

- My own contemplation on the subject, which rests heavily on my experience as both teacher (SBC, DLSU, and UST) and former student (AIM) in a GSB, as well as on what I have learned from the book of Dr. Reyes and the other published materials summarized in the Appendix.

- The opinion of my current and former MBA students, all of whom are still students in GSBs.

- The opinion of my former MBA classmates, who form their opinions in the capacity of alumni whose hindsight perspective enables them to examine the MBA program in its completeness and subsequent fruitfulness.

- And the advice I constantly get from Prof. Elenita “Lenie” Panganiban (former Dean of the Master in Management Program of AIM) and Dr. Jacinto “Titong” Gavino Jr. (former Dean of the Master in Management Program as well as former Dean of Research at AIM). Long-time mentors, friends, and “academic parents,” whose blessings I sought when I finally decided to enter the PhD in Education program.

Moreover, although I made every effort to make it sensible, this paper was written in an informal or conversational tone, even frequently using the first person pronoun. Given time constraints arising from the competing demand for my attention by my studies, teaching, and corporate work, I could not anymore expend the additional intellectual and physical effort to edit it into formal academic structure and language. (I can just imagine the challenge that awaits me when it’s time to write my dissertation.)

And finally, I must point out that it is not without trepidation that I wrote this paper because I myself do not measure up to all the standards of an effective GSB teacher. Far from it. Heaven knows I am still striving to grow in that respect.

Francisco C. de la Cruz Jr.
April 20, 2003 - Easter Sunday


Attributes of an Effective Teacher in a Graduate School of Business (GSB)

1. Essentials

1.1. Commitment to Education

1.1.1. The teacher must be passionately committed to education. It is not an “outlet,” a retreat from the monotony or harshness of the corporate world (especially if he or she is holding a full-time “day job” in a corporate setting). It is neither a status symbol nor an “ego-trip” in the sense that it denotes academic prestige and an opportunity to lord over graduate students. It is a responsibility, a commitment to serve through education.

1.1.2. Similarly, the GSB teacher cannot be “in it for the money.” Teaching is time and energy consuming but almost never – indeed not meant to be – materially rewarding. Teaching is an exercise in altruism, a sacrifice.

1.2. Mastery of Subject Matter

1.2.1. Strong Foundation. The teacher must be an expert in his particular field, and be proven as such both in terms of first-rate academic credentials and actual successful business experience. Academic Credentials. To teach in the MBA program, one has to be an MBA himself, or qualified with a relevant graduate business management degree. It is not enough that one has attended some form of schooling beyond college. The MBA is a unique and highly specialized form of education, so much so that some of the best GSBs have PhDs, Medical Doctors, and Lawyers attending their MBA programs.

· But beyond the basic MBA degree, the GSB teacher should continuously pursue professional education, formally (e.g., attending seminars) or informally (e.g., self-study through reading books). The business world is perennially and rapidly evolving and therefore the teacher must keep up with advances in his field if he is to remain competent.

· Similarly, the teacher must be literate in “information and communications technology.” Not necessarily from the engineering or programming side, but from the user side. Actual Business Experience. It is illogical to think that one can teach in a “Master in Business Administration” program if he has never actually performed “business administration.” (In which case perhaps the more appropriate title would be “Master in Business Abstraction.”) A GSB teacher can teach best if he can draw from experience, and prove that “he knows what he is talking about” because he has demonstrated it in the actual business arena. Indeed, in reviewing Dr. Reyes’ research on teaching expertise, I believe that business experience – successful business experience – is the one attribute that distinguishes the GSB teacher from all other kinds of teachers. It comes as no surprise therefore that in the website of AIM, the faculty profile puts great emphasis on the business experience of the professors. (The websites of DLSU-GSB and Ateneo GSB are still under construction as of this writing.)

· It is actual business experience that enables the teacher to balance within himself the scholarly thinker and the management practitioner, so that he will have the wisdom to ensure that his curriculum is MBA-relevant. Indeed, in my personal opinion, the acid-test in determining whether a lesson is MBA-relevant, is if the student can answer “yes” to the following simple question: “Am I a better business manager having learned this?” The objective of teaching is not teaching itself, but the learning experience of the student and the consequential growth that he achieves. The teacher who does not serve this objective does not truly teach, but merely recites what knowledge he possesses.

· It is also actual business experience, probably more than the academic experience, that will imbue the teacher with the penchant for team-work. An asocial and introverted genius can shine in the academe, but it is the sociable and charismatic leader that will scale the corporate ladder. Pertinently, a teacher who values team-spirit, will have the ability and inclination to inculcate the same in his students.

1.2.2. Regular Review and Preparation. It must be noted however that although he is seasoned by academic training and practical business experience, the teacher must still be humbly willing to prepare before each class by reviewing the topic for the day, by thoroughly reading the assigned case-study (if any), and by writing a lesson plan (e.g., a topical outline, at the very least). Even the best public speakers write their speeches, and resort only to extemporaneous speech if deprived of the opportunity to prepare. Similarly, the GSB teacher should not just “wing it” by relying on his so-called “stock knowledge.”

1.3. Learner-Centered Listening, Communication, and Facilitating Skills

1.3.1. Listening Skills. The teacher should not only lecture or talk, but also listen. And based on the feedback he hears from the students, he must occasionally be able to modify and customize his lesson plan “on the spot” during class to address the needs of the students (hence, learner-centered) and not always insist on any pre-planned lecture which suits only himself. Incidentally, if he is indeed an expert in his field, he should have no problem in instantly modifying or enhancing his lesson plan.

1.3.2. Communication Skills. Beyond the impeccable diction, enunciation, pronunciation, voice projection, etc., which should already be standard pre-requisites for a graduate school professor, there is the transcendent attribute of maturity. “The burden of communication is on the communicator, not the listener.” This is a loud-and-clear lesson on tact and intellectual humility that I learned from Dr. Gavino. When I was an MBA student myself, whenever I would recite and address my classmates, I would punctuate my sentences with “Did you get it?” not realizing that I was insulting them. Dean Gavino summoned me to his office to enlighten me on this. This was the first and only time in my life that I was ever “called to the principal’s office.” Now, instead of, “Did you get it?” I ask, “Did I explain myself well?” And so far I haven’t had any complaints.

1.3.3. Facilitating Skills. Education is derived from the Latin word “educaré,” which means “to draw out.” Especially in discussing case analyses, the teacher should be able to draw out from the students their own intellectualization and solution for the case. Easier said than done, this is actually a highly advanced skill because apart from ‘merely’ possessing mastery of the discipline being studied (e.g., Operations, Marketing, Human Resources, Finance, etc.) in terms of the hundreds of books and journals the teacher has supposed to have already read, as well as the wealth of actual business experience he is supposed to possess, the teacher should also: be able to link the primary discipline for the moment (e.g., Finance) with all the other disciplines (i.e., Marketing, Operations, Human Resources, etc.), and implicitly or explicitly often lead to the formulation of a wholistic Corporate Strategy; possess mastery of the case-study itself which in the better business schools is usually a new case-study for each class – and therefore the advantage of “having done it before” is not on the teacher’s side; be well-versed with the professional and cultural backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, and needs of each student so he would:

· know whom to call for recitation and when (n.b., and remember who said what, as well as who has already recited and who has not yet, for grading purposes);

· be able to encourage participation, and even push the analyses to elevate the discussion to higher thought processes; have the intellectual aptitude to analyze, process, and link the complex case-study vis-à-vis the raw and varying inputs of the students, while staying on track with the discipline being taught; have the self-discipline (n.b., which professional guidance counselors take years to grow into) to masterfully restrain himself from imposing his views and instead allow his students’ intellects to surface and flourish; and on top of it all still manage to stay absolutely composed (because true business leaders exhibit grace under pressure), and maintain a sense of humor. (The attribute of “sense of humor” is incidentally at the apex of Dr. Reyes’ framework.)

1.4. Skill in Addressing Adult Learning

1.4.1. The teacher must always bear in mind that MBA students are already adult professionals who attend school on their own volition. They themselves are responsible and accomplished individuals – sometimes even more professionally accomplished than the teacher himself, only that they lack the MBA degree. Hence they are deserving of respect as professional individuals.

1.4.2. The thrust of graduate management education should be a “simulation of the real corporate world.” Thus the teacher must also strike the balance between being the “nurturing teacher” as it is inherently expected of a teacher, and the “demanding boss” in line with the objective of simulating the corporate world. (It must be noted that the aspect of the “demanding boss” may sometimes come across as threatening, in violation of the modern precept that an effective teacher’s behavior should be non-threatening. But there are two sides to the equation, the teacher’s intention and the student’s perception. For instance, what may be a necessarily businesslike demeanor on the part of the teacher may be perceived as threatening by the student, especially if the student is a novice in the always results-driven and often cutthroat corporate world.)

1.5. Credibility both in Fact and in Image.

1.5.1. Credibility in Fact Reiterating section above, it is best if the MBA teacher is a successful business manager – either as business entrepreneur or corporate intrapreneur. He has to have an exemplary track record in business and therefore be able to serve as a role-model, as well as fluently speak the language of practical business. This also becomes almost necessary because, as earlier mentioned, the students are likely to be accomplished or “up-and-coming” entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs themselves. A successful business manager is likely to be strong with people skills, and pertinently in communication skills. If he possesses these attributes, he should predisposed to being an effective teacher as well.

1.5.2. Credibility in Image. The teacher should project the self-confidence, bearing, and appearance of the accomplished business professional that he is. Indeed, balancing fact AND image is the point of this section. The appropriate business image is one of the “skills” that must be taught in a GSB (n.b., “Packaging” per Marketing Management), and it can best be taught by the teacher by setting the example himself.

1.6. Internal Locus of Control, Self-Esteem, and Spiritual Maturity

1.6.1. The teacher must have an internal locus of control to be able to fend for himself and remain passionately committed to education (as mentioned earlier). This is essential because, as typical in most GSBs, faculty support may not be readily available, in fact the atmosphere may be highly competitive even if subtly so. This is usually the case because, most likely and as it should be, the faculty members are trained in business management (i.e., not educational management) and experienced in corporate competition. Furthermore, it is also internal locus of control that empowers the teacher to remain kind and just toward his students (and everyone else, for that matter), and not be hardened by being pitted against “all sorts of characters” in the corporate jungle.

1.6.2. The teacher must also have a high level of self-esteem. Among others, this can be manifested in two ways: A sense of being self-secure, and a capacity for independence and detachment. Being self-secure. Being in what may be a unique position of teaching students who are likely to be almost as, or equally, or even more professionally accomplished compared to the teacher, being self-secure is a prerequisite for the GSB teacher so that he can remain altruistic towards his students, and not be threatened by nor feel jealous of their own capabilities and success. Detachment. “Guard your heart.” That was the first advice I received from Prof. Panganiban when I told her that I would start teaching in the San Beda College GSB. I interpret this as to mean that, although I must “give it my all,” I should not become attached to my students, nor to my work as a teacher. I must give without expecting anything in return – Not even gratitude manifested through friendship. If friendship follows then I will be grateful. If it does not, then I should not have expected it in the first place.

1.6.3. Spiritual Maturity. I believe deep spirituality is essential in becoming an effective teacher, because it is only through spiritual maturity that one can attain the sense of altruism, the internal locus of control, and the self-esteem that one must possess in order to fulfill his mission as a teacher. Even in a graduate school of “business.”

· Indeed, I have a few times been advised by senior and respected educators in AIM and DLSU-GSB that their work in education is their “ministry,” their “apostolate.”

· Moreover, deep spirituality is the foundation for honor, integrity, and character. Essential ingredients in the practice and teaching of “business ethics,” a cornerstone in any MBA curriculum. All this discussion on spirituality is very subjective, I suppose. I admit that this is a matter of personal belief. I will refrain however from belaboring or arguing the value of spirituality, because I further believe that spirituality, and faith for that matter, is not a matter of reason, but a matter of experience – and one that gradually unfolds.

1.7. Basic Diligence

Sometimes (believe it or not), what is supposed to be basic, is precisely what is missing. Perhaps since GSB teachers are usually highly-placed managers who consider themselves to have “graduated” from the nitty-gritty of work, some of them fail to do what is basic. The final attributes therefore of effective GSB teachers are as follows:

1.7.1. They actually show up for class. From time to time it’s naturally all right to be late or absent especially given the demands of corporate work – and as long as the teacher delivers make-up classes and is ultimately able to deliver his originally planned curriculum. But if there is a limit to the number of absences or tardiness a student is allowed to make, certainly the teacher has to have limits in this regard as well. The ultimate responsibility of the teacher (in my personal opinion), after all, is to set the example on how to handle responsibility and exercise self-discipline. The student may not remember every detail of every lesson he studied in all his years of schooling, but it is the responsibility and discipline for work that stays with him. It is sham to retain in the faculty roster a teacher who hardly enters the classroom because his reputation in the corporate world adds to the prestige of the faculty.

1.7.2. They actually teach. There are GSB teachers who actually make their students perform their teaching job for them, by requiring the students to deliver reports in front of the class most of the time. Or perhaps they simply provide reading materials for the students to study on their own. In which case, the students are probably better off pursuing a distance learning or correspondence study program. The teacher must also view and accept the work of teaching as a duty and responsibility. The teacher should not have the attitude that he or she is “God’s gift to GSB” and therefore he is doing the school a favor just by being there.

2. Enhancers

2.1. Mentoring and Counseling. Although these may also be considered as essential, they may already be too much to ask of a GSB teacher who is already preoccupied with personal or family life, corporate work, and academic work. But if he or she can still find the time and energy outside the classroom to help his/her students, it can make a big difference in their education. This is so because each student is an individual professional adult who has unique, advanced, and complex learning needs that can only be addressed by a teacher on a one-on-one basis. Indeed, if not for the mentoring I have received and continue to receive from my own mentors (e.g., Dr. Gavino, Prof. Panganiban, and less frequently but just as significantly Prof. Mariano Lagman and Prof. Enrico Angtuaco of AIM; Dr. Pacita Poblete of St. Scholastica’s College; and the Rev. Fr. Francis Hubilla, OSB, Dean of San Beda’s College of Arts and Sciences; and the few other mentors who always happened to be the very best in their fields – as God seems to have blessed me), I probably wouldn’t even be writing this paper today.

2.2. Methods of Teaching. Again, expertise in methods of teaching may also be considered as essential. However, it may also be too much to expect of MBA professors who are not trained educators per se. They are teachers primarily by virtue of their expertise and successful practice in their respective fields, not because they were trained to teach. Therefore, it would greatly enhance their teaching work if they also learn classroom management, instructional techniques, diagnostic techniques, and other professional teaching skills for which they may have room for improvement.

– End –


[Originally blogged October 2, 2008 on ]

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