Business Schools With The Best MBA Teaching Faculty

by John A. Byrne on

Yiorgos Allayannis, a finance professor at Darden, is one of many superstar teachers at a school known for superstar teaching

When Evan Smith was choosing which business school to attend for his MBA, his decision was largely based on the quality of the teaching. He had been a Teach for America instructor at a New Orleans High School and an administrator for the Washington, D.C., school district. “I knew I was going to be incredibly picky about the quality of the teaching,” he says, explaining why he chose the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

Smith hasn’t been disappointed. The second-year student, who earned his undergraduate degree in history and urban studies at the University of Pennsylvania, says: “The professors here take the craft of teaching very, very seriously. I would be shocked if there was any other business school that put as much focus on teaching.”

Of the 22 professors he has so far experienced, Smith would place 18 of them in “tier one,” the equivalent of getting an A grade, three in “tier two,” and only one in “tier three.”

BASED ON SURVEY DATA OVER 24 YEARS, NO SCHOOL IS BETTER AT TEACHING MBAS THAN DARDEN

But don’t take Smith’s word for it. A new analysis by Poets&Quants of student satisfaction data gathered over a 24-year period shows that no business school in the world has consistently put exceptional teachers before MBA students than the Darden School.

Every other year, since 1988, BusinessWeek has surveyed the graduating MBAs at the nation’s top business schools. The satisfaction surveys ask graduates to rate the quality of teaching on several dimensions: the ability of a professor to clearly and compellingly teach his or her subject as well as the accessibility of the faculty to students, among others. Then, the magazine uses those scores to hand out its own grades, giving an A or an A+ to the schools in the top 20th percentile with the highest scores.

Only one school of all those surveyed over that 24-year span have scored in the top 20th percentile of teaching grades from graduating MBAs: the Darden School. It is an extraordinary feat achieved through the ups and downs of economic cycles, ever rising expectations, and changing student attitudes.

OUR STUDY ON EXCEPTIONAL TEACHING IS BASED ON BUSINESSWEEK’S SATISFACTION SURVEYS OF 83,099 GRADUATES SINCE 1988

All told, some 83,099 graduates have responded to the surveys since 1988. While the magazine’s rankings in any given year can be subject to some unexplainable changes and potential gaming by graduates eager to rank their alma maters highly, the accumulative findings are both powerful and highly credible.

Schools that have meet this test multiple times are a rare and special breed. At the vast majority of business schools, scholarly research is typically given far more weight in recruitment and promotion decisions than teaching ability. As a result, the quality of teaching at many business schools is often inconsistent. Many MBA students often are surprised to find themselves stuck with mediocre teachers at some of the most elite and prestigious schools.

The slick marketing brochures and websites often tout the teaching quality of their professors. More often than not, however, few schools deliver on the promise of their promotional rhetoric. So schools that have consistently been in the top 20% percentile in teaching quality–as judged by the graduates who sat in a school’s classrooms for two years–are a world apart.

‘THE SOCIAL GOOD AT DARDEN IS TEACHING,’ SAYS SENIOR ASSOCIATE DEAN JAMES FREELAND

At the University of Virginia’s business school, (see “Darden: Where Great Teachers Are Gods”), superior teaching has long been a core part of the school’s culture. “The biggest difference is that the social good at Darden is teaching,” says James R. Freeland, senior associate dean for faculty and research. “When you walk down the halls and see the faculty talking, there’s a good chance they’re talking about teaching. At most other schools, the social good is about research. So if you walk down the halls there, you’ll see faculty talking about their research. Teaching here is a public good. We care about it deeply.”

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  • James Walker

    There is a Darden style and it has been there since the beginning. Dean Bruner sets the standard, absolutely as good in the classroom as any I have experienced.

  • Adriano Maesano

    Great article. As a recent Darden grad, I can say that it is a joy to share the classroom with the amazing faculty at the school. They put so much effort in promoting the fast-paced and challenging environment mention in these articles, somehow managing to engage all types of students, whether they are interested in that subject or sometimes simply picked that course to fill out the schedule.

  • plantmaths

    great!, Darden and Tuck are my two favorite B-schools, to which I have already applied. MBA 2014 here I go!

  • Darden99

    Darden has always focused on having tremendous professors who teach. As someone who went to Wharton undergrad, I can speak to the difference between researchers and teachers. No doubt, Wharton has a tremendous reputation, but I often found that teachers were simply punching the clock on the teaching side of the house and cared far more deeply about their research and publications.

    Darden is about teaching and community. Every one of the professors cares deeply about the school and community and making sure that the students have a tremendous experience in their two years in C’ville. The professors who have been there for decades, such as John Colley, Ed Davis, Dick Brownlee, Alan Beckenstein, Elliott Weiss, and Jeanne Liedtka have instilled in the younger faculty the importance of teaching. Obviously, Dean Bruner was and is foremost a teacher.

    The Darden education becomes an integral part of your being forever. TO those who may be considering an MBA program, don’t simply focus on the top “brand name” if you want the best experience, Maybe look down the list a couple notches and you’ll find a program that will be a far better overall experience.

    Almost 15 years after I graduated, I find myself in job search mode. I looked over the tremendous resources available on the Darden alumni website- then called their Alumni Career Services office. Within a day I had an appointment with a tremendous “career coach” who is working with me on an ongoing basis to ensure I land a great new role. All free of charge for alums– trust me– my next year’s donation will be even more than normal.

    Put simply Darden rocks from the Dean to the professors to the professional staff to the cafeteria workers.

  • fingooth

    Must be all that active learning and team based learning. If Darden is good, surely the professors must not EVER lecture. And who cares about research anyway – it’s a BUSINESS school.

  • Candidate

    Thanks for the great article. One comment: If you look at the last 10 years, it seems like Booth and Darden would be a tie up for the best MBA teaching as rated by student satisfaction with Johnson at 3, Tuck at 4, and HBS at 5.

    I would argue that last 10 years is a better gauge going forward, rather than the last 20 years, and that momentum counts.

  • JKL

    Not surprised by Wash U in STL (Olin School) placement so high up on this list. The faculty is absolutely superb. It was clear from my experience that the school, known largely as a research institution to outsiders, placed a high value on the interactive classroom and had faculty drive the tight community in the b-school. Wash U’s whole philosophy and culture of upward momentum was/is really driven by the faculty and in the school’s recruitment and selection of new faculty. It was a great, smaller environment and we really interacted quite closely with faculty outside of classroom instructional time.

  • LVD

    Go Rochester!!!

  • Adam

    Simon (Rochester) does not have enough data, else it would move up in the order!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/anamika.nair Anamika Nair

    Smith School went from B to A+ in teaching and C to A+ in career center in two years. Absolutely mind blowing progress. Perhaps those series of MBA town hall meetings in which the dean’s staff explained the meaning of self-interest when it comes to filling out surveys from business publications paid off. Or maybe the school really did devote significant new resources to teaching and the career center and students really are this much more satisfied even through their ROI didn’t jump significantly. As always, take survey data with a healthy grain of salt.

    Regards,
    Nair,
    http://hvactrainingpro.com/ – The best HVAC training website online!

  • JohnAByrne

    And that is precisely why it’s important to look at long-term data–not a single year’s results which can be influenced by anything from cheerleading to quirks in the numbers.

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