How The World’s Top Business Schools Teach Their MBAs

Lecture-based teaching remains highly popular at most business schools


Even so, the good old fashioned lecture-based class is very much alive and well. The school that claims the highest percentage of learning delivered via lecture is not surprising: it’s Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, which estimates that 50% of all the teaching is via lecture. The University of Southern California’s Marshall School is a close second, with 48%.

Those two schools are followed by a trio of institutions which say that 40% of the learning in their MBA programs is by lecture: UCLA’s Anderson School, Vanderbilt University’s Owen School, and Oxford University’s Said School. So if you like to sit back and hear a professor go on about a subject, these are the five schools to put at the top of your list.

And what about team project and experiential learning? For all the talk about team work at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, it’s somewhat surprising that the school says that team projects account for roughly 25% of the teaching at the school. That’s exactly the same amount claimed by Wharton for team projects.


In some cases, of course, there is a lot of overlap between these categories. Experiential learning can very well be defined as team projects. And these are rather imprecise estimates, anyway, that are based on the three top teaching methods at each school. That’s why the data fails to include numbers for each teaching method at a school. Simulations, which also account for a smaller percentage of teaching at many business schools, goes unreported as a result.

Some eight schools, nonetheless, reported that a quarter of their learning is delivered by team projects today: Kellogg, Wharton, Duke’s University’s Fuqua School, Georgia Tech, SMU’s Cox School, New York University’s Stern School, Georgetown University’s McDonough School and Oxford Said.

The school claiming the highest amount of learning delivered via experiential learning–30%–is Vanderbilt’s Owen School. That compares with only 5% at Harvard or 15% at Michigan’s Ross School. Think about that. Owen is claiming that it gives MBA students six times the amount of experiential learning in the Harvard MBA program or twice as much as Michigan, which has long claimed to be the pioneer in action-based learning, another way to describe the experiential method. Ross students put the core curriculum to work in the Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) course, combining analytical tools with teamwork and leadership development on a consulting project with an actual firm or organization.

For MAP, students are assigned to five-person teams and then lent to a company and a project that starts in the third week of January. There are 150 possible projects to choose from, with a bewildering array of global companies, for the 500 first-year students. This isn’t part of a course and the experience is not optional, as it often is at other business schools. It’s mandatory, intense, all-consuming, and occupies your complete time for seven straight weeks. Each team has two faculty advisers who act as coaches on the project. Given Ross’ emphasis on action-learning, it’s actually surprising that team projects and experiential teaching doesn’t account for a larger part of the MBA program there.

(See following page for your table on how the world’s top schools compare) 

  • jim

    good day

  • jim


  • jim

    now that i think about it it really good concept and a good articular

  • jim

    but good try

  • jim

    this is not true

  • Nice informative Post. MBA Case Studies guide for mba students

  • Rosser

    MAP doesn’t start in January…

  • Hector0916

    Its pretty interesting. Especially, given the trends over the past years. In India, I most of the top colleges follow case study + lecture method. There are few innovations as well, like some inculcating Mr. Bean to show value of communication etc., but such instances are rare and few. It’s quite astounding as to how little students really know about MBA before diving into it. – was some attempt to cover as to why should you be doing mba in the first place.

  • JM

    It’s also important to note the distinction between learning with case studies, and learning with case method as practiced by Harvard, Ivey, and Darden. A good overview can be found here:

  • RP


  • RP

    Where does Chicago Sloan stand?

  • well said.

  • Shaniqua “La Bootay” James.

    All the schools use team projects. This is an even better reason than the case method to avoid b-school altogether. Two years of annoying busy work. -SLBJ

  • Wow, TA!! Are you salty much?

    1) The idea that the case method is overrated and the idea that a lot of folks at HBS are arrogant are completely disjointed statement.
    2) Why are you so bitter?
    3) The case method requires is a tough learning method. It requires intense and engaged listening.
    4) You should be careful about lumping people into generalized buckets like that. It can keep you from listening to them. Which would make you a hypocrite.

    Have a nice day. Try to ease up on the sodium intake.

  • TA

    case methods are overrated….a lotta these so called extroverts at HBS and co are just arrogant ,……the biggest virtue in life is the ability to listen to others …..maybe even empathize with them…but listening is important….a virtue these “over achievers” lack…they re so deluded by their tiny lil mckinsey bcg analyst goldman blackrock world and have such a pathetic neediness for money believing it ll solve all their problems…..i believe in well balanced meritocratic approach to life and education.

  • LongHornJoe

    Likely have miscellaneous methods including thesis, capstone projects, immersion programs / practicums, mentored study, etc. that might not be covered by the other methods. Although experiential learning and team work should cover some of that.

  • MBA2B

    How come none of the schools’ totals add up to 100%?

  • Sim

    I like the balanced approach adopted by many of the top schools. It’s good to get a mix of teaching methods, at least personally speaking, because it will enhance the learning experience. I’m particularly a fan of team projects because this will really help us better figure out how to get things done working very closely with other people — something that is very important in the professional sphere. I think schools such as Wharton, Kellogg, Fuqua, MIT etc have this well balanced approach.