Wharton MBA Slams Teaching Quality

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Outside the Wharton School on the University of Pennsylvania campus – Ethan Baron photo

DECRIES LEADERSHIP’S ‘COLD INDIFFERENCE TO THE TRANSMISSION OF THE KNOWLEDGE THEY CONSIDER SO HALLOWED’

The anonymous student appears to be somewhat sympathetic to the internal pressures on the professor. “Professor X’s position is somewhat understandable,” the student writes. “He is at Wharton to make tenure through research productivity and would rather not be teaching. However, the administrators who have asked Professor X to teach the same course again betray cold indifference to the transmission of the knowledge they consider so hallowed.”

The writer is urging the school’s leadership to benchmark other schools, including Harvard, that put more emphasis on evaluating the teaching quality of its professors. “An often-repeated piece of advice to Wharton admits and first years is not to focus on courses that align with your interests but to focus on taking the best professors. This unfortunate trade-off reflects the lack of consistent quality teaching and a mismatch in the supply and demand of quality instructors. A consequence of this mismatch is coursematch—a program that at its core doles out the one to two quality instructional experiences available per student per semester. Coursematch, the program itself, seems to be the pride of Wharton administrators—certainly not the quality of the courses and instruction on offer.

“Professors at Wharton are hired to be great researchers, some of them incidentally happen to be good teachers. If teaching quality is not a significant factor in the selection process for new professors and evaluation process for existing professors, teaching will always remain subpar. It is worth noting that Harvard Business School places significant emphasis on evaluating professor teaching quality and focuses on developing professors. Wharton might benefit from some basic benchmarking analysis.”

‘HAVE YOU TAKEN A CLASS WITH ADAM GRANT? NO, HE DOESN’T TEACH THAT MUCH’

The student also takes issue with the small teaching loads of some of Wharton’s superstar professors, including Adam Grant. “The number of classes with high quality professors should be greatly expanded. How many times have you been asked: “have you taken a class with Adam Grant?” To which you members of 3 of the 4 cohorts reply “No, he doesn’t teach that much.” The school must practice what it preaches and prioritize teaching if we are to take academics seriously.

“Wharton should seek to maintain both a target minimum acceptable level of instructional quality, average, median. These metrics should be public and administrators should be evaluated based on their results. Perhaps it is time for Wharton to implement the LT for professors who are unable to teach. A healthy culling of the bottom 10th, as is done for students, seems both fair and urgently needed. Wharton administrators should practice what they preach.”

A Wharton spokesperson could not be reached for comment on the essay. Poets&Quants also could not reach Dean Geoffrey Garrett or Howie Kaufold, vice dean of the MBA program for their response by publication time.

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