Last fall, to mark our 10-year anniversary, Poets&Quants compiled a list of the 10 biggest business school innovations between the years 2010 and 2020. The list included the advent of virtual classrooms, which have, for obvious reasons, assumed even greater importance in a wild year of pandemic upheaval.
If you’re wondering what other innovations are happening right now, as you read this, in MBA classrooms around the world, there are few resources to slake your curiosity short of gaining admission and attending a school. What are the cutting-edge tools and methods employed by the best minds, for the best minds in graduate business education?
Svenia Busson wants to find out, and she wants to spread the word. The founder of LearnSpace, a learning innovation hub based in Paris, plans to chronicle our era of world-class pedagogical innovations in B-schools in a forthcoming report on the 10 most promising — an initiative, she explains, that “aims at uncovering innovative pedagogical approaches, understanding how they are being implemented in business schools and publishing a public and global report showcasing 10 of them.
“We’re not looking at innovations in the content of what is taught, but how it’s taught,” Busson tells Poets&Quants. “We are looking for methods focused on empowering students, making them more committed, engaged, responsible for their own learning. And at the heart of the pedagogical innovation lies, for us, the shift from teacher-centric learning to student-centered learning and teaching.”
‘MAKE PEDAGOGY GREAT AGAIN!’
Busson, the co-founder Edtech Tours and the European Edtech Alliance and author of Exploring the Future of Education, tells P&Q that the forthcoming report will help schools become more innovative, by learning about the advances being pioneered by their peers.
“My team and I are fascinated about the innovations and pedagogy in education,” she says. “I built a consulting company called LearnSpace and we’re doing just that. We’re helping B-schools and universities be more innovative and try new approaches, new tools to make active learning a reality.”
LearnSpace’s motto: “Make pedagogy great again!”
“I know that there are tons of professors out there that are really putting efforts into their teaching and that really care about the impact that their teaching has on their students,” says Busson, who holds a management master’s from HEC Paris. She elaborates on those views in a February Medium piece. “So I really wanted to show that it’s possible, that professors are doing it, and that some business schools are embracing it — investing in professional development, for example, for professors. And write this report and publish it and try to reach the largest audience possible just to show that it’s possible and that there are some great ideas out there.
“We work with business schools, but we saw that it’s quite hard for higher-education institutions to see pedagogy on the same level and to value pedagogy as much as research. And I think it’s such a shame, especially now, specifically this year. We need to value pedagogical skills much more. And so I just had this idea: why not create the call for nominations and show that it’s possible to teach differently, to teach in a much more activating and engaging way?
WHO CAN BE NOMINATED & HOW?
Any professor or group of professors teaching undergradaute, management master’s, MBA, or executive education programs can be nominated. The only requirement, Busson says, is that they be “putting in place pedagogical innovations aimed at delivering engaging and effective learning experiences for their students.”
What does “pedagogical innovation” mean? Just this: tools or methods that provide “a change in the professor’s posture, who would be more focused on empowering students, making them more committed, engaged and responsible for their own learning. At the heart of pedagogical innovation lies the shift from teacher-centered learning to student-centered learning.” Examples include project-based learning on a topic that was previously taught in a traditional way; using new or newly created tools to enhance the learning experience; and innovative ways to teach in an online setting.
Anyone can submit a nomination here. Deadline is 11 p.m. CET on Friday, April 2, with deliberations by an independent jury slated to begin April 8 and the final report released in early to mid-May.
The jury that will review nominations includes Bernard Belletante, former dean of EMlyon Business School; Caryn Beck-Dudley, CEO of accrediting agency AACSB International; Dan LeClair, CEO of Global Business School Network; and Andrew Jack, global education editor at The Financial Times. Criteria on which nominations will be judged include ability to illustrate or demonstrate clearly which innovation they are applying in their classroom, how they are applying it, and what the innovative elements are; and demonstration of data/evidence of the impact on learning, which can include feedback from students, someone who may have tested their approach, or other forms of data/evidence.
“We are going to look if the nominated innovation allows students to be more active and engaged during the class,” Busson says. “If it develops a mindset of collaboration, rather than the everyone for themselves attitude; if it develops their creativity; if it allows them to be more autonomous in their learning, less dependent on their professor to learn, more connected with their peers; if it improves peer-to-peer learning; if it allows for personalization of the learning path for each student. We really want to see if soft skills are going to be developed. I’m a firm believer that you cannot teach soft skills but you can teach in a way that students also get to learn some soft skills while being in your course — and with remote classrooms, with project-based learning, problem-based learning, you can really develop some super-interesting soft skills.”
CALLING ALL U.S. B-SCHOOLS
“Business schools are among the most important institutions for developing leaders who can drive innovation and change,” Busson writes in a piece recently published by Poets&Quants. “The problem is that today most of them are lagging, valuing research more than teaching. They are stuck using outdated approaches to learning that, for the most part, are no longer valuable for students.”
Busson says she has received many submissions from European schools, including HEC Paris, IE Business School, ESCP, and others. After her piece was published by P&Q, she received even more submissions from Africa and India. But she still lacks input from schools in the world’s largest market: the United States.
“It’s not fun if it just stays within our network, which is really very much European,” she says. “I really want to share it extensively to the world.
“We have no nominations from the U.S. All our nominations are from Asia and from Europe. We have this massive reach-out strategy where we reached out to hundreds of business schools across the globe, and we tried to reach out to their deans of faculty so that they can share with their faculty — and, if they exist, the deans for innovation and teaching innovation. So we have been working really hard trying to reach all these people, but unfortunately the Americas are still missing.
“I just want these schools to share what they’ve been doing with the world, basically, and honestly it takes 10 minutes to fill in the nomination form. So it’s really quick.”