Chronicle 4-14-2011 Business Educators Struggle to Put Students to Work

Chronicle 4-14-2011 Business Educators Struggle to Put Students to Work

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Home News Faculty Faculty April 14, 2011 Business Educators Struggle to Put Students to Work By David Glenn Paul M. Mason does not give his business students the same exams he gave 10 or 15 years ago. "Not many of them would pass," he says. Mr. Mason, who teaches economics at the University of North Florida, believes his students are just as intelligent as they've always been. But many of them don't read their textbooks, or do much of anything else that their parents would have called studying. "We used to complain that K-12 schools didn't hold students to high standards," he says with a sigh. "And here we are doing the same thing ourselves." This article is a collaboration between The Chronicle of Higher Education and The New York Times . David Glenn is a senior writer for The Chronicle covering covering teaching and curriculum. That might sound like a kids-these-days lament, but all evidence suggests that student disengagement is at its worst in Mr. Mason's domain: undergraduate business education. Business majors spend less time preparing for class than do students in any other broad field, according to the most recent National Survey of Student Engagement: Nearly half of seniors majoring in business say they spend fewer than 11 hours a week studying outside class. In their new book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, the sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa report that on a national test of writing and reasoning skills, business majors had the weakest gains during the first two years of college. And when business students take the GMAT, the entry examination for M.B.A. programs, they score lower than do students in every other major. This is not a small corner of academe. The family of majors under the business umbrella—including finance, accounting, marketing, management and "general business"—accounts for just over 20 percent, or more than 325,000, of all bachelor's degrees awarded
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annually in the United States, making it the most popular field of study. Brand-name programs, like the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, among a few dozen others, are full of students pulling 70-hour weeks, if only to impress the elite finance and consulting firms they aspire to join. But get much below Bloomberg BusinessWeek' s top 50, and you'll hear pervasive anxiety about student apathy, especially in "soft" fields like management and marketing, which account for the majority of business majors. Scholars in the field point to three sources of trouble. First, as long ago as 1959 a Ford Foundation report warned that too many undergraduate business students chose their majors "by default." Business programs also attract more than their share of students who approach college in purely instrumental terms: as a plausible path to a job, not out of curiosity about, say, Ronald Coase's theory of the firm.
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