A selection of interesting articles we found recently looking at some worrying perspectives on business education.
Role of business schools in putting shareholders first and down playing CSR
Smith and Rönnegard examine the shareholder primacy norm (SPN) as a widely acknowledged impediment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). It explores the role of business schools in promoting the SPN but also potentially as an avenue for change by addressing misconceptions about shareholder primacy and the purpose of business. The authors start by explaining the SPN and then review its status under US and UK laws and show that it is not a likely legal requirement, at least under the guise of shareholder value maximisation.
This is in contrast to the common assertion that managers are legally constrained from addressing CSR issues if doing so is inconsistent with the economic interests of shareholders. Nonetheless, while the SPN might be muted as a legal norm, the researchers show that it is certainly evident as a social norm among managers and in business schools—reflective, in part, of the sole voting rights of shareholders on corporate boards and of the dominance of shareholder theory—and justifiably so in the view of many managers and business academics. Smith and Rönnegard argue that this view is misguided, not least when associated with claims of a purported legally enforceable requirement to maximize shareholder value.
They propose two ways by which the influence of the SPN among managers might be attenuated: extending fiduciary duties of executives to non-shareholder stakeholders and changes in business school teaching such that it covers a plurality of conceptions of the purpose of the corporation.
More details are at: N. Craig Smith & David Rönnegard. 2016. Shareholder Primacy, Corporate Social Responsibility, and the Role of Business Schools.
Journal of Business Ethics, 134(3), 463-478.
Do business schools influence MBA students’ awareness of social issues?
This study explores the role that business schools have in developing favourable attitudes toward business involvement in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Two cohorts of incoming students from two internationally accredited MBA programs in Chile and two cohorts of graduating students from the same institutions were compared in terms of their attitudes toward the role of business in alleviating social ills and the role they assigned to business schools in preparing managers to effectively address social issues.
The attitudes expressed by graduates of the two programs changed after program completion. Faculty attitudes toward business involvement in CSR may play a role in the observed differences between the graduates of both institutions.
For more detail, see: Mladen Koljatic & Monica Silva. 2015. Do Business Schools Influence Students’ Awareness of Social Issues? Evidence from Two of Chile’s Leading MBA Programs.
Journal of Business Ethics, 131(3), 595-604.
Comparing approaches to teaching ethics to undergraduate business students
There are questions about how ethics is best taught to undergraduate business students. There has been a proliferation in the number of stand-alone ethics courses for undergraduate students but research on the effectiveness of integrated versus stand-alone mode of delivery is inconclusive. Christensen et al. (J Bus Ethics 73(4):347–368, 2007), in a comprehensive review of ethics, corporate social
responsibility and sustainability education, investigated how ethics education has changed over the last 20 years, including the issue of integration of these topics into the core course offerings.
Elizabeth Jonson and her team use Brenner and Molander’s (Harv Bus Rev 55(1):57–71, 1977) situational ethics survey instrument to examine the effect of the mode of delivery of business ethics education on undergraduate student responses. They found a significant difference on mode of delivery. Studies have also found interesting results in respect of the effect of cultural differences and gender on the effectiveness of business ethics instruction. While not the primary focus of this study, the authors also looked at the influence of gender and culture on students’ responses. Results indicate significant differences in respect of mode of delivery and culture. In contrast to other studies, gender was not significant. Although the authors did test for any interactive effects of gender, culture and mode of delivery, no significant differences were found.
For more detail: Elizabeth Prior Jonson, Linda Mary McGuire & Deirdre O’Neill. 2015. Teaching Ethics to Undergraduate Business Students in Australia: Comparison of Integrated and Stand-alone Approaches.
Journal of Business Ethics, 132(2), 477-491.
Disruption on steroids: Dramatic changes to general and business education
Over the past three decades, several industries including newspapers, broadcasting, book publishing and selling, music, movie, travel, financial services, and now the automobile industry have been disrupted by entrepreneurs using innovative business models based on lean and customizable technologies. Business schools have celebrated and promoted these developments, producing books, articles, and case studies documenting the profound changes that have occurred. Currently, the worlds of higher education in general and business education in particular are themselves facing disruption in much the same way as other industries. Paradoxically, however, the established incumbents in the B-school world have remained committed to a high-cost business model that served them well in the second half of the past century but that has disconnected their faculties, to a large extent, from the real world of business practice and that may be compromising their future adaptation and survival. This article reviews this rapidly changing landscape by identifying a number of disruptive trends in higher education, discussing a set of challenges that are specific to business education, and articulating two possible scenarios for the future of business schools, namely variation and selection. The authors conclude:
“Although the survival of the most prestigious of these business schools, perhaps those in the Business Week Top 50, may not be at imminent risk, they cannot afford to continue with business as usual. They need to find ways to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape. The majority of B players, however, may be affected, in big ways, sooner than their leaders think. To thrive in this changing landscape, business schools need a new generation of progressive deans who dare to confront the many sacred cows in our profession and who have the skills to avoid losing their heads in the process.”
Read more: John R. Kimberly & Hamid Bouchikhi. 2016. Disruption on steroids: Sea Change in the Worlds of Higher Education in General and Business Education in Particular.
Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 23(1), 5-12.
Disappointing? Sustainability in higher education with focus on management education
Sustainability has received increasing attention in management education over the past ten years. This article reviews a decade’s worth of research in a systematic analysis of 63 articles published in international higher education and management education journals between 2003 and 2013. The purpose of this article is to map and review the publications based on the analysis according to the following four categories:
(1) Types of papers,
(3) Teaching techniques, and
(4) Curriculum orientation.
The scientific value of this article focuses on three main contributions to management education. First, while most articles are descriptive, focusing on specific, unique experiences in a given institution or with a particular teaching method or tool, few situate themselves within the broader philosophy and design of management education. The second contribution is an evaluation of the status of sustainability in management education as a field of study. This systematic review highlights the lack of consistency in the concepts used: no stable categories emerge from these articles and very few studies integrate the three levels of educational philosophy – teaching, program design, and learning. Third, this review highlights future directions for sustainability in management education institution-wide. While all articles highlight the need for curriculum change, very few specify how this change could and would be achieved by course design or explicit educational paradigms.
Read the full-text for free: Paola Schmitt Figueiró & Emmanuel Raufflet. 2015. Sustainability in higher education: a systematic review with focus on management education.
Journal of Cleaner Production, 106(1), 22-33.
Involving culture in sustainability education research
As scholars working both individually and collectively, Vince Anderson and his team are interested in exploring what may be achieved through taking up the complex notion of culture in sustainability education research. In this article, the authors present a bricolage of research, drawing on empirical and theoretical sources that collectively establish the kind of capacity they see as potentially creating the conditions for cultural change. They draw from cultural and environmental education theories.
The three empirical examples explore the role of community and family, Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge, and personal change through social and ecological justice teaching. The studies demonstrate ways sustainability education research can create the conditions to engage and cultivate communities—both previously established or newly formed—to respond to the pervasiveness and influence of culture as an always/already obstacle to ecologically and socially sound patterns of thought and behavior. Indeed, it seems clear that research and practice must be directed toward cultivating a collective capacity and movement that creates spaces for renewed thinking and action—in other words, for renewed being.
More detail is at: Vince Anderson, Ranjan Datta, Shannon Dyck, Jean Kayira & Janet McVittie. 2016. Meanings and implications of culture in sustainability education research.
The Journal of Environmental Education, 47(1), 1-18.