Faculty Scholarship 1994 - Present

Project-Based Learning in an MBA Capstone Course

At the heart of all experiential learning theory lies the fundamental belief that learning occurs when an individual is actively involved with concrete experience. (Walters & Marks, 1981) A fundamental paradigm shift has occurred in American higher education, one that is replacing an older view of education as a place where students go to receive instruction, with a newer one as a place responsible for producing learning. Under the new "learning paradigm" learning is student centered and controlled, and essentially experiential, replacing the old "instruction paradigm" where learning is instructor and content centered (Barr and Tagg, 1995). The inclusion of cases and simulations in our curricula and textbooks reflect more than changes in the kinds of assignments we use. Although cases and the case approach are artificial substitutes for actual experiential learning that occurs in the workplace their use in the classroom as a step in the right direction. Cases if used correctly can try to construct the complex realities of specific business cultures and contexts thus giving students a sense of "competing values, intentions and rhetorical possibilities" and an opportunity to practice adaptation skills. (Knoblauch, 1989). Another technique, simulations allow learners to explore how key variables interact and affect performance. Simulations often capture the complexity of reality with its overlapping decision deadlines and financial constraints. While internships are clearly recognized as the leading way for students to gain hands-on business experience, the use of real world clients in classroom settings through team projects is an especially creative path for students to gain concrete learning. This article is intended to describe the nature and scope of an innovative MBA capstone course being taught at Rowan University that attempts to provide a substantive project-based approach to integrating strategic management education. This paper describes the course, entitled "MBA Integrative Seminar" the manner in which it was created and administered, the methodology and results of course assessment, the role of the faculty and students who constitute the teaching and learning teams, and the limits and prospects of this type of pedagogical approach as an emerging concept.