Sharing real-world knowledge enhances Graduate Executive Programs
To optimize our programs for accomplished professionals coming back to school for an advanced degree, we intentionally depart from classical educational approaches.
Historically, education in most of its forms applies a pedagogical approach—the prefix “ped” derives from the Greek for “child”—starting in the earliest stages of education. We are familiar with the kindergarten teacher positioned as the all-knowing one to fill the “empty vessel” five-year-old with knowledge. This approach survives as the predominant education method, carrying its way from K-12 into higher education.
A common theme of this approach is the delivery of concepts and theories from teacher to students with the encouragement to absorb and retain the material because the validation of that learning will soon take place through a graded examination. Students learning in this mode often question how the presented material will be applied, and its value or impact. Students are left wondering, “Why are we learning this?”
Our accomplished professional students, with an average of more than a decade of professional experience, are predisposed—sharpened, if you will—by the challenges of their professional experience and the accompanying wisdom. They are moved naturally to assess critically the practical value of the material taught in the classroom. They have the background to juxtapose what is delivered in the classroom with what plays out in the real world. Every knowledge piece receives scrutiny. Concepts and theories that relate to their vision of an expanded capacity to make more meaningful contributions are embraced. Concepts and theories that are presented for the mere sake of regurgitation on next Tuesday’s test are left behind as academic fluff. Observing this behavior in accomplished professional students presents a large opportunity for designing higher quality education.
In the Graduate Executive Programs, we leverage these behavioral nuances in our design to enhance the experience of our students. This approach includes an education method know as andragogy—the prefix “andro” derives from the Greek for “adult.” In this educational approach, faculty still deliver concepts and theories. However, before we move to the test, we pause and ask our students to share how the delivered academic content shows up in their organizations and to reflect on how its application can expand their capacity to contribute to their organizations. We leverage their wisdom to enhance the quality of education for the entire cohort.
The design thought goes further. Students performing a variety of roles are recruited from a variety of industries—admission requires progressive work experience—and the program includes required shared residencies. The course sequence for each student is lockstep, so the shared learning environment becomes the means for each student to receive the wisdom derived from the collective processing within the cohort. Twenty-one months later, the result is a graduating class with academic training where the dots of concept and theory are well-connected with bold lines to the realities of business practice.
This approach leaves the graduates of Auburn’s Executive Programs well-positioned to make powerful impacts in their organizations and the world. Our graduates move to higher levels of responsibility and confidently apply what they learned through the programs to make a difference that matters.
Graduate Executive Programs
Harbert College of Business