MBA Life (11): How to evaluate your MBA professors

The original source of this article appeared in blogs.ft.com (July 21, 2015)

We all agree that networking with alumni, meeting international students, having a nice brand on your CV, and potentially getting recruited while on campus are important aspects of the expected MBA experience. Nonetheless, the fundamental reason for an MBA is the content you get in class: knowing how to interpret the financial statements of a company, understand and link marketing metrics, and gain insights into operations, managerial accounting, and strategic frameworks. This is what you are expected to use and leverage after the MBA.

The professors are the key components of the MBA knowledge-engine, and the engine is fueled by their experience, research and academic participation within the programme. To keep and retain the quality professors, schools implement several assessments, such as student feedback surveys.

Quality Control Photo. (Image courtesy of fantasista at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Quality Control Photo. (Image courtesy of fantasista at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Still, as I get to talk to students from other top-ranked programmes, I feel we are sub-utilising an important part of this assessment tool. Most students don’t know what academic aspects should be evaluated. Moreover, the tendency is to tick the boxes and finish it as soon as possible. As a result, I would like to share five aspects to consider when filling out a form:

  1. Knowledge on the subject matter: if you want to know about microeconomics, you read the book by Pindyck and Rubinfeld. What you want to assess is how the professor blends his experience and knowledge with the content (even for microeconomics 101). Does he use real world situations to discuss the basic supply/demand concepts? How is the professor engaged with the non-academic world? The MBA is for real application not only theoretical hypothesis
  2. Teaching style and methodology: did you know where the course was going in session four or were you only drowned in assignments? There has to be a balance of the two. The objectives have to be clear from the beginning but also reinforced at the end of every session. What tools did the professor use to get the message across? The wider the options the better, e.g. computer simulations, class debates, popup quizzes, videos, classic exercises, cases. MBAs classes are diverse so the more tools available the better the response from the class
  3. Engaging personality & class skills: did it feel like the professor was swimming in unknown waters, such as generating a debate he was not able to moderate? Did the transition from lecture to exercise to case and back to lecture feel smooth? In this way, a professor is a facilitator, managing the crowd and the content with a purpose
  4. Passion and rapport: like any other professional, professors should like what they do, and part of what they do is to teach. Did the professor practice the art of “sharing knowledge” with passion? Did they encourage post-class discussion? Were they available during non-class hours or did they only appear in class and exams?
  5. High expectations: were you and the class challenged? Could you use the experience from the class during an interview? Maybe not everyone will go into financial markets, but the professor should always reinforce the importance of the course in the daily activities of an MBA graduate with C-suite perspectives or entrepreneurship goals

The feedback should aim to assess whether the objectives were achieved and your subject knowledge increased thanks to being in that class. Remember, the MBA is a major investment and the feedback is a way of keeping the programme on track.

Please share what aspects and how do you evaluate a course? You can also follow me on Twitter @marqueztimo

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