Exec Ed That’s Anything But Old School

July 31, 2018

In the Headlines
Organizational Resilience
students raising hands

While traditional teaching methods work well with baby boomers and Gen X leaders, millennials and Gen Z learn in ways that are radically different—and members of those groups are enrolling in executive education programs in increasing numbers. These younger learners won’t sit still in musty old classrooms, working on cases or listening to slide-driven content. So, at the University of Arizona’s Eller Executive Education division, we have sought to disrupt the traditional model by bringing in new content and new delivery methodologies.

Our starting point was adult learning theory and, to some extent, the neuroscience of adult learning. We focused on three dimensions of change that required a new approach to executive learning:

1. Maintaining a higher level of learning arousal. Research shows that people learn better if they are in a state of physiological or mental arousal—that is, outside of their comfort zones or experiencing some level of stress. That means business schools can’t just deliver lectures; they must provide opportunities for active learning. And students must apply this learning immediately, either in the classroom or at work, both to heighten the learning experience and to keep up with the complexities of today’s turbulent business world.

2. Activating both affective and cognitive circuits during times of learning. Research has revealed that emotions are powerful drivers of decision making, and we believe they also drive learning. Therefore, business schools are most effective at both teaching factual information and promoting critical thinking when we create positive emotional reinforcements that foster learning.

3. Encouraging attention and retention in the digital age. While there is no evidence that the learner’s attention span is shrinking, a 2010 study of chemistry students found that active learning methods trump traditional ones. For example, students experience fewer attention lapses during demonstrations and question-and-answer periods than during lecture segments. Active learning methods seem to have dual benefits: They engage the learner’s attention throughout a class, and they refresh the learner’s attention right after a lecture component.

Read the full article at BizEd.