The topic for this month’s Provisions session was “Teaching Graduate Students.”  Our two presenters were David DeBonis, Associate Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders, and Sev Carlson, Dean of the School of Business.

Dr. Carlson was the first to present, and he focused on revisions in the MBA curriculum.  His first major point was that getting a master’s in finance involves an extensive list of finance courses, a master’s in accounting involves an extensive list of accounting courses, yet with an MBA, the course requirements include a little bit of everything (i.e. finance, accounting, human resources, management, etc.), where with this more generalist approach, a person can work in any business.  As a result, Dr. Carlson explained how when one professor wants to revise their curriculum within the MBA program, they have to engage all the faculty because the curriculum is so integrated.  Therefore, electives are where faculty has a lot more ability to do what they want to do how they want to do it, or in other words, where MBA curriculum revision has really taken place.  Dr. Carlson then explained the way in which Saint Rose’s MBA program has set up the additional courses to be linked with the required ones to offer certificates, where students may come in for an MBA, and by choosing the right electives and a couple of extra courses, they will graduate with an MBA and a certificate.  This set-up has a number of benefits, according to Dr. Carlson.  First, students are able to self-lengthen the program, where some will want the specialty while others are not forced to.  Secondly, outsiders have the opportunity to come in and take the courses required for a certificate, and this might very well result in new MBA students.  Dr. Carlson concluded by saying that faculty have been talking to other parts of campus are there other areas where this same type of certificate set-up might make sense.

Dr. DeBonis’s inspiration for his presentation came from thinking about what he did not do well in the classroom and thinking about what he did to fix it.  He talked specifically about in-class problem solving in Communication and Sciences Disorders classes, where they imitate situations in which students would be working with people with speech, language, and/or hearing problems as well as their families.  The difficulty in trying to create realistic situations for the students to practice with is that the problems are often already identified for them in the classroom setting, which is not always the case in reality, where they would not always know exactly what the problem is.  Typically, in the classroom, they do work with case studies and role playing, which Dr. BeBonis explains as having advantages and disadvantages, and that ultimately he was looking for something more spontaneous and unpredictable.  His first attempt he described as “falling flat,” where he gave his students limited information about a case and wanted to see what they came up with — they ended up just giving him very limited answers.  His next attempt involved putting them into a situation with relevant information and giving them specifically 15 min to try and ask questions of Dr. DeBonis (playing client) in order to expand upon the information they already had.   His students knew he did not know what questions would be asked of him and how he would respond, which contributed to their engagement, but what Dr. Debonis found is that what the students came up with was not nearly enough, and that he was ultimately not giving enough guidance for them on the value and purpose of questioning.  Dr. Debonis then pointed to the book  Make Just One Change, which he feels in an invaluable tool in teaching your students how to ask their own questions, and noted that in a democratic society, questioning is what equalizes the playing field.

To listen to a podcast of the session, click here.

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