01 Sep 2008
Knowledge Integration Rules at YaleTopics:
Yale set out in the fall of 2006 to create a distinctive new model of management education, one that eliminated traditional discipline-based courses and replaced them with courses designed to integrate teaching and learning across disciplinary boundaries. Driving the change was the growing feeling that the traditional MBA program was not fulfilling its mission of preparing students for leadership positions in modern organizations.
To accomplish its transformation, Yale designed a new first-year core curriculum. It begins with a six-week segment called Orientation to Management, a general introduction to concepts, tools, and problem-framing methodologies. In addition, students work on developing interpersonal skills needed to be an effective leader.
The next twelve weeks, called Organizational Perspectives, are the centerpiece of Yale’s integrated curriculum. Students take team-taught, multidisciplinary courses structured from the point of view of key constituents with whom managers interact, such as employees, customers, and investors. For example, instead of a traditional course in marketing, the new curriculum offers a course on the customer.
“This is more than repackaging,” Dean Joel Podolny notes in an e-mail. “Ask any faculty member what it is like to go from a context in which they have been solely responsible for a single course to one where they may need to coordinate with as many as four or five others across twelve sessions of a given course, and then shift between courses themselves, and they will tell you this is definitely not old wine in new bottles.”
Students cap their first year with a six-week course called Integrated Leadership Perspective. It ties together all the preceding course work with complex interdisciplinary cases that challenge students to think through multiple points of view.
In addition to the core courses, the new curriculum requires all first-year students to study abroad during the January break in faculty-led, two-week trips. And they must participate in a new Leadership Development Program, which involves a series of small-group meetings throughout the year, personal assessment exercises, peer and faculty feedback, plus coaching and mentoring.
After two years of the new curriculum, “the response has been amazing, not only from our faculty and students but also from recruiters and from other business schools,” says Podolny. Perhaps most gratifying, recruiters tell Podolny that “our students still possess the same technical skills that they had under the old curriculum, but they now have a much better appreciation of the context within which those technical skills need to be applied.”