Posted by: Geoff Gloeckler on December 22, 2011
The latest results from a recent study do little to shake the growing reputation undergraduate business majors face as being sluggish students who are slow to improve their critical thinking skills.
According to the 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement, senior business majors spend less time preparing for class than their peers in five other disciplines, ranging from engineering to the humanities.
Business students reported they spend about 14 hours a week reading course materials and doing homework, versus 19 hours for engineering majors, 18 for physical sciences majors, 17 for biological sciences and arts and humanities majors, and 15 for education majors. Social sciences majors were on par with business students and also reported spending about 14 hours a week preparing for class. This results are based on responses from college seniors at more than 750 schools in the U.S. and Canada.
What might be more revealing, though, is that business professors had some of the lowest expectations for their students when it came to class preparation, the survey found. Biz professors expected just 15 hours of preparation time a week from their students, the least of any discipline except for education, where 15 hours per week is also the expectation. Faculty in all other disciplines demanded 18 hours a week or more.
While the survey did not give a reason as to why less preparation is generally expected from business students, the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education examined the apathy found in some undergraduate business programs in a jointly published story from April. Citing the book Academically Adrift, they reported:
“…on a national test of writing and reasoning skills, business majors had the weakest gains during the first two years of college. And when business students take the GMAT, the entry examination for M.B.A. programs, they score lower than do students in every other major.”
The article cites a report that warns many undergraduate business students may arrive to the major “by default,” or because it seems the most logical path to employment.
Business is the most popular bachelor’s degree major in the country, according to historic U.S. Dept. of Education data figures. Such a large capture from a wide variety of schools is likely to affect the end result of the NSSE survey. When you isolate business students to those attending schools ranked in Bloomberg Businessweek’s top 50, for example, the NSSE data sounds like it could be misleading — a fact the Times and Chronicle story notes.
A Bloomberg Businessweek story from October demonstrates this. We found that at many of the top-ranked public universities where students often apply to—and are accepted by—the business school separately, the major is among the most competitive to enter and that selectivity to those programs is on the rise. Such high admissions standards are likely to weed out the languid, and many who are accepted to such programs profess that they spend more than 14 hours a week prepping for class. Odds are, professors’ expectations at these schools are higher, as well.