Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Slacking at Wharton

It will not surprise you that the vast majority of faculty believe that grade nondisclosure weakens students' motivation to make course work a priority and is therefore antithetical to Wharton's culture of academic excellence. ... What is more remarkable, and to me very instructive, is that the senior alumni leaders of the School, especially the very impressive and accomplished alums who populate our Advisory Boards, are uniformly and strongly opposed to grade nondisclosure. In our discussions on the issue, our Board members have consistently warned us that, over time, grade nondisclosure will undermine our core competence).

In recent years, a number of our faculty have reported a gradual but discernible shift away from academics in the students' priorities. Some have kept careful records to document the trend. We have heard, from some of our most sought-after faculty, that not only is the MBAs' performance lower in our cross listed courses than undergrads', but that the trend over time shows a widening gap between the performance of the two subpopulations. (One faculty member speculated that the widening gap could be caused by the undergrads getting smarter at a faster rate than the MBAs, but thought that the more plausible explanation lies in changing effort levels!). Another faculty member, the winner of countless teaching awards, reports that on exams that are psychometrically calibrated to have similar levels of difficulty, he has found a clear decline in performance in recent years. A few other frequent winners of teaching awards have stopped teaching MBA classes.

Several student leaders too have expressed serious concerns about the lack of academic engagement. Pete Kim, graduating WGA President, wrote a compelling piece in these pages a few weeks ago and stated that we have a problem. Various academic reps, DGSAC members, MBA Program Advisory Board members, and numerous other students with or without formal roles in the student government have echoed such sentiments. More comprehensively, the Annual Stakeholder Surveys have shown a 22% decline over four years in the students' (self-reported) time spent on academic commitments.
--Wharton Vice Dean and Director Anjani Jain on the academic efforts of Wharton MBAs in 2005. HT: Freakonomics blog