What K-12 educators and schools of education can learn from business school

By Jake Murray

This academic year the Harvard Business School implemented changes to its MBA curriculum to develop stronger leadership skills among its graduate students.  Focus areas of this new leadership curriculum include:

  • Emotional intelligence – helping leaders understand their own emotions and the emotions of others, and using this understanding to more effectively manage individuals and teams, and make decisions
  • Globalization – educating leaders to be far more perceptive about what is going on around the world and how to communicate across cultures
  • Entrepreneurial imagination – preparing leaders to integrate all aspects of their  coursework and learning experience to develop new and promising ideas

Harvard MBA students develop these areas through a series of year-long small team (6-8 students) assignments throughout the year, including a team challenge abroad, where students go together to an emerging market and are tasked with proposing a new product or service that a company can us in that market.  Through this team work process, students reflect on what it means to be effective – working in a team, through the eyes of others, and in different roles and situations.

My question:  where is the parallel of this training model in principal and teacher education? Would not prospective principals and teachers benefit from knowledge and skill development in these same areas, and this same process of intensive team work and reflection?  No doubt principals with high degrees of emotional intelligence would be better equipped to communicate with families and motivate teachers.  With the increase of students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds–especially in urban classroom—principals and teacher too should have a global perspective, and a deeper understanding of where their students come from and how they learn.   And a strategy of sending small teams of principals and teachers to work with schools and educators in other countries to address learning and resources challenges, and to propose creative and entrepreneurial solutions to these challenges would be a transformative learning experience.

As the dialogue among education policymakers on how to best transform schools of education heats up, I would argue that consideration of these competency areas into principal and teacher education programs would be a worthwhile topic of discussion.
Teacher with students

Jake Murray is the Senior Director of Aspire Institute. He has over 20 years of experience in the education, health and human services fields, serving as a program leader, policy analyst, and strategic planner.