eNEWSLINE - Business Education News from AACSB International

BRC Proposed Draft Standards Ongoing Series—Curriculum Management

February 2013

Since its inception, the Blue Ribbon Committee on Accreditation Quality (BRC) has placed the concept of learning at the forefront of its efforts. Designed to foster innovation, impact, and engagement, the group's proposed business accreditation standards build on initial successes with Assurance of Learning (AoL) by emphasizing it as a means to support curricula management. Among the changes, the BRC calls for content expectations to be made more relevant to emerging business needs, and a stronger focus on key factors associated with quality learning experiences: interaction, deeper engagement with academe and practice, and processes for improving teaching effectiveness.

First, the proposed standards recast AoL expectations in the context of curricula management. The first of five learning and teaching standards require schools to demonstrate effective and systematic processes for continuous improvement in curricula. AoL results are just one of several factors expected to drive modifications to curricula and learning goals. Other factors likely include new developments in business practices, input from key stakeholders, and an ongoing evolution of the school's mission and strategy.

The BRC also encourages a more holistic approach to assessment. Indirect measures of research (e.g. surveys of stakeholders) provide valuable contextual information to inspire and support curriculum change. Gaps in learning goal achievement are often closed by understanding and applying recruiter, alumni, faculty, and student input. Subtle changes in language describing assessment, such as encouraging schools to "create a portfolio of evidence" rather than "develop quantitative measures," are intended to encourage schools to think holistically about what might be useful, including direct assessment of student learning outcomes, survey results, grades, and course taking patterns.

A third opportunity emphasizes a consistent requirement for accountability, assessment, and program review. Across borders, other AoL requirements differ substantially. Some require periodic in-depth and independent program reviews, while others require nothing at all. Some countries have national exams by field, others do not. Knowledgeable accreditation volunteers call for AACSB's expectations to complement these other requirements while ensuring a degree of consistency across AACSB-accredited schools. The proposed standards thus allow schools greater flexibility to tailor their approach based on national requirements, reducing unnecessary duplication, and efficiently leveraging existing resources.

But that's not all—in the current accreditation standards, expectations regarding curriculum content are fragmented. The BRC believes it is important for content expectations to be organized in one standard. The "Basis for Judgment" and "Guidance for Documentation" related to this proposed standard outline differences across program levels and types, while still allowing schools flexibility to adapt expectations to their contexts.

Several dimensions of quality related to curriculum management that are inherently important and receive greater emphasis in the proposed standards include student-to-student and student-to-faculty interaction. These interactions are also a key factor in determining quality for online education. As curriculum management supports student-to-student engagement, the two approaches of professional and academic engagement should be overlapping and complimentary, rather than considered substitutes. More academic engagement does not mean less practical education.

The last of the five learning and teaching standards is specific to teaching effectiveness. Faculty members must receive support for their own continuous improvement efforts as they relate to the use of new technologies, new learning platforms, and pedagogical techniques. It is critical that faculty members are provided with appropriate training and development to teach effectively in all required modes of delivery.

Together, the learning and teaching standards challenge schools to take charge of curriculum management as a key priority in their commitment to continuous improvement. They challenge schools to take a broad view of all of the factors that help create, and deliver, a quality educational program that is aligned with the school's mission, expected outcomes, and strategies.