Business Students, What Have You Learned? An Accreditor Wants to Know

Before students can collect an undergraduate degree in finance from Florida International University, they have to demonstrate that they can “identify and analyze derivative instruments and strategies used by investors and corporations to hedge financial risks.” At Indiana University at Bloomington, business majors must prove their ability to “recognize ethical issues, demonstrate familiarity with alternative frameworks for ethical reasoning, and discern trade-offs and implications of employing different ethical frames of reference when making business decisions.”

Those are just two of the thousands of learning goals that have been defined during the past eight years at the 479 programs accredited by AACSB International: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which collectively account for roughly half of the undergraduate business diplomas awarded in the United States each year. Borrowing a model from engineering education, the AACSB began in 2003 to require programs to establish learning goals for each major, to assess students’ progress toward those goals, and to use those assessments to improve curriculum and instruction. The accreditor itself has created a broad list of learning objectives, but colleges are encouraged to expand and tailor that list to fit their own missions.

The hope is that learning assessments will sharpen a vast undergraduate domain (more than one in five of all bachelor’s degrees are awarded in business fields) that has struggled with student disengagement.

Most participating colleges measure students’ progress by looking at their performance on particular assignments and at tests in their business courses. But some supplement those embedded assessments with national standardized tests of business knowledge (most commonly the Educational Testing Service’s Major Field Test in business). And a few, including Florida International, have created exit exams that all graduating seniors must take.

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Read: “Business Students, What Have You Learned? An Accreditor Wants to Know,“ an article by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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