Raise your hand!

One difference between MBA students at Harvard and INSEAD at graduation could be the strengths of their arms due to how often they raise their hands in the class. Today’s post will revolve around this very important topic of physical fitness.

What I am really pointing at is the importance of class participation in teaching and evaluation. When I was looking at the MBA programs around the world, I learnt that Harvard Business School (HBS) teaches mainly through business cases. However, because in the end I only applied to INSEAD, I didn’t look into it much further.

Only recently, upon reading on the significance of class participation in HBS’s grading scheme, did I realize how lucky I was in this aspect. HBS places high importance on class participation – often it accounts for 50% of the total course grade (according to the official HBS website). This contrasts sharply with my current experience at INSEAD, where class participation is not ignored, but for most courses stands at 10% or less of the total course grade.

Each professor has a different style, and most incorporate significant class participation. But there are no set rules they have to follow.

Now, why do I feel lucky? It’s not because I enjoy playing computer games in class and INSEAD provides me with the perfect environment to do so. In fact, I really enjoy contributing to the class and learning from my classmates’ contributions. But I contribute when I feel like I have something valuable to add, not because I feel forced to do so. And I believe it is the same for my classmates.

To be clear I am not saying the HBS method is bad: it is a business school that undoubtedly produces many well-accomplished leaders. The key point is that the two schools have different approaches to teaching, and for me, due to my personality as well as my views, one is much more suitable than the other.

Yet if you, like me, are to a large extent driven by data (performance tables, hiring numbers, etc.) then this is an aspect you can easily miss: “Teaching techniques? Sure, if they have a top ranking the teaching must be good. No need to look more.”

Yet only recently have I realized how critical the teaching method is to your study experience. Whatever MBA you take, you will spend a huge amount of time both in class and in your study group, and so the teaching method should be one of the top-level selection criteria of every MBA applicant. They are as relevant as the rankings, if not more.