Teaching Philosophy

Teaching Philosophy (Illinois 2012)

I teach courses on comparative management, international business, global strategy, and comparative employment relations to undergraduate, graduate students (MBAs and Master in Human Resource Management), and executive education.
My teaching philosophy is based on active learning, which involves asking students to solve problems, formulate and answer questions, and debate during class, and is complemented by cooperative learning, where students work in teams on projects under conditions that generate both positive interdependence and individual accountability. In addition, I strongly believe that establishing rapport with students and creating an atmosphere conducive to learning is as important as having command over the subject matter. I teach courses on comparative management, international business, global strategy, and comparative employment relations to undergraduate and graduate students. My emphasis is the international dimension.

Learning about international issues cannot be accomplished by merely memorizing the facts found in course readings. The teacher must spark the students’ curiosity about how management practices and business organizations function around the globe. To this end, I try to equip students with a set of conceptual tools to navigate through the often contradictory and ambiguous mass of information about how international competition takes place, to instigate an appreciation of the differences between multi-domestic and global industries, to provide a set of criteria for evaluating exactly which global strategy will help enhance the firm’s long-term profitability and value, and to show a clear understanding of how to measure and interpret the effects of economic, cultural, financial, political, and social factors on international management decisions. My ultimate goal in my teaching is to train competent future managers and responsible citizens in an increasingly interdependent and global world.

Pedagogical Implementation
My pedagogical style, like my approach to research, draws on the comparative method complemented with multiple other techniques depending on the subject. For example, if the topic at hand is employment systems around the world, we start by discussing what students know the most, the employment system in the U.S. Then, we build from this knowledge and analyze the similarities and differences with the employment system in Canada, and week by week we move across different countries all the way to employment systems in China.

A key challenge for a teacher is to transmit the knowledge to students in an efficient and stimulating manner. I rely on a variety of pedagogical techniques to achieve this goal. First, I combine short lectures on different topics (e.g., the challenges in cross-border merger and acquisitions) with case studies that allow students to apply the tools required for that topic to a particular real-life case (e.g., the cross-border merger of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler). This is supplemented with hands-on discovery, in that students are responsible for (1) active class participation, (2) global team work, and (3) class presentations.

First, I seek active student discovery by asking all students to write short reaction papers to the assigned readings. This allows me to incorporate their thoughts into my class. In addition, students are encouraged to participate in an on-line forum that relates the course content to current business events, and live in-class discussion with relevant information. Second, due to the nature of the classes that I teach, I tend to have a fairly diverse international student body or at least functional (disciplinary) diversity. Hence, at the beginning of the semester, I assign students into global teams and/or multi-functional teams to work on an assigned course project. This gives students an opportunity to interact with individuals with different cultural/functional backgrounds and experience the challenges and advantages of these complex teams. Our reflections on how to make multi-cultural and/or multi-functional teams more effective is incorporated into the course content. Finally, students are asked to put together a short presentation on an international business or managerial issue that is not formally covered in class. Some of the presentations have involved research parks in China, corporate governance issues in India, and the challenges of expatriate mangers.

Since international issues can be hard to grasp in the abstract, I actively incorporate state-of-the-art pedagogical tools and technology resources in my teaching such as simulations of cross-cultural negotiations, use of technology, and multi-media exercises. For example, in graduate courses such as global strategy, students are given an interactive multi-media CD on a Spanish winery whose sales have done very well in Spain, Germany, and the United States, and poorly in Australia. Students are asked to work in their global teams to analyze and come up with a technical report that discusses what went wrong in Australia and suggests other potential markets as well as the different entry modes. This is an example of “learning-by-doing” that is undertaken towards the end of the semester. Another example is that I encourage students to participate in business case competitions that complement the class.

Measurement and Evaluation of Student Learning
My assessment of student learning is two-fold: individual and group-level. In the case of undergraduate teaching, I put more emphasis on individual work, as these students are developing basic skills and acquiring new knowledge. In most of my undergraduate courses, students are asked to write two essays, several individual reaction papers, and two in-class exams, which count about 60 percent of the grade. The group work involves a group presentation and a group project, which counts about 40 percent of the grade. For graduate students, I draw more heavily on group work as it is my expectation that students need to learn how to work in teams. I also put more weight on class participation. I believe that a key element of learning, as well as measurement of learning, is to be able to assess whether students are making progress throughout the semester. Therefore, I provide multiple opportunities to give feedback to students by responding to their reaction papers, grading their essays, and giving detailed comments on their presentations. Finally, all of my courses include an in-class committee of two or three elected students that meets with me two or three times during the semester. The purpose of the course committee is to provide the class a formal means of communication with me about the course and the teaching.

Doctoral Student Supervising and Advising
I play a significant role in advising doctoral students interested in international business issues. I have been fortunate to work closely with doctoral students, serving as a dissertation committee member for 14 students (three of them have already graduated) from Business Administration, the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, and the Sociology and Psychology departments. In addition, most years I am responsible for a first- or second-year doctoral student as his/her academic advisor. Because I believe that the best way to learn how to write and do research is “learning-by-doing,” whenever possible, I try to give the opportunity to students to collaborate in research projects with me. This arrangement has worked out quite well most of the time, and, as a result, I have working papers or published papers with seven doctoral students from the University of Illinois. The successful completion of these collaborative projects helps these students learn how to perform high-quality research in a very effective manner.

Professional Development for Teaching Excellence
When I joined the faculty of the University of Illinois, I had never taught a course. So, I took it as a personal challenge to become as good as a teacher as I could be. I did several things to accomplish this goal. First, I sought guidance from the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Illinois in developing my syllabi for different course levels as well as my teaching techniques. I worked very closely with several staff members form the Center who provided extensive feedback. Second, also during my first semester, I wrote and was awarded a CIBER Teaching Development Grant to develop and gather course materials for teaching international business and management. With this grant, I was able to purchase a variety of multi-media cases and videos as well as to attend a workshop at Duke’s Fuqua School on “Strategies for Teaching International Negotiations.” Finally, I continue to participate in the Provost’s Initiative for Teaching Advancement (PITA) that the College of Business offers to its faculty as well as discuss with my colleagues new cases and teaching techniques that I am always eager to incorporate in my class. This keeps my teaching alive and exciting for me, and, hence, I hope some of my excitement inspires my students.

To conclude, student evaluations provide some evidence of teaching effectiveness. I have been included in the University of Illinois “Incomplete List of Teachers Rated as Excellent” almost every semester since I started teaching. Additional proof of my teaching effectiveness is that my elective courses such as LIR554: Comparative Employment Relation Systems or BA 384: International Management tend to be over-subscribed.