Photo of a smiling man in front of a background

Kingsley Wabara
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Finance, Olin Business School

Can the periodic adjustments of teaching processes to reduce the aggregate resources used in teaching and learning lead to higher aggregate students’ knowledge? If yes, can such improvements in learning lead to an increase in students’ perceptions of multiple aspects of the course delivery? These questions, the first in particular, might seem counterintuitive, especially in non-business contexts. Perhaps even more so when rephrased as follows: can teachers continue to improve the main benefit (or profit) from their teaching, which is the aggregate students’ learning, while using fewer teaching and learning resources?

Counterintuitive as the first question above may sound, it is precisely what businesses and business leaders face all too often. For example, to continue to increase the net worth of a company, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has to continue to find productive ways to increase the profits from (while also reducing the costs of) the company’s operations. What better place to begin to model this way of thinking than in a business classroom – the very place where tomorrow’s business leaders are groomed?

To help instructors do this, I adapt the business principles of lean synchronization to teaching and learning. I define lean synchronization in teaching and learning as “the aim of achieving a course design (and delivery process) that produces the highest quality of student learning, and the highest level of student-satisfaction, using the smallest possible amount of teaching and learning resources (both human and institutional).”

My Scholarship in Teaching and Learning (SoTL) project demonstrates how the business principles of lean synchronization can help teachers (i) become systematically more inclusive in the classroom and (ii) increase the net benefit from their teaching. Overall, I implemented lean synchronization in the context of a two-group post-test only quasi-experiment (in an Entrepreneurial Finance course) and answered affirmatively to the two questions posed earlier. I detail my project and the results in a paper, the pre-publication version of which can be found on my Social Science Research Network (SSRN) Author Page.

The SoTL project afforded me a valuable opportunity to apply business thinking to the classroom space, reflect deeply on my teaching philosophy, and bring it to bear in a classroom setting. Through doing this project, I learned that SoTL research is similar to my research in behavioral economics/finance. Both types of research essentially focus on human behavior. The empirical tools are quite comparable, but with a potential difference being that those used in economics and finance may appear more mathematically demanding. Thus, my experience with the SoTL project was an interesting bridge-building exercise in research methods and will prove incredibly useful in the future.

I engaged with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) because it has numerous workshops and programs to help those interested in developing a broader and/or international perspective in teaching pedagogy to hone their skills. The latter was crucial to me because having attended some of the best schools in Africa, the UK, the EU, and the USA, I observed peculiar differences in teaching methods and styles. I particularly liked the CTL’s Professional Development in Teaching program because of its rigorous structure. I found the workshops on inclusive teaching particularly impactful.

The knowledge I gained from the program will be enormously helpful in my future work as a professor, and I am incredibly grateful to the CTL. I look forward to doing more SoTL projects with future colleagues and collaborators and would encourage every instructor to do one, at least.