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The Value of Practitioner-Based Learning

To help share some thoughts on the topic let’s start with a definition. Just what is a practitioner?

A practitioner is one who practices something, especially an occupation, profession, or technique. This knowledge is gained through practical experience in commerce, whether on a domestic or international level. In addition, the individual has experienced “real world” issues using new tools and technology to solve problems.

So, why is this important for a prospective student looking to pursue an accredited MBA for example in international business? What value can the student derive from a practitioner? First off, I do not want the reader to discredit the importance of theory. Theory is the fundamental building block that helps to explain facts that have been tested and accepted in the business community. For example, key accounting principles are accepted methods to drive business performance and their use has been tested and accepted over time. The important building blocks of learning are theory. So theory is necessary! At the college, undergraduate level theory should be shared, reviewed, and tested to ensure the student has a good working knowledge of the subject matter. As I experienced in my undergraduate years (some time ago) core learning was the memorization of important data and processes. I will not discredit the opportunity to apply independent thought but the majority of time was learning the “rules” that were generally accepted at that point in time. Learning I could use as I pursued a profession in my area of specialization. To put this into context, learning to drive requires classroom study of the key fundamentals of vehicle management. Once completed with driving “theory” the student may now practice by actually driving a car. As the new driver continues to practice proficiency is gained and maintained!

Let us now “fast forward” to future learning including a traditional or online MBA program. Here, in most cases, the average MBA student has a certain level of experience in their profession. They come to the table with various backgrounds, experiences, and undergraduate degrees. Their mettle has been tested in commerce using applied theory gained at the undergraduate level. They are ready and eager to explore advanced concepts and tools. True, there is more theory to be shared but of particular value is application to real world situations. I affectionately refer to this type of sharing as “war stories”! A practitioner has the ability to share these experiences and provide the student with the opportunity to compare/contrast in their own environment. In addition, new thoughts and ideas can be collaborated between the student, practitioner, and class. Theory is applied via real world experience! This gives the student the opportunity to apply their previous learning.

Allow me to share another perspective. All of us have experienced “case studies.” We had to read, analyze, and debate the subject matter in various learning venues. The beauty of a case study is the relationship between the subject matter in the study and theory. The curse is timeliness. Case studies begin to “decay” shortly after being published. In some instances, the study becomes obsolete. I will not discredit the value these case studies provide but today’s students are seeking “real time” learning. That said, practitioner based learning is able to provide the student with a differing perspective. The practitioner is able to meld theory with application and provide the student with more tools for their professional toolbox.

In conclusion, I do not want to discredit traditional methods of instruction. They are necessary and core to learning. However, I believe there must be a balance especially for the MBA curriculum. The learners in this program seek relevance to theory, something a practitioner may provide.

Related Benedictine Programs

Benedictine’s online MBA provides an environment to apply critical thought against real world situations. To learn more about how Benedictine’s online MBA can expose you to lessons on critical throught and advance your career click here or speak to one of our Program Advisors who can share more with you about the program and curriculum.

About the Author

Pete Papantos is an operations director at a Fortune 500 company. He is responsible for the global execution of their strategic plan and driving operational excellence using lean methods. In addition, Pete is a graduate instructor with emphasis in operations and strategic management — both in traditional and online settings.