After difficult decades of falling enrollment because of back-to-basics movements at the secondary level, business teacher education has been experiencing a renaissance of popularity as it has redefined itself to support the learning of business subjects in other sectors of education including for-profit business schools, community colleges, corporate universities, and even university-level business schools for which teaching is the focus. Perhaps even more promising is that major teaching and learning innovations are emanating from the field of workplace learning and business education itself.

The Vision

Historically, and in some cases currently, learning the basics for and about business has been delivered by business educators in K-12 educational settings. What we see occurring is that traditional business content, vocationally-oriented skills subjects, has little or no place in back-to-the-basics high school. Where business content does exist at the secondary level, it tends to evolve around content such as personal finance and consumer economics, and only in rare instances of partnering with local community colleges, accounting, sales, marketing, and management courses that may carry transfer credit. Additionally, educators are working to deliver career preparation activities at the high school level that involve work-based learning experiences including simulations, internships, and cooperative work experiences. Thus, as we see business content pushed up to levels of post-secondary and adult environments, we also see a changing role for the secondary educator, and a much more lucrative role for educators of business subjects at community colleges and universities. Moreover, the emergence of the corporate university has added yet another learning venue for educational delivery.

So the question we want to ask now is what role(s) educators of business subjects play in this new environment. For some at the high school and adult continuing education environs, the traditional skills-based teaching environment still exists. However, we are finding that even in those environments, the learning/teaching methods are increasingly learner-centered and experiential. The for-profit college explosion over the past decade, likewise, has major implications for students as well as for us.

A Paradigm Shift

The emerging conceptual frameworks for preparing business educators at all levels include a paradigm shift from 'teaching' to 'learning,' which suggests a direction heretofore largely unexamined. This shift, we feel, is critical to the concept of the future preparation of business instructors.

In addition, students and their learning preferences have changed rapidly and dramatically over the recent years as electronic media has broadened, extended, and largely enriched their ability to solve problems, investigate beyond traditional text and teacher-dominated borders, and examine new and different ways to solve problems. Teachers must adapt to these new learning patterns since one of our premises is that the development of self-directed learning will extend beyond the traditional classroom -- secondary and beyond -- into the learner's future work life.

The Developments

These developments include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Problem based learning -- problems developed within a school setting with a business impact; and problems developed from outside the school and brought inside for the school to address;
  • Anchored instruction that is part of problem based learning, where the focus is on the locus rather than on a theoretical premise, thus making learning meaningful to the individual by being able to see the applications of it;
  • Internships to bring education and business settings closer to one another;
  • Authentic learning environments, which include computer simulations and case analysis; and
  • Cognitive apprenticeships where students in an internship environment scaffold into ever-higher level activities, e.g. traditional student teaching that moves the student teacher from observation to selected and supervised experiences, through more formal guided activities into solo practices.
New Career Options

Because educators of business subjects are adept in both content and teaching/learning methods, a new career venue for graduates lies within the corporate training function -- the corporate university. When organized around a model for continuous learning and training and development, the corporate university emerges. Thus we envision a third component in our description of business education extending from 'for business' and 'about business' to include the concept of 'in business,' as well. Our graduates can work in a wide variety of environments outside of traditional schooling, in the corporate world where employee learning is not only ongoing but encompasses billions of budget dollars in the lifelong learning, training, and development of all employees involved in the business sector.

This training enterprise involves learners at all levels -- from the apprentice employee through middle management to the highest regions of administration -- and in all fields and disciplines -- new product development, federally mandated compliance training, to coaching and managerial techniques. Armed with a strong theoretical grounding, effective assessment techniques, curricular content design and development, instructional methods, and evaluation processes, this environment is open to those well trained in professional education. Workplace learning -- learning that goes on within a business enterprise -- and lifelong learning -- learning leading to an individual's improved and enhanced performance from basic skills to advanced competence -- are all very appropriate realms for the professional educator.

Another View of Business Education Academic Preparation

It is with these concepts in mind that we offer the following ideas of what we feel should be the emphasis, targets, specialization content, and emerging theories and models necessary for who is being taught and for what roles.

Business Education at the Doctoral Level:

  • Target: PhD/EdD researchers and professors of business in academic environments and teacher educators; corporate educators
  • Specialization content: Research skills, trends and issues (e.g. universities and corporate universities; accreditation), learning theories, instructional design and evaluation, and delivery strategies, organizational development and change, leadership, higher education administration

Business Teacher Education at the Baccalaureate and Master's Levels, Including 5th Year Certification Programs:

  • Target: Secondary business teacher preparation
  • Specialization content: Management, marketing, accounting, information systems, and the like; instructional strategies appropriate for adolescents in the classroom and in authentic work environments
  • Emerging theories and models: Strategies and tactics for instruction; work-based learning, computer mediated learning, problem-based learning (including simulations)

Business Education/Workplace Learning at the Master's Level:

  • Target: Postsecondary business instructors and educators in corporate environments
  • Specialization content: (K-12) programs, the community college, for-profit business schools, corporate universities; community education; the promise of technologies that make communications possible and impact learning
  • Emerging theories and models: Workplace learning, lifelong learning, instructional design and evaluation, situated learning, computer mediated learning, problem-based learning, experiential learning, strategies and tactics for instructional delivery

Business Education at the Junior/Community College Level:

  • Target: Learners who are in school for
    • Lifelong learning and/or
    • Learning for entry-level jobs in business and/or
    • Learning for professional development (retraining; updating)
    • Learning for transfer to BA/BS or corporate education
  • Specialization content: Personal finance, principles of accounting, marketing, management, etc.
  • Emerging theories and models: Learning through occupations, integrated academic-vocational curricula, anchored instruction, simulations, work-based learning (problem-based learning, internships, cooperative work experiences, tech prep, and the like)

Business Education at the Secondary Level:

  • Target: Learners who
    • Are learning about business occupations
    • Are learning skills appropriate for part time or entry-level positions
    • Are learning business content appropriate as foundation for further education or workplace education
    • Are learning to be informed citizens (personal finance, consumer behavior, etc.) -- e.g. critical survival skills with appropriate business content
  • Emerging theories and models: Learning through occupations, integrated academic-vocational curricula, anchored instruction, simulations, work-based learning (problem-based learning, internships, cooperative work experiences, after school jobs, tech prep, and the like). The role of extracurricular activities on student learning with business connections are encouraged (DECA, FBLA, etc.)