A fabric of intensive feedback-based learning activities aimed at developing and nurturing in all participants the communicative, interactive and interpersonal skills essential to the high-value added collaborative problem solver and decision maker in contemporary organizations.
Because the MBA needs a developmental boost. Rotman School studies indicate that top recruiters of MBA students are currently looking beyond the analytic and inferential capacities normally associated with MBA’s – and which are developed in most
MBA programs via discipline-based specialized training in the classroom and measured by many standardized tests, including the GMAT and the GRE – to skills which relate to solving problems collaboratively, to expressing in ways that both impress
and connect, and to recognizing and integrating across conflicting points of view in the real time, high stakes environment of public meetings. The SDL resolves an old dilemma in professional business education. On one hand, the MBA attempts
to equip students with a set of technical, analytical and targeted problem solving skills (both know-what and know-how) in the structured domains corresponding to the various disciplines and silos of business practice (finance, accounting, operations,
strategy, marketing, human resources management. On the other hand, the MBA seeks to equip students with the interpersonal, interactive and communicative competencies that are pre-requisites for functioning at a high level of responsibility
in organizations. MBA programs have traditionally specialized in the development of technical and analytical skills (leaving the development of communicative competence to impromptu coaching sessions and extracurricular development), thereby
incurring the cost of failing to develop in students a set of skills that are an important source of value. Or, some MBA programs have emphasized the development of communicative competence in all of the core classes and disciplines, but incurred
the cost of leaving students less technically prepared for the demands of the organizations that employ them. The SDL pushes the Pareto boundary of this trade-off upward by targeting intensive feedback-based interventions delivered by professional
instructors to communicative activities that are required of students as part of the core areas of technical and analytical training.
Via the development and deployment of modular developmental experiences that scaffold the core of the MBA program. Learning sciences – comprising cognitive psychology, affective and cognitive neuroscience, pedagogical theory and empirical research
– collectively point to the centrality of feedback to learning, and to the superiority of developmental feedback over evaluative feedback to the learner in the production of better learning outcomes. These effects are amplified for subtle, difficult
to measure but easy to observe skills such as communicative effectiveness and interpersonal competence. Yet, the cost structure of MBA programs pushes most of them towards a teacher-centred pedagogy that makes precisely the kind of narrowly
focused, intensive, personal and developmental feedback most conducive to learning difficult to bring about. By contrast, the SDL is focused on the provisioning of a learner-centric pedagogical model that maximizes the learning-to-teaching
ratio via vivid interaction, personalized attention, and feedback that is developmental precisely because it is decoupled from evaluation.