MBA Research
Serving high school and post-secondary educators and administrators
Not-for-profit, research-based support for all Business Administration educators: entrepreneurship, finance, hospitality, management/administration, and marketing.
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Business Admin Standards - Other Articles

MBA Research focuses its research, curriculum and instructional materials design, and assessment activities on four business-related clusters: Business Management and Administration, Finance, Hospitality and Tourism, and Marketing. Its research efforts incorporate both primary and secondary research based on business sources rather than educational sources.

Business-based research provides a mechanism for the identification of current, actual skills and knowledge needed by employees in the workplace. In this way, students know that when they complete Business Administration programs, they will have the know-how sought by employers.

These research efforts with business resulted in the identification of similar, overlapping skills and knowledge across the four clusters. This common know-how is the Business Administration Core which is composed of the following topics: Business Law, Communication Skills, Customer Relations, Economics, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurship, Financial Analysis, Human Resources Management, Information Management, Marketing, Operations, Professional Development, and Strategic Management. This represents the first tier of specificity.

Each of the four clusters contains content that is common to its pathways and is known as the Cluster Core (the second tier of specificity). Each of the clusters is composed of five pathways, and each pathway contains content that is common to the jobs in it (the third tier of specificity). Finally, there is content that is specific to a job or product, and this is known as Specialties (the fourth tier of specificity).

Instruction should be designed to move from general to specific, setting up the high school curriculum around the content in the Business Administration Core and the Cluster Core. As students progress in their education, they should acquire content increasingly more specific to their area of interest in business. The content within each of the tiers is organized into Standards, Performance Elements, Performance Indicators, and Objectives. Each Performance Indicator is assigned to a curriculum-planning level based on the job level at which it is first needed within businesses. These curriculum-planning levels progress from simple to complex and are: Prerequisite, Career-sustaining, Specialist, Supervisor, Manager, and Owner. MBA Research’s philosophy is that the curriculum should be organized from simple to complex, thereby enabling students to acquire foundational understanding and skill before they acquire more advanced management-level skills.

Since more people than ever before are starting their own businesses, educational institutions including colleges/universities, community colleges, and high schools are encouraging the study of entrepreneurship through the addition of entrepreneurship courses and majors.

Entrepreneurship has been a slippery concept to get our arms around. People define and use the term differently. Some focus solely on the development of an entrepreneurial spirit or mindset, while others approach it from an ideation standpoint. Still others incorporate small-business management strategies and techniques.

Our approach to entrepreneurship incorporates ideation, business planning, and business operations. Examples of skills students acquire include the ability to recognize opportunities and to act on them, determination of needs, identification of markets, use of marketing research, identification of sources of capital, and management skills.

Entrepreneurship is an option in any business career. Its curriculum is an integral part of all four business-related clusters. Therefore, MBA Research addresses entrepreneurial skills in the Business Administration Core. Here, you will find a Standard specifically for Entrepreneurship as well as Performance Indicators at the Owner curriculum planning level that address small-business management skills. These performance indicators can be used to develop an entrepreneurship program of study.

In addition, we recognize that there is know-how associated with owning a certain type of business, such as an ad agency or an accounting firm. We address these skills and knowledge in the Cluster Cores and, more specifically, in the various Pathways through the Owner curriculum planning level performance indicators. The addition of these performance indicators to an entrepreneurship program of study will result in a more specialized entrepreneurship program of study.

We view entrepreneurship as an advanced curriculum—not as an exploratory program. In all other programs, we encourage teachers to build their curriculum from simple to complex. If we pursued that approach with development of a high school entrepreneurship program of study, the result would be a general business program since there are so many performance indicators at the first three levels of the Business Administration Core. To distinguish the entrepreneurship program from general business, we disregarded the building-block approach to curriculum development. In effect, students bypass foundational skills and knowledge so that they can focus on those needed by entrepreneurs. For a more detailed discussion of the entrepreneurship program of study, please go to your State's Connection page and/or to MBA’s store.

MBA Research currently collects data from a variety of industry-based primary and secondary sources. We interview C-level business executives to obtain a "big picture" understanding of trends and issues facing each Business Administration Cluster. These panels, composed of representatives from each pathway in a cluster, also identify current job titles and examine a draft document of overarching standards to identify omissions or needed changes.

From that point, we begin to flesh out the standards through secondary business research, determining what students need to know and be able to do as a result of instruction. Examples of resources that we consult include:

  •  Industry certifications/exam content
  •  Job websites for job descriptions
  •  Q&A’s on Quora.com
  •  White papers on the web
  •  Professional organizations’ training sessions
  •  Labor statistics
  •  Journals
  •  Articles
  •  Webinars
  •  LinkedIn industry groups


When we run into content that is confusing or needs clarification, we contact people currently employed in a cluster, or more specifically in a pathway, to invite them to discuss those topics over breakfast or lunch. As an example, we invited finance and accounting professionals to breakfast to help us clarify the responsibilities of accountants vs. people in corporate finance.

Once we have a draft standards document with their associated performance elements and indicators, we put together small-group discussions composed of pathway-specific professionals---6-10 knowledgeable, experienced business professionals who devote a day with us to review and react to the tentative listing of learning outcomes. They review the listing for accuracy, completeness, wording, etc. These small groups are repeated multiple times for each pathway in states across the country. The groups’ input is then used to develop a final listing of performance indicators that is released to educators.

Meanwhile, secondary research continues and modifications are made to the publicized lists. Changes are presented to business professionals for review either in new discussion groups or through a new online forum known as the Executive Advisory Network (ExecNet). Every month, business professionals in each pathway are asked to identify the importance of five to seven performance indicators. They also determine the job level at which a performance indicator is first needed in their organizations. This input is used to modify the listing of performance indicators and to determine the curriculum planning levels of the performance indicators.