Leveraging Industry Experience to Enhance a Professor's Ability to Teach Applications of Theory.

Author:Lipinski, John


Among the current focuses of higher education are engagement and impact (AACSB, 2016). Such goals require faculty to go beyond traditional teaching which relies heavily on theory and examples and move to connect students with industry, with applied projects, and with real world problems. Many specialties walk a tightrope and work to avoid being classified as trade schools and as such have focused their reward structure on theory development and academic publishing. As such, a number of practitioners have accused universities of losing touch with the needs of industry. Many half measures have been used to help address these issues, adjuncts, guest lecturers, and executives in residence, but such solutions are only tangential and the influence of the participants on the primary direction of any program is limited to the acceptance of the tenured and tenure track faculty members.

Balance between academic rigor and relevance to industry is a challenge (Clinebell & Clinebell, 2008). This is exacerbated by the fact that most faculty are not actively engaged with industry. Even faculty who worked in industry are often decades removed from those positions and the relevance of that experience diminishes rather quickly. Some accrediting bodies require professors to have industry experience. The 2010 Information System Curriculum Guidelines strongly suggest that faculty acquire practitioner experience, (Burns, 2012) In a number of other fields of applied discipline, instructors are required to have industry experience. Medical academics must do a minimum amount of clinical practice to retain accreditation and get promoted (Moody & Buist, 1999). ABET accreditation criteria for university construction programs stipulate that they must include at least one faculty member who has had full-time experience and decision making responsibilities in the construction industry. The American Council for Construction Education Document 103 states, "Evaluation of faculty competence must recognize appropriate professional experience as being equally as important as formal educational background" (McCuen, 2007). However, in other fields such as business, often the most popular major on campus, none of the major accrediting bodies require any industry experience for faculty. While business school education equip the students with the functional business knowledge using a pedagogy of lectures and case studies, it is the opportunities provided in practical implementation in the real world challenges where it leaves the students wanting (Glen, Suciu, & Baughn, 2014).

Techniques have been developed which are intended to expose students to real world situations. Engaged Learning, Service Learning and to some degree the Flipped Classroom are attempts to expose students to real world problems and encourage them to engage with the community to practice the techniques that they have learned in the classroom. However, the faculty leading these projects are still limited by their understanding of the needs and expectations of industry. research indicates that there are significant differences between practitioners and non-practitioners. (Burns, 2012) Looking at the field of engineering, according to a National Research Council study, university curricula, in general, did not reflect the modern design practices used in most competitive companies. The reason behind this is that faculty teaching these courses are rarely aware of the most recent design techniques. (Nasab & Lorenz, 2003). Connections to industry are vital for a program to remain on the cutting edge.


Efforts to improve higher education have focused on improving the learning process in education through the application of research from the new science of learning. Service Learning melds cognitive learning with service projects to engage and critically think about the techniques that are being used (Eyler & Giles, 1999). Relatedly, Kolb and Kolb...

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