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Can civility be taught to Latin-American MBAs? Implications of case-method use for the development of civic behaviour in managerial education

María Helena Jaén (Center of Management and Leadership, IESA, Caracas, Venezuela)
Ezequiel Reficco (School of Management, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogota, Colombia)
Marcela Ossa (Centro de Investigación y Formación en Educación, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogota, Colombia)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 14 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine the formative potential of the case method on MBA students’ “civility” – the procedural dimension of the ethics field. While a robust literature has focussed on the impact of teaching ethics (content) on students’ behavior, to-date no study has explored the link between the pedagogy used (method) and students behavioral dispositions.


A thorough theory review was conducted, covering the different pedagogy literatures that frame the discussion on the link between learning methods and ethics in general, and civic-minded behavior in particular. Drawing on relevant findings from these literatures, some implications are drawn, and tentative propositions are laid out.


The study seeks to readdress the existing imbalance between the cognitive and the formative aspects of education, placing emphasis on the latter. The paper proposes that, other things being equal, MBA programs that make intensive and systematic use of the case method will foster civility among students. Through the iterative practices embedded in the case method, students internalize a number of behavioral predispositions that form the basis of civic behavior.

Practical implications

This paper calls for an approach in managerial education that goes beyond the transmission of knowledge. In particular, the paper emphasize the importance of seeing the MBA as “little schools of democracy,” where civic-oriented inclinations can take root in future business leaders. This finding carries substantial implications for business schools and professors, in Latin America and beyond.


The transmission of technical knowledge has traditionally been considered the backbone of managerial education – a purely cognitive process. This paper, on the other hand, seeks to highlight the transformative potential of the MBA through the use of the appropriate learning methodologies - the case method in particular. By focussing on the concept of civility, the paper seek to go beyond the prevailing focus on content among ethics scholars and highlight the relevance of habits as a necessary first step on the shaping of civic-minded business leaders. This paper adds a much needed missing link between learning methods and civic behavior.



Helena Jaén, M., Reficco, E. and Ossa, M. (2014), "Can civility be taught to Latin-American MBAs? Implications of case-method use for the development of civic behaviour in managerial education", Management Decision, Vol. 52 No. 9, pp. 1833-1856.



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