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The Academic-Practitioner Divide in Marketing Education - Part One

Considerable research has been undertaken into the academic-practitioner divide - the failure of those who teach and research marketing to make much of an impact on the work of those who practice it (Bains, et al., 2009; Brennan, 2004; Brennan & Ankers, 2004; Daly et al., 2014; D'Auria Stanton, 2006; Lilien, 2011; Repsold & Hemais, 2018; Southgate, 2016).

Reasons for this divide are given, among others, as a failure on the part of marketing academics to make their work meaningful and applicable to the issues and concerns of marketing managers. Academic research in marketing remains predominantly positivistic and of a more abstract nature that is often viewed as arcane and out of touch by marketers who seek more usable and applicable content that can be applied to help solve business problems.

What is of interest to me in this series of posts, however, is a different kind of academic-practitioner divide and one that is rather more confounding given those involved. In this case, I refer to marketing academics themselves who in their capacity as practicing teachers appear to make very limited use of the mass of evidence-based academic research into higher education teaching and learning. In my interactions with marketing colleagues at four universities where I have taught, in discussions with colleagues across the country in my role as Chair of the Academy of Marketing Education Committee and during my visits to over 60 universities in the UK while at the Higher Education Academy (HEA, now Advance HE), I met many many enthusiastic, dedicated and highly competent marketing educators but only a rather small percentage of those who base their curriculum, assessment and teaching practices on evidence derived from the higher education research literature.

I find this confounding because more than practicing marketers, academics exist within, contribute to and are surrounded by research - we do research, value the research process, work to provide research-based teaching and learning and make academic readings a part of our course and assessment requirements. So why do so many of us make such limited use of the pedagogic literature when developing our modules and curriculum?

I can only speculate on reasons at this point - a research study is needed and it's one I plan to carry out.

First let's consider the vast quantity of available research from journals directly applicable to the discipline (Journal of Marketing Education, Journal for the Advancement of Marketing Education, The Marketing Education Review), those related to business education (Academy of Management, Learning and Education, Journal of Business Education, International Journal of Management Education, among others), and dozens related to teaching and learning in higher education. To name just a small few:

Studies in Higher Education

Higher Education

Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Journal of Higher Education

Higher Education Research and Development

Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice

Active Learning in Higher Education

Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education


Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research

Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

British Educational Research Journal

All of these and the many other journals in higher education (not to mention wonderful texts by researchers such as Biggs, Fry, Race, Ramsden and Sambell) offer a wealth of evidence-based recommendations for how to improve and enhance all aspects of teaching practice, including improving student engagement, enhancing the effectiveness of group work, making use of educational simulations and other learning tools, engaging students with peer assessment to improve their literacy of feedback and grading, diversity within the classroom, learning in large lectures, challenging students for deeper learning, improving formative feedback processes, enhancing the curriculum redesign process, practices that lead to deep rather than surface learning; using educational technologies more effectively, developing higher level and critical thinking skills, improving the student survey process and so much more. Every issue we face, every design decision we make has a wealth of research to support it.

Furthermore, evidence-based pedagogy is in the spotlight now more than ever before. As one of its major proponents, the Higher Education Academy (HEA) makes a strong case:

"In an age of teaching excellence frameworks, the use of pedagogic research to enhance and improve our teaching practice has never been more important. Academics need to understand what approaches and strategies enhance student learning and engagement, and to be able to effectively assess the impact of their own teaching and learning strategies". (

Conducting and/or making use of pedagogic research for the purposes of improving our teaching and student outcomes contributes to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) - a movement that emerged out of Boyer's (1990) work on the scholarly side of academic teaching practice and one that we are all expected to make a part of our professional learning and development.

The content editors on the website for the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), quote from Poole and Summers (2013) :

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) involves post-secondary practitioners conducting inquiry into teaching and learning processes in higher education contexts. As McKinney (2006) describes, ‘the scholarship of teaching and learning … involves systematic study of teaching and/or learning and the public sharing and review of such work through presentations, performance, or publications’ (p. 39). Hutchings and Shulman (1999) further clarify that SoTL ‘requires a kind of “going meta”, in which faculty frame and systematically investigate questions related to student learning’ (p. 13). The overall intention of SoTL is thus to improve student learning and enhance educational quality" (

Felten’s (2013) five principles for good practice in SoTL work (as shown), according to the HEA, also apply to pedagogic research and evidence based practice:

Research into teaching and learning also helps us to understand higher education structure and policy debates more deeply so that we can engage in reasoned conversations about such frameworks as the TEF, the strengths and weaknesses of a metrics driven marketized HE system (Think NSS, REF and other measures), widening participation, and enhancing employability skills, among others. It also helps develop reflective practice, contribute understanding to and help us find ways to deal with the common challenges we face in teaching and learning, and to be able to justify the choices we make with respect to our curriculum, assessment, and teaching approaches. More than anything, it helps us to improve student outcomes.

So what might be the reasons why we in marketing are not engaging with this research as much as we could? I suggest the following six factors may play a part:

1. Institutional culture;

2. Lack of strong pedagogic leadership and institutional structures within schools;

3. Insufficient emphasis/requirements from school and university policy documents/processes that curriculum development and teaching/learning/assessment practices needs to be underpinned with an evidence-base;

4. Lack of professional development programmes and courses;

5. Lack of awareness; and

6. Pedagogic research viewed as a poor cousin to discipline based research.

In the next post, I will explore these factors and consider what is being done and what might be done to change our culture and approaches to make evidence-based practice the norm rather than the exception.

Lynn Vos, April 2019

Felten, P. (2013) Principles of good practice in SoTL. Teaching & Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 (2013), pp. 121-125

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