Temple Times Online Edition
    APRIL 6, 2006
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Teaching Awards 2006

For Fox’s McClendon,
it’s about engaging students


“Is this great stuff or what?”

This signature quote, bottomless enthusiasm, and more than one class ending in resounding applause and a standing ovation are just a few of the hallmarks of John McClendon’s teaching style.

According to McClendon, he is just doing what he has always dreamed of — influencing others through his passion for people. Realizing the long-term positive effects of that passion, this year Temple will recognize him with one of its three Great Teacher Awards.

Since arriving at Temple almost 17 years ago, McClendon has taught 12 different courses, from undergraduate to doctoral-level, all concentrating on managers’ and employees’ behavior in the world of work, including such courses as “Human Resource Strategies,” “Managing People at Work,” and “Labor Management Relations” “Theory and Research in HR.”

“I don’t possess a vocabulary sufficient to express how honored I am to receive this award — the award that I feel represents the highest form of recognition possible in my career as an educator,” McClendon said in his mellifluous Southern drawl.

“Regardless of class level, the most motivated and interested student will tune out the instructor after just a few minutes. Instead of lecturing, I focus on a hands-on case analysis approach that emphasizes active participation in discussion and active learning.”

McClendon’s tools are published cases that give students a chance to analyze organizations and mini cases that he writes. Students get to pretend they are managers assuming a stance on a human resource management practice, and McClendon’s role is to facilitate and moderate the discussion.

“I work very hard to organize each class with an explicit structure that provides a framework for a class that’s very interactive,” he said. “I strive never to lecture to students, at least for no more than a couple minutes. The whole class consists of questions, discussion and analysis of reality-based cases that revolve around specific HR issues.”

He loves the opportunity to teach a diverse portfolio of student levels, ranging from B.B.A. to executive M.B.A. and Ph.D., as well as courses at Temple’s Rome and Tokyo campuses.

“At one extreme, my teaching assignments allow me to relish the engaging and stimulating class discussion of senior executives in my E.M.B.A. classes while, at the same time, in a small way also to be part of the growth and development of B.B.A. students. These are intrinsic occupational rewards of the highest order. What more could an educator wish for?”

McClendon’s professional career path was not always obvious. His first job was at his mother’s hardware store in Ashville, Ala., a small town with about 1,500 people and one streetlight. After high school, he considered accepting an apprenticeship to become a plumber, but decided instead to give college a try. One week after the start of his freshman year, he returned home to reconsider the apprenticeship, but was persuaded by his parents to stick it out, resulting in his return to school for 10 years and three degrees.

After earning his master’s degree in human resource management, McClendon worked in HR for International Paper Co.

“My work experience in industry has been a valuable asset in my teaching and research. While I enjoyed my time in industry, it was obvious to me that a career in academia was for me, so I want back to school to earn my Ph.D. I very much desired the opportunity to work in a stimulating academic setting where I could do research and teach on the subjects I find compelling.”

Though McClendon’s original research dealt with labor-management relations, recently it has evolved toward strategic HRM issues, including a recently concluded stream of research that examined HR outsourcing.

Not surprisingly, this isn’t McClendon’s first teaching award. In 1993, he was awarded The Fox School’s Andrisani-Frank Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and in 1997 he was given The Fox School’s Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership in Teaching. In April 2005, he was presented with the MBA/MS Teacher of the Year Award.

“I want to be known as a complete player — as a productive faculty member across the multiple roles of research, teaching and service. With respect to my teaching, I hope so very much that in a small way I have an impact. Plus, teaching is such extreme fun!”

“I owe a great deal to the wonderful colleagues I have in the HRM department. I am indeed fortunate to have HRM colleagues who are not only productive scholars, but consummate professionals who are totally committed to excellence in teaching. They are also incredibly nice people who are a joy to work with.”

When asked if he wonders where he would be if he had decided to complete his apprenticeship rather than return to college that first semester, McClendon said, “While I would have been a darned good plumber, I certainly have no regrets.”

By Kady Adams