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Design and Teach Business Anthropology in Chinese Context

Design and Teach Business Anthropology in Chinese Context


Tian Guang


Abstract: The business world is continuously changing, which forces business schools to continuously adjust their curricula and update their teaching materials, to meet the need of business world demanding for future business leaders.  To integrate various fields into their own curricula is a new trend in international higher business education industry, which brought some newly developed cross-filed study areas, and the curricula of business school reflect this new trend very well.  Business Anthropology is such a new filed, which enriches the curricula of business schools from a different angle.  This paper briefly discuss the process of business development, and probes the related issues pertain to develop business anthropology with Chinese characteristics in China by examining the designing and teaching practice at the Business School of Shantou University.


Keywords: Business Anthropology, Business Administration Education, Single Course Design, Curricula


Curriculum construction and designing is key issue for business school as they determine the quality of education largely and have a direct impact on the employee status of business school graduates, as well as the satisfaction of business world for business school graduates and satisfaction of business school students for college. The business world is complex and changing all the times; accordingly, business schools must adjust their curriculum and teaching content constantly in order to meet the needs of business world for future talents in accordance with the changing. To apply the basic principles and methods of the traditional disciplines such as anthropology to the concrete practice of business management education is a latest trend of advanced business education (Villeneuve, 2003).

At present, in the western countries with developed market economies, especially in the United States, anthropology has been widely applied to the teaching practice of business administration gradually and the development trend is very rapidly, which is worth the attention of business administration education in China. This paper tends to take the introduction to industrial and commercial anthropology as a starting point to explore several questions of the development of business anthropology with Chinese characteristics through the review and summary of a single course design, teaching activities and practice of business anthropology at Business School of Shantou University.


The introduction to business anthropology


As the name suggests, anthropology is a professional discipline with the study of humans, which is the intersection discipline across nature and social science and can be divided into broadly and narrowly defined anthropology. The narrowly defined one mainly refers to the study of the law of human body and shape development, which is often named as physical anthropology. Broadly speaking, it has a wide range of anthropological research, which involves all aspects of human social development, including human social life that refers to the technology, economics, social structure, politics and laws, customs and transactions created by human and inherited by society. Anthropology in the broad meaning can be subdivided into cultural anthropology, social anthropology, economic anthropology, urban anthropology, educational anthropology, management anthropology and environmental anthropology and so on (Lan and Tian, 2011b).

Business anthropology is an emerging edge of cross-disciplines, which applies anthropological theories and methods to the concrete practice of business administration. The application of anthropology in the field of business management has a relatively long history and we can take the United States for an example, as early as the 1920-1930s of the last century, an anthropologist of Harvard University has embarked on the study of employees relationships with labor efficiency of Western Electric Company located in Chicago. The principal investigators involved in the study Elton Mayo and W. Llyod Warner got the conclusion that has affected the study of business administration for decades based on anthropological research methods, such as ethnographic studies by participant observation and in-depth interviewing. Their major finding is that the employee's work efficiency will be increased if they know that the management team care about them and their work. Scholars take this research as the cornerstone of human relations school marking the birth of the business anthropology, the industrial anthropology at that time (Baba, 2006).

Since then, anthropologists have begun to engage in applied research widely, from business administration to the maternal and child health, from the military operations to international aid programs, from early childhood to popular culture, etc.  Society for Applied Anthropology was founded at Harvard University in 1941; Burleigh Gardner and W. Llyod Warner came out from the university environment and established the Social Research Cooperation Company in 1946 to create a precedent of business anthropology management consulting. The business of Social Research Collaboration Company includes all areas and departments of business administration, provided consulting services for hundreds of medium-sized business companies successfully, today it is still one of very active businesses management consulting services companies in the U.S. (Tian, Lillis, and van Marrewijk, 2010).

Due to the limited absorption of education and academic field in the 1980s, anthropologists engaged in applied research had become more and more, during which there are some anthropologists employed in industrial and commercial enterprises. However, they must abide by the business secrets of the enterprises naturally when employed in industrial and commercial enterprises. This phenomenon has aroused debate of the American anthropologists on ethics once again; the society has finally agreed that the professional research of business anthropology have the legal basis, and more anthropologists have begun their career in business management consulting. At the same time, such a term "culture" used most commonly in anthropology has become the focus of attention; moreover, the mass media and business entrepreneurs suddenly become interested in the principles and methods of anthropology. The direct cause to promote this change is the rise of the Japanese economy and the success of Japanese business management model (Jordan, 2003).

The U.S. established the Research Institute for Learning in 1987 with the aim to study the natural learning process and to establish a more effective learning environment. Although the institute is a comprehensive research institution, its main research method is anthropological participant observation, in-depth interviews and interactive analysis.  Later, their research results are widely used in the management practice of industrial and commercial business to improve learning ability of workers as a means to improve the labor efficiency. More and more senior management has recognized the contribution of business anthropologists across the country since the 1990s, which has become an integral part of the subject of business administration study field (Baba, 2006).

In recent years, in the western countries with highly developed market economy, some multinational large-sized business firms have officially hired anthropologists to provide operational research for the companies’ management for profits.  Many companies have officially hired anthropologists, such as the famous telecommunications equipment company Motorola, the famous electric appliance manufacturers General Motels, the famous multinational financial consortia Citibank, and the famous car manufacturer Toyota.  Moreover, some firms, such as Microsoft, Intel, even have hired an anthropologist team to engage in the applied research of anthropology for the long-term official staffs within the company and the strategic development (Tian, 2010).

At the same time, more and more anthropologists begin to participate in the research in the field of Business Administration for their academic purpose, such as Jerry Altman and Professor Grant McCracken of Harvard University, and Professor John Sherry of Northwestern University. In addition, a growing number of professors from business school are beginning to use anthropological methods for business management studies, such as Doctor Carol Kaufman-Scarborough of Business School in Rutgers University. By applying the methods of anthropology participant observation and in-depth interviews, Dr. Kathy Rudlkin and Dr. Hemant Deo of Business School at University of Wollongong in Australia carried on the study on a number of local bank branches in 2005 and 2006 to improve customer satisfaction.  They concluded that the anthropological participant observation research is the most effective research method for the banking industry which should be promoted with efforts (Lan and Tian, 2011a).

Since the mid-1990s, many anthropology departments have officially offered business anthropology courses; some have begun to develop business anthropology masters and doctors, such as Michigan State University, Al-Aram State University, North Texas State University, and Denmark Copenhagen University. The University of Colorado at Boulder in the United States has opened a double MBA degree business management and anthropology recently that has become very popular. According to the study of Dr. Ann Jordan, the influence of anthropology on business school curriculum has been increased gradually since the mid-1980s, especially in the courses such as organizational behavior, consumer behavior, marketing and management, and competitive intelligence and information science. At same time, professors of business school have introduced a large number of anthropological theory and methods in their teaching practice to improve teaching quality and effectiveness (Tian, 2010).

Dr. Ann Jordan published her important book "business anthropology" in 2003 marking the formal establishment of branches of industry and commerce anthropology, and business anthropology has started to be established as a separate subject in some business schools. North American Business Press published the textbook "General Business Anthropology" written by Dr. Robert Guang Tian, Dr. Michael Lillis, and Dr. Alfons van Marrewijk in 2010 to make a foundation for undergraduate teaching of business anthropology. The more consistent view in the field of business administration currently is that anthropological theories and methods are appropriate to be used in the following specific directions: corporate culture and organizational behavior, human resource management, marketing, consumer behavior, product design and development, business competitive intelligence, transnational business management. Some scholars predict that in the near future many companies will have to set up a new senior management position, which can be in titled Chief Anthropologist, to give advice and suggestions for the long-term development of the company together with the other senior executives.  More importantly, the Chief Anthropologists can do the best for promoting harmony among the internal staffs of the company to improve the working efficiency of employees (Lan and Tian, 2011a)


Curriculum design ideas and teaching process


Anthropology is still a subject to be further developed in China, and Business Anthropology as a branch of applied anthropology is still a virgin land to be reclaimed in China currently with bright prospects. Professor Zhou Daming, who is an anthropology doctoral advisor at Sun Yat-Sen University, one of the most prestigious universities in China, has begun to organize relevant personnel to engage in the writing of basic textbook about business anthropology with his unique academic sensitivity and responsibility for the development of Chinese applied anthropology.  However, there has not been one complete teaching book of the Chinese business anthropology so far. Shantou University Business School is one of the few registered members of AACSB, one of the most respected international business educational program accreditation bodies; also, it is one of the few Chinese business schools certified by the European EMPAS.  Shantou University Business School takes "Enterprising Achievement; Global Mindset" as the school motto and is dedicated to international strategy development of business management education, focuses on the introduction of curricula and teaching materials of business school in the teaching practice of western developed countries.  The leadership of Business School at Shantou University decided to offer the business anthropology as a professional elective from the autumn semester in 2011 to its senior undergraduate students.

Teaching is not only the primary task of higher education institutions, but also the main duty of professors. The purpose of business management education is to develop the future leading talents in the business field with professional knowledge and management capabilities. Although the specific teaching contents of business school may vary, the teaching goal is the same, that is, the implementation of business management education. In terms of subjects division, the business management belongs to management science with strong practice orientation. However, the business management involves more complex and fast-changing situations and environments; therefore, it is hard to summarize a set of common and universally correct management model in specific teaching and research practice. Furthermore, the internal and external business decision-making problems of the enterprise that business managers are facing in their specific daily management work often have big differences, therefore it is difficult to form a set of universal management rules. Accordingly, we believe that business management education has a strong humanity property (Zhang and Xu, 2003).

In western countries with developed market economy, how to integrate the humanity knowledge into business management education organically was once a hot topic of discussion for teaching plan and syllabus development in business school. The professors in U.S. business school think that management personnel should have a broad perspective and a broad range of knowledge and should know literature, history, ethics and art. Students in the Business School learn the humanity knowledge so that they could master more skills and means to solve the business problems in their daily operations, what is  more important is that they could learn different ways of thinking to find various ways for the solutions to practical problems in business administration. For example, the Boston School of Management puts great emphasis on the organic integration of the management and humanity disciplines. They believe that a balance of education is essential to managers for training the strategic thinking and skills to solve problems. Business anthropology as an emerging interdisciplinary subject crossing humanity and management could help business students to broaden their horizons and develop ideas from several angles, so it is ideal for business school students to improve human science knowledge; moreover, it is a single elective with a strong application (Zheng and Chen, 2004) .

Professor Wang Weilian, a higher education research expert, notes that the single course designing and compiling must follow certain principles and methods. The content of single course designing includes three aspects mainly: first, how to arrange the course content; second, to determine the teaching activities and materials; third, to work out teaching outline. He further points out, to make a clear set of the intended learning outcomes of a single course is the core of course designing and compiling. In the business anthropology course designing and compiling, we set up five intended effective learning outcomes.

The first expected learning outcome is to know and understand the basic theory, methods and the updating development of business anthropology, and to apply the theory and method learned into the specific practice of industry and commerce management.  The second expected learning outcome is to find and understand the specific problems in the practice of industry and commerce that can be solved through anthropology principles and methods, and to put forward operational suggestions for the management.  The third expected learning outcome is to carry on specific field observation research, to identify and apply relevant anthropology technology to solve practical problems.  The fourth expected learning outcome is to find and study the cultural factors affecting the company structure and concrete business operation, and to put forward some corresponding solutions for the operation of the company culture construction and development. The fifth one is to understand culture differences in the association of international industry and commerce, and to be good at using or avoiding these cultural differences in practice.

According to the teaching goals and curriculum arrangement of Business School at Shantou University, we clearly define the main content of business anthropology is introduction to business anthropology, to discuss the history of business anthropology, the methodology of business anthropology, to probe cultural factors and business practices. In addition, we determined to cover the contents of anthropology, cultural change and innovation; the application of ethnographic research in business management; marketing and anthropology; anthropology and consumer behavior; anthropology and product design; anthropology, competitive intelligence and knowledge management; globalization, international trade and anthropology; anthropology and entrepreneurs research; business management education and prospects of business anthropology.

Meanwhile, we also make it clear that we must carry on case study and analysis along with the combination of courses progress (see Table 1). Teaching activities include classroom instruction, classroom participation and discussion by students, the elaboration of chapters learning experience, case studies, and the field research for writing a term paper based on the knowledge and skills learned. As the business anthropology is an emerging interdisciplinary subject, mature teaching materials on this subject is still relatively limited, the selection of materials is still a subject to certain restrictions. The material we adopted is General Business Anthropology published by North American Business Press, U.S. in 2010. We prepare the syllabus and propose to open this new course of business anthropology by taking the reference to the business anthropology syllabus of some universities in the United States and Europe with the combination of teaching characteristics of the Business School at Shantou University. Moreover, with the approval by the leadership in charge of teaching, we offered the course officially in the fall semester of 2011.


Table 1. Outline and Major content Business Anthropology:


Detailed Teaching Contents

Introduction to Business Anthropology

1) basic knowledge of the contemporary business world; 2) the basic anthropological knowledge; 3) the characteristics of business anthropology; 4) the special contribution of the business anthropologists

The application of the ethnography in business management

1) The main features of ethnography; 2) the steps of ethnographic study; 3) the issues and professional ethics in ethnographic study; 4) research and application of business ethnography

Marketing and anthropology

1) the market with Anthropological Perspective; 2) the anthropology promotion of the marketing; 3) cross-cultural issues in global marketing; 4) anthropology and social marketing

anthropology and consumer behavior

1) the consumer behavior belongs to the category of social science research; 2) a cultural consumer behavior; 3) the anthropological understanding of characteristics of consumer behavior; 4) anthropological specific study and application of consumer behavior

anthropology and product design

1) product design and process issues; 2) the contribution of anthropology to the design industry; 3) Ethnography and experience design; 4) the cooperation of anthropologists and product designers

anthropology, competitive intelligence and knowledge asset management

1) Introduction to Business Competitive Intelligence; 2) anthropological research of Competitive Intelligence; 3) the strategy of cross-cultural competitive intelligence; 4) Intellectual Property and Anthropology

globalization, international trade and anthropology

1) The study of globalization process; 2 ) the cross-cultural issues in international trade; 3) cross-cultural business communication; 4) the anthropological interpretation of international cooperation

anthropology and entrepreneurs research

1) on the theory discussion of entrepreneurship; 2) the management of family business; 3) Ethnicity and entrepreneurship; 4) entrepreneurs and gender issues

business education and prospects of business anthropology

1) the application of anthropology in business management education; 2) professional business anthropologist; 3 ) the prospects forecast of business anthropology

Case study

With the combination of curriculum progress to study specific cases, and all cases should reflect the practical value of the principles and methods of anthropology in the field of business administration.



Teaching activities and process


In the fall semester of 2011, 65 students registered business anthropology as the elective course, we let students form study groups at their own choice, each group is consisted of 5 or 6 students.  There are 12 study groups for the class. We suggested that study group members choose a study group convener after a period of understanding each other. The group leader is responsible for communication and coordination between team members. As the teaching materials are original English, we decide to use the English language for teaching, but the teacher allows students to answer questions in Chinese in class, describe the learning experience of chapters in Chinese and write assignments and term papers in Chinese. The instructor encourages students to use e-learning platform of the business school and involve in the digital academy actively. A large number of information related to the course was uploaded into the digital academy system for students to read which is aimed at broadening students' horizons and improve the reading capacity. In addition, the instructor encourages students to write in English and give some bonus points as the rewarding. The instructor clearly expressed his expectations and requirements for students’ learning outcomes in details in the first class of the semester, and stressed the teaching characteristics of the interaction outlined in the curriculum.

Professor Wang Weilian points that the interactive strategies in the teaching process request the effective communication and dialogue between teachers and students, as well as among students. In the practice, such as the group design and interactive activities between teachers and students belong to this kind of strategy (Wang, 2011). The instructor explains and describes the teaching content according to the syllabus and put forward some questions for students to answer on the spot based on the materials discussed in his lectures. Moreover, the instructor requires that every student must answer no less than 10 questions in the whole semester. At the same time, he requires students to form two-person teams, select a chapter from the basic teaching materials and auxiliary materials for explanation of chapter content and learning experiences for about 15 minutes in the classroom. Afterwards, the instructor allows students to make comments on the presentation and to ask questions to the presenters. Then, the instructor will sum up the presentation and discussion, confirms the students’ accomplishments and proposes the suggestions to the presenters for further improvement. In addition, the instructor will also ask each study group to select a case for analysis from textbooks or other reading materials. Moreover, the students must present their analysis of the case in the perspective of business anthropology and be in accordance with the principles of business anthropology; they must propose specific solution ideas and methods to solve the practical problems contained in the case materials.

The key activity of this course is that students propose, design and complete a specific research project as groups based on their learned knowledge. They should start from looking up relevant literature information (individual behavior) and the arbitrary participant observation (individual behavior), and then extract the specific research questions (class collective behavior), and next, according to these specific research questions, design the contents that need careful observation, the questions in-depth interviews and issues to be covered in questionnaires (study group collective behavior). Afterwards, the instructor guides students to carry on a discussion and the final decision of the designed research instruments (questionnaires, etc.) in the classroom (class collective behavior). Then, students perform the specific and systematic observations, administrate questionnaires and conduct in-depth interviews separately (student individual behavior). Next, the study groups carry on a preliminary analysis of their observational data, survey data, and in-depth interview data (study group behavior), and then the study groups will deliver their data with the analysis to the class data pool for further processing.  We can use the following figure to demonstrate the whole research process (solid line stands for collective behavior and dashed line for individual behavior):



Figure 1. Term Research Project Process






Literature Review


Casual Observation






Design Observation


Design Interview


Design Questionnaire


Collect Data in the field


Data  Process and Analysis











Throughout the study, the instructor's main role is a facilitator who guides students for thinking and discussion as well as to give a timely and specific evaluation on students’ work.  We use the multiple functions of academy platform provided by Shantou University to allow students uploading their literature reviews and a variety of research data collected through various methods to the designated specific locations in order to share with other students. In addition, we display the work completed by students with the teacher's comments in the digital academy course space respectively, which not only allows students to get the teacher's reviews of their work timely, but also promotes the formation of the mechanism with mutual comparison and competition among students to encourage students to do the job more seriously. For example, one study group did not carry on specific and serious discussion and preparation when writing the class study design and methodology, so they upload what they write carelessly to the course webpage. However, after the teacher’s comments and comparison with that of other groups, they realize that their work has a big gap compared with others in quality; in turn, they asked the instructor to allow them rewrite the assignment. This case triggered us to modify all students’ work in an open channel and allow students to revise what they had uploaded based on the instructor’s comments until they are fully satisfied with their work. In addition, we encourage the communication and interaction between students and the instructor as well as among students with the use of digital academy platform, so that students not only could upload their own work and release information, but also put forward their suggestions on the course design and progress.

This open teaching method with interaction greatly mobilizes the learning enthusiasm of students. The description of chapter content and learning experiences that students have completed could have a complete and accurate overview of chapter’s content, moreover, they could combine their own learning goals and future plans to describe the specific application of the chapter discussed. For example, one student designed a small research project for the study of relations between the motivation of youth entrepreneurs and the business results with the application of anthropological methods by her own after learning the development and methodology of business anthropology. The student creatively made a breakthrough in presenting of the observation data compilation methods taught in the classroom while conducting field participant observations and blended the participant observation data and interview data within the same form. The instructor gives a timely praise of the creative spirit of the student in the classroom and encourages other students not to adhere to materials and the way the instructor taught, and they should have bold innovation in the research statement.

After reading the literature review report and research design report by students, the instructor gives prompt recognition of the students' professionalism and scientific attitude, and encourages students to strive for a term paper in order to be published in academic journals. Among the 11 study groups, one group writing their literature research review and research ideas designed in English. In their design of the term paper, they emphasize the application of principles and methods of business anthropology to conduct comprehensive research on university  foodservices and campus life of students, and obtain first-hand information through participant observation, in-depth interviews, questionnaires and other methods for qualitative and quantitative analysis. The study idea of the semester paper is relatively original which has quite academic potential value; the instructor presented the research design and the abstract of the paper of this group to the annual conference organizers of International Intellectual Consortium. Three independent assessors examined their proposal, highly appreciated the research design and proposal, they unanimously recommended the conference organizers to invite the group to attend the conference for academic presentation. They also suggested that the group of students should revise and complete their research paper in order to be published in the anonymously peer reviewed academic journal run by the editor of the Intellectual Base International Consortium.

For the Chinese students at undergraduate level, to do a comprehensive research project is a very challenging job in their view, while the research project is the important part of the business anthropology course designed. Students showed some anxiety after the instructor made his announcement in the classroom that each study group should complete a comprehensive research project by applying the methods of business anthropology during the semester.  Because they had never conducted such a comprehensive academic work previously the students fear that they could not finish the study. However, with the patient explanation and guidance of the instructor, as well as the mutual communication and discussion among students, they gradually understand the methods and significance of the project and have more confidence to complete the project research outstandingly.

At last, while the instructor teaches the knowledge of business anthropology for students, he actively led students to develop the professional attitude of treating academics, to respect and appreciate others’ opinions and results. The instructor encouraged students to communicate among themselves and between the students and the instructor by having discussions with different opinions on certain issues. However, the Chinese students tend not to positively appreciate others opinions and academic outcomes, the instructor guided the students not to deny or attack others immediately when the others’ opinion differs from theirs. He advised students to appreciate the values of others’ opinions, learn to confirm other people’s accomplishments first and then carry on an honest communication and discussion with the attitude of learning mutually. The practice that the instructor led students to form the right academic communication attitude actively had obtained the affirmation from the quality inspectors of the university.



            Teaching and learning is interactive. Despite the fact that learning is all-pervasive in our life, there is no single, universal theory of how people learn.  There are two major schools of thought concerning the learning process: one consists of behavior theories, the other of cognitive theories.  Cognitive theorists view learning as a function of purely mental process, whereas behavioral theorists focus almost exclusively on observable behaviors (responses) that occur as the result of exposure to stimuli (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2004). 

To help the students learn and digest the course materials we determined to adopt both cognitive and behavioral approaches.  For instance, in accordance with the first expected learning outcome, the instructor guided the students read and discussed the course materials in the class by emphasizing the basic theory, methods and the updating development of business anthropology. From the course materials and in class discussion, students learned how to apply the theory and method learned into the specific practice of industry and commerce management.  

In order to achieve the second expected learning outcome, we led the students to find the most important factors that constrained the further satisfaction of students on campus foodservice through conducting observations, in-depth interviews, and questionnaire survey. Their hand-on work made them realize that the major reason for less satisfied campus foodservice is due to the evaluation system of higher education institutions in China. The Ministry of Education did not list the quality of foodservice as a criterion to measure the operational effectiveness of individual higher educational institutions. Accordingly, in their term research report, students proposed that the quality of foodservice should be viewed equally important by the Ministry of Education when evaluating the operational effectiveness of individual higher educational institutions.

 Observation is the principal method in anthropological business research. However, students often will not automatically make the connections between the business strategies and the practice of anthropological business research (Tian, 2001). To help the students understand the principles of business anthropology, the instructor designed the term project assignment that strengthened the linkages between anthropology and business. Through case studies and the term project, the students learned to carry on specific field observation research, to identify and apply relevant anthropology technology to solve practical problems, which helped to fulfill the third expected learning outcome. Table 2 illustrates the students’ ability to conduct participant observations.

Culture plays an important role in everyday business operations. Through case studies and term project, students gain the skills and knowledge to find and study the cultural factors that affect the company structure and concrete business operation.  For example, in doing their term research project on foodservice effectiveness on Shantou University campus, students identified that the measurement of academic performance and accomplishments dominate the university culture, as such the foodservice quality is put into secondary or even the third criterion by the university leadership. Accordingly, they proposed some corresponding solutions for the operation of the university culture construction and development by stressing the importance of foodservice to students’ success at the university.   

The instructor in his lectures emphasized that it is very important to understand culture differences in the association of international industry and commerce, he also used case materials to demonstrate students how to be good at using or avoiding the cultural differences in their business practice. Students in their course learning outcome summary claimed that they learned a lot about culture differences for doing international business through this course.  For instance, a group of students in their course presentation section indicated that one of the most important learning outcomes for them is that they began to collect cultural difference data in their daily readings to better prepare them for the future international business practice.


Table 2. Selected Observational Record by One Study Group


Observed contents

Academic interpretation

Managerial suggestion

2011.10.26/17:00/the third dining hal

Most of the dining hall employees were not wearing Mouth Mask in the right way. And at around 18 o’clock there were cleaner  cleaning the table while someone was eating,that was disturbing.

The employees were not obeying the service rule which include wear mouth mask in the right position and the cleaning would affect the mood of student who was enjoying the meal.

The rules should be obeyed; this is for the health of all people. The cleaner should avoid disturbing others.

2011.10.29/12:40/ the third dining hall

There were two flies sat on a student’s clothe, and they flew away to other table when the student stood up.

The flies show that the dining hall need to be cleaned up carefully.

The dining hall should be cleaned and disinfected after every meal.

2011.11.7 /17:30/ the forth dining hall

A boy ordered rice, green vegetables and soup for supper.

He might think the soup was delicious and sufficient, so it was enough to combine it with rice and green vegetables.

It will be better if the forth dining hall could increase the types of soup and green vegetables to satisfy students’ need.

2011.11.11/18:00/ the second dining hall

In front of the stir-fry window, a student told the employee to put less oil in the dish.

It is not healthy for students to eat dish with too much oil in long term, and the dish teasted greasy doesn’t agree with students.

The chef should have a better control of the suitable amount of oil.

2011.11.12/12:30/ the third dining hall

It took a student a long time to choose two dish in front of the set lunch window and he picked pumpkin as if he was out of choice.

The dishes in the set meal section were not various and seldom renewed, this give students little choices and there are not many vegetable dish especially the green ones.

We suggest the set meal section enrich it’s style of dishes, add some green vegetable dishes.

2011.11.15/12:15/the second dining hall

There were lots of young employees wearing adornment including several men with long eardrops.

The health of dining hall include not only the food, but also the environment, so the employees should keep themselves free with adornment.

The administrator should set rules about the uniform 、hat, and personal health of the employees.

2011.11.15/8:10/ the third dining hall

A girl threw away half glass of soybean milk saying it was too watery and tasted bad.

The watery soybean will influence the appetite of student and couldn’t give nutrition to the body.

Maybe it is better to add less water into soybean.



The major part of the course work is the term project.  The students were allowed to revise their term research paper after they got the feedback from the instructor.  The instructor would praise the individual groups for what they had done correctly and made comments on what they did not do properly.  Then he would let the individual group tell him how they could improve their work if they were asked to re-do the assignment.  Through the interaction with the instructor, the students learned more about how to observe and how to record the data.  Moreover, the students were trained how to analyze the rural data and how to write the research report based on primary data they collected.

This project had a number of benefits for students. For instance, it acquainted them with observational research techniques and the subjectivity inherent in pure observation. Moreover, it made them realize that trends or patterns are revealed by analysis of informants while reinforcing many of the age, gender, ethnic-based or other findings presented in textbooks. Next, it was a true-to-life illustration of the differences between non-probability and probability sampling. Finally, it invariably caused the students to become more aware of their own behavior. The results of their term projects turned out to be very good and the quality of the research reports, according to the comparison by the instructor, was much improved from their initial draft reports. One of the student research report was accepted for publishing by an academic journal through a double peer reviewing process, two were accepted for oral presentation at an international academic conference.  

The students claimed that they learned concrete skills and knowledge through their hands-on experiences than they did through the textbook and in-class lectures because the anthropological approach directly involved them with the subjects and gave them a better understanding about foodservice business operations.  For instance, through participant observation, the students realized that they themselves could be used as research instruments, which helped them understand all other types of research instruments, such as interviews and questionnaire surveys.  More importantly, the students learned how to collect first-hand research data in their everyday life.  These skills and course concepts would be abstract to them if the students had not been guided in their hands-on work.



Conclusion and suggestions


Business world is a complex and fast-changing one, the business school that regards cultivating future leading talents for the business world as its own responsibility must follow the complex and fast-changing business world to adjust their curriculum and teaching content constantly in order to meet the needs of the business world for future talents. The requirements of the business world to the future leading talents are complete, so the intersection, combination and the mutual penetration of the humanity and social sciences and natural sciences are the dominant trend of the development of contemporary business management discipline. The development experience of higher business education in many countries shows that penetration of Arts and Science has become a major aspect of the curriculum setting in Business Administration (Lv and Han, 2007).  In China, the education system has adopted a division of liberal arts from science for a long time, which results in inadequate integration of the combination of liberal arts and science in the curriculum of the majority of business schools in China. This tradition has restricted the scientific constitution of the knowledge structure of students in business schools largely, which has caused the trend of paying more attention to the one while ignoring the other. Both of these two tendencies are undoubtedly harmful, which are not conducive to the development of business management talents for China (Zhang and Xu, 2003). In order to change the one-sided phenomenon in the higher education of business in China, we suggest that business schools should strengthen the penetration of liberal arts and science as soon as possible to ensure the comprehensive development of students' knowledge, ability and the development of scientific attitude.

Anthropology has been widely used in business management education gradually in the western countries that have a well-developed market economy to form a rapidly developed emerging interdisciplinary subject, that is, business anthropology. Business anthropology enriches the teaching and learning content in the business schools from a new point (Tian and Walle, 2009). The practice of Shantou University Business School demonstrates that the course of business anthropology is very suitable for elective for higher-level students in business schools. With the particularity of anthropological research methods, business anthropology courses emphasizes practice in the aspect of teaching and focus on developing and training the students’ action abilities. In addition, anthropology research emphasizes the influence of studying cultural factors on human behavior, as such, to offer business anthropology course in the business school could help students to develop their ability of cross-culturally thinking and communicating.  Undoubtedly, it is very important that students learn the way of cross-culturally thinking and communicating, especially when they are to engage in international business operations after graduation. Based on this point of view, the leadership in charge of teaching at Shantou University Business School decided to continue offering the course to higher-level students in the spring semester of 2012.  He advised the instructor seriously review the teaching experience and to continuously improve the teaching quality. We expect that the business anthropology course could be a characteristic course with the support of the leadership of Shantou University Business School along with our accumulated teaching experiences and efforts in order to make it more popular in other business schools across the country.

Business anthropology is a new interdisciplinary subject and its theoretical framework and methodology is still the subject for improving.  At this time, we have several issues that require our special attention. The first issue is the teaching materials, because this course is very new in the Chinese content, we are lack of teaching materials in Chinese, what we adopted are mainly designed and written for the U.S. business school students, and as such, the Chinese students are unfamiliar with many cases contained in the teaching materials. The second issue is that the teaching hours is not long enough for such a comprehensive course, the course is two credits now with two teaching hours per week, and the whole semester has a total of 32 teaching hours. It is hard, if not impossible, to complete the teaching content that we designed within such a few class hours, let alone that we also need some time to guide students to carry on field investigations. The third problem is the lack of the necessary assistant reading materials and the cases for students to analyze, which reflects the fact that not many scholars engaged in the business anthropology study in China.

It is obvious that we should try our best to overcome and solve the following problems to promote business anthropology course at business schools in China. First, we must organize experts to compile business anthropology teaching materials in Chinese as soon as possible. Although the Professor Zhou Daming who is a doctor supervisor of anthropology in Sun Yat-Sen University has engaged in organizing the scientific researchers to compile the business anthropology materials, the process is slow which could not meet with the immediate needs of the reality. Secondly, we suggest that to expand the teaching hours of business anthropology to three hours per week with 48 teaching hours in the whole semester. Thirdly, we should organize scholars to compile the cases in accordance with the reality of the business practice in China to offer reference for the business anthropology teaching. In addition, in order to promote this new course to other business schools, we recommend holding business anthropology seminars and business anthropology teaching demonstration sections at the appropriate time.

It is necessary to point out that there are limitations in this paper; the major limitation is that our presentation is mainly based one single semester course work. In future, we need more solid empirical evidence to support our arguments.  In addition, the current research is lack of course assessment information at the time when we prepared this manuscript, in future study we need to conduct an analysis about the course assessment from the students. 

In short, we believe that we must connect the business education reform with the international standards and meet the needs of Chinese business management practices. We suggest that business schools in China must seize the opportunity, starting from different aspects, such as the educational goals, school operation models, curriculum design and development, faculty development and so on, to constantly improve the quality of business management education. Our suggestion is based on our understanding on the characteristics of business management education disciplines, and the fact that the Chinese firms increasingly increased demand for international management personnel since China became a formal member of the WTO. In our view, the addition of business anthropology courses is a simple but feasible solution undoubtedly to accelerate the pace of reforming business education to meet international standards and to enhance the international competitiveness of China's management education.




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