Teaching Through Problems

    Lecturing interactively and facilitating discussions may be the primary modalities for instruction, but they are certainly not the only ones. Teaching through problems is increasingly practiced on college campuses and in secondary classrooms. These classrooms engage students in relevant, discipline-specific puzzles, frequently shifting instructors to the periphery as students collaborate to realistically apply textbook concepts and reach new understandings.

    Teaching through problems videos are organized into five submodules according to the specific learning exercise...

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    Case Teaching

    The professional real world is complex and filled with uncertainty. Rather than avoiding this complexity, case-based instruction centers around cases that tell the stories of real-life protagonists facing difficult decisions. Cases often end with a straightforward question: Which path should the protagonist take? To answer this question, students carefully read the case and its documents before class. They then spend class time discussing the context, analyzing the data, and debating potential courses of action the protagonist could take. As a facilitator of the conversation,...

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    Where cases present students with relevant situations from the field to apply their learning, simulations take this application a step further. Simulations are active learning exercises that thrust students directly into the action they will likely encounter in the professional world. Interactive, immersive, and intense, simulations present students with realistic situations that push them to enact their learning in context, then manage the consequences of their individual and collective decision-making. And what happens before and after simulations is just as important as what...

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    Case-Based Collaborative Learning

    Learning conceptual material in the abstract works for some students. For others, traditional lectures and textbook learning can be alienating. By contrast, Case-Based Collaborative Learning (CBCL) provides a structured, student-centered approach to learning challenging material within realistic scenarios from the field. In the CBCL classroom, students identify and wrestle with concepts as they appear in reality. In the true-to-life, well-crafted case, these concepts may be buried amid relevant and/or irrelevant details. In the field, concepts rarely surface in “textbook” form, and...

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    Building intense learning environments through simulation design

    Simulations aim to replicate realistic problems from the field in a relatively controlled classroom environment. However, this is difficult since field-based problems are vulnerable to contextual changes, complicated by divergent social interests, and seldom straightforward. In this video, Brian Mandell and his teaching team discuss how they design classroom simulation experiences that mirror the real world and ratchet up pressure for students. This global negotiation simulation in particular features misaligned interests, cultural clashes, and periodic news bulletins that shift the very...

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    Preparing students for a simulation

    Complex, multi-party simulations require careful preparation. With so many moving parts, students should have some understanding of what to expect and how to appropriately prepare. In this video, Mandell and his teaching team describe the materials and instructions students receive before simulations. While all groups receive general instructions which provide broad details about the case, each group member also receives his or her own confidential instructions outlining individual interests, allies, and adversaries. To prepare, students study both sets of instructions closely,...

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    Leveraging the teaching team in a simulation

    The more complex a simulation becomes, the more important a well-organized teaching team is for an instructor. Having multiple teaching assistants allows lead instructors to delegate responsibilities procedurally and purposefully. In this video, Mandell’s teaching team reflects on some of the different roles they play throughout simulations. These roles range from gathering data for the whole class debriefs after simulations to coaching students individually as they negotiate. 

    Giving peer feedback promptly with "hot" debriefs

    Though simulations can be powerful learning experiences on their own, students’ learning is enhanced when instructors give them adequate time to process what they just experienced. Particularly when pressure runs high, fostering a structured space for students to debrief is critical. In Brian Mandell’s class, immediately after simulations conclude, student groups offer each member feedback about their performance in the activity. With the simulation still fresh in students’ minds, “hot” debriefs become candid spaces in which students provide one another specific, constructive support....

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    Synthesizing simulation takeaways through lecture

    If simulations plunk students right in the middle of the action, what is the role of the instructor? Though instructors in simulation-based classrooms typically play the role of facilitators rather than lecturers, a strategically placed lecture gives the disciplinary expert in the room a chance to distill key conceptual takeaways from student-centered activities. This video shows how Brian Mandell commences full group sessions by delivering a mini-lecture that responds directly to what students just experienced. The analytic lecture aims to, in Mandell’s words, provide students...

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    Presenting simulation data to spark discussion and reflection

    Failing to debrief after an intense simulation is a missed opportunity, but when simulation debriefs fail to draw on specifics from the activity, this can also short circuit discussion and reflection. Accordingly, providing fresh, relevant data from a recently conducted simulation can deepen debrief conversations and offer students concrete details to drive their reflections. In this video, Mandell and his teaching assistant share both quantitative and qualitative data from the simulation to enliven and enhance the full group debrief. Calling upon specific groups to...

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    Incorporating humor to ease tensions in active learning

    Well-timed, appropriate humor can provide relief in tense classroom environments. Humor can be especially critical in active learning environments, where students’ immersion can heighten anxiety and stress. In this video, Mandell, his teaching assistants, and students discuss the central role that humor plays in whole group sessions following simulations. After the intensity of the learning activity and the constructive criticism of “hot” debriefs, humor becomes a helpful tool to keep students engaged and allow them to reflect on mistakes with some levity.

    Contextualizing learning with guest speakers

    Though simulations may effectively replicate real-world situations and problems, they are still just that: simulations. Accordingly, finding ways to reinforce the idea that similar situations are being experienced by real practitioners in the field becomes critical. In this video, Mandell and his teaching team discuss how their negotiations course enlists guest speakers to come speak to the class. These speakers contextualize the skills and concepts students learn and enact in class and share their first-hand experiences with similar problems in the field. 

    Building Structure and Flexibility into Case Lesson Plans

    While spontaneity and fluidity are important hallmarks of case discussions, effective case discussion leaders always enter the classroom with a teaching plan. In this video, Julie Battilana discusses the key components of a case teaching plan and how to build flexibility into it. By structuring her plan around discussion blocks and key questions, she ensures that she can cover the most important concepts and issues in the case while letting students lead the conversation.