Monday, November 12, 2012

The Best Part of Huntsman Hall Will Be Mostly Invisible

The thing that excites me most about Huntsman Hall is something you can’t see at all—unless you know what you are looking for. The classrooms are designed for effective, case study teaching.

The best way to learn most things is through experiencing it. We call this experiential learning. In a classroom, the best way to simulate experience is through the case study approach. This approach is used at top business schools. Students study real examples of challenges that real business leaders have faced. Then we, as faculty, ask students to propose solutions to these challenges. It is a very interactive, effective way of teaching. When done properly, it helps the students learn from thinking through challenges, and learn from each other things that might not have even been introduced by the professor.

Our new classrooms will help our professors, myself included, use the case study approach more effectively. How does that happen? The classrooms are designed so that there are two aisles that cut through the tables making it easy for a professor to walk up to and talk directly with every student. The classroom design also makes it much more difficult for an unprepared student to hide in the back. It’s surprising how much focus a student can have when the professor is standing right next to them, challenging their ideas.

When I use the case study approach I often select a student to get the discussion going. I suggest they put themselves in the shoes of the business leader and I ask them how they would solve the challenges that are a part of the case study we are analyzing. Each student is supposed to be prepared to do just that when they come to class.

With the case study approach I can guide the students to consider specific issues that are important in such scenarios, and help them see the upside and downside of any particular solution. For example, because we emphasize the importance of ethical leadership at the Huntsman School of Business, I press students to consider the ethical implications of their decisions. The beauty of a case study is that there isn’t just one right answer they can unearth but multiple innovative solutions that could be tried.

Can you tell I love this approach to teaching? Huntsman Hall will be an impressive and beautiful structure but I think the best part of the building will be what’s happening in the classroom. I can’t wait to teach a group of MBA students in one of the new “case study” classrooms.
Ken Snyder
Ken Snyder