Saturday, June 24, 2023

Case Study for In-House Trainer Techniques: Harvard's Justice Course


One of the points I emphasize the most when teaching in-house trainers is: apart from one-way lecturing, how can we create interaction? How can we provoke thought among the participants by asking questions?

Recently, I came across a video online of Harvard professor Michael Sandel teaching a class, and I was thoroughly impressed! This is indeed the epitome of excellent classroom instruction! The course Professor Sandel teaches is "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do". It is a course that's challenging to teach, and if one is not careful, it can easily devolve into one-way sermonizing. But in the course, Professor Sandel uses various cases, raising hands, asking questions, counter-questions, encouragement, and so on to prompt students to think and learn. After watching the first class, I wrote down some thoughts and observations on Facebook. Apart from sharing with everyone, it also serves as a great learning example for in-house trainers in corporations.

1. Large-scale lecturing is challenging. Starting with a story (actually a case study) is excellent. Changes in positioning (not just standing behind the podium), and good control of body language were also well done. The story was told vividly (quickly grabbing attention).

2. As this is a large-scale class, the raise-hand method is used for interaction. It's convenient and also serves as an ice-breaker. If you start asking questions requiring answers right away, the atmosphere might not be warmed up enough and the audience may not be ready. Therefore, this hand-raising method is good (Did you notice? When he said "raise your hands", he also raised his hand, this is a guiding detail that we mention in our classes).

3. Next, he begins asking questions. Besides soliciting volunteers, he also starts calling on specific individuals. This is a good practice. After asking a question, he restates the question, adds supplementary thoughts, and provides encouragement. This helps create a conducive atmosphere for the class.

4. Around 3:40, the professor encourages diverse opinions, praising them as courageous responses, which is excellent (when students answer unclearly, the professor will ask more follow-up questions. Kudos!).

5. At 5:28, the second case study makes the question from the first one deeper. This adopts a cognitive approach, using questions to prompt deeper thinking in students. Continuous probing and reflection are encouraged.

6. The follow-up question at 6:40 is fantastic! This cannot be prepared in advance and requires rich teaching experience (even the students were laughing). However, after pushing a student into a corner, the professor still encourages him to speak again, followed by praise (creating a safe classroom environment).

7. After several rounds of the above, you can see that the class atmosphere has improved, and the number of students raising their hands to speak is increasing! (7:00)

8. After the student in the yellow shirt answers at 7:30, the professor starts guiding students to respond to the student's question (shifting the fire), turning the class into not just teacher VS. student, but also student VS. student. This is a great technique. Then, after the student in the white shirt responds, he asks the student in the yellow shirt to reply again (8:00)... Haha. Standard practice.

9. To truly learn, the professor keeps encouraging and praising (9:00). But when a student thinks out of the box at 12:23, he not only encourages him (that's a great idea) but also nudges him a bit (12:35, you've spoiled our focus of thought)… This prevents the discussion from being too divergent and without focus.

10. Have you ever thought that this case study teaching method is time-consuming and difficult to operate? The traditional method: just get on stage and speak your piece. Isn't that easier? And it saves time. But this method, while saving time, may not be effective (lecturing... never mind...). So, whether it's better to spend more time for better results, or save time but have less effective results (at least for some courses), is worth pondering... of course, all of this requires a lot of preparation to bring about good results. You have to put your heart into it!

Above was my perspective to the teaching skills in the first video. There are 12 of them in total, and I'm still watching it. When I finish all of it, I will share my experience to you.

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