"Content" and "Process" Issues in
By Hema A. Krishnan, Associate Professor,
Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship
first introduction to formal teaching was in early 1990 when, as a doctoral student, I was required to make a brief
presentation in my strategic planning seminar course to the entire
management faculty. I noticed the professor, who later co-chaired my
dissertation committee, take copious notes during my talk. Later,
while receiving feedback on my performance, I learned that he had
taken five pages of notes on a 15-minute presentation! The professor
structured his feedback on two themes: “content” and
“process” of presentation. Since then, in my ten years of
teaching undergraduate and MBA classes, my growth as a teacher can
be attributed to focus on these two themes.
teach strategic management and international management at the
undergraduate and MBA levels. All these courses revolve around the
issues: what business is the company in, what business should the
company operate in, what should be done to develop a sustainable
competitive advantage? Students
are expected to develop a big picture perspective of organizations,
adopt a global and ethical perspective, integrate functional areas,
and develop critical thinking skills. With such broad-based
issues, it is very easy
to lose direction in these courses. Hence, the following steps are
taken to ensure that the objectives of the students and instructor
are met at the end of each course.
Comprehensive Syllabus: Having a very detailed syllabus can
go a long way in easing the students’ concerns on course content,
grading requirements, and most importantly, written and oral
objectives and agenda for each class session, which tend to be at
least about ½ page
long, are laid out in the syllabus and detailed instructions are
given for every assignment including sources for collecting data.
Such detail tends to be especially beneficial when students make
individual and group presentations. A daily agenda stating the
objectives is again distributed at the beginning of each class
Array of Assignments:
A wide range of assignments is used in each course. One of the most
popular assignments is the mini-group presentation. The
following format is adopted for these presentations. The class
session begins with one student group being asked to provide a ten
to fifteen minute presentation of its analyses of the case assigned
for that session. An effective lead considerably enhances the
quality of class discussions. A second student group is then asked
to build on the first presentation. This group may present a
significantly different alternative, or focus on one or more issues,
which may have been overlooked by the first student group. The
second group is allotted ten minutes for the presentation. A third
group is then called on to critique the two presentations, and to
present its point of view. Finally, the other group(s) are called on
to evaluate the significance and implications of the case and to
describe what they learned from the case.
assignment that is very popular among both undergraduates and MBA
students, usually administered in small classes, is the individual
To maximize learning, students conduct several individual
presentations during the semester. An individual presentation
a 10-minutes presentation around a specific issue relating to a
particular class session with the presenters (7 or 8 during a class
session) providing a one-page
outline to the other members. During the course of the
presentations, the class fills out details on the issue on a
spreadsheet. Thus, at the conclusion of the session, a matrix
displaying details on this issue is generated.
third assignment popular among students, usually adopted in the
strategy courses, is computer-based simulation exercises.
Students work in teams on one or more simulations and prepare
individual or group reflective papers on the simulations. These
simulations offer an alternate approach to the traditional case
write-ups, which are also used in all my classes.
Mid-term course feedback: I request information from students
on the direction of the course halfway through the semester and
share the feedback with the class. Based on their assessment changes
are made, especially in the elective courses. Although these changes
do not alter the fundamental direction of the course, they entail a
change in the “process” of instruction and some minor changes in
the “content” such as providing additional reading material,
Current events: With the business and global environment
changing at an extraordinary pace, I start each class session with a
discussion on recent events and their implications for the course.
These discussions, which tend to be about 15 minutes long in a 2 ½
hour class format, are lively and also draw out students who do not
normally participate in class. Additionally, they help the students
make the link between theory and practice.
Self evaluation: At the end of each class session, I make
notes on my copy of the syllabus which include the actual time spent
on the formal lecture, student presentations, general discussions,
and video discussions. It also includes the names of students who
did not participate, or students who monopolized the discussions, my
speed of delivery, eye contact, whether the discussions were
focused, etc. This is done to take corrective action for the
remaining classes. At the end of the semester, I have about 15
post-it notes for each class. These post-its coupled with my
syllabus are useful in developing my course for the following
Reminder E-mails: Short e-mail reminders are sent the next
day summarizing the previous day’s learning, assessing overall
class performance, and providing guidelines for the next session’s
assignments. After this practice was started, few students approach
me for additional clarification on assignments during the semester.
Also, several MBA students have told me that with their busy
schedules and extensive business-related travel, these reminder
e-mails are very useful in planning their weekly activities.
Customized PowerPoint slides: Slides integrating theory,
articles, cases, and current business events are customized for each
class session, and kept to a minimum.
described above, in my courses, I try to create “order” from
“chaos” which explains the repetition arising from stating
objectives, providing guidelines and reminder e-mails, and daily
agendas for the courses.
one of the invaluable lessons I have learned from my advisors,
colleagues at Xavier University, and students is that learning is an
ongoing process and to make a difference in the classroom, it is
important that one be committed to teaching, and to the students.
Hema Krishnan is an associate professor in the department of
marketing and entrepreneurship.
to the Lesson Learned series have been selected by their deans to
share their experiences in the classroom, describing a teaching
technique or exercise that they have found to be effective.
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