John C. Ickis (MBA, DBA Harvard University) is Emeritus Professor of Organization and Strategy at INCAE Business School. He is co-author of the book The Octagon: a Model to Align CSR with Strategy among others, and from articles in World Development and The Harvard Business Review. He has...
Why exercise if you teach with cases
No. 15, September 2022. En of the book keep sharp, CNN health correspondent Sanjay Gupta proposes five pillars for maintaining mental sharpness: diet, exercise, rest, purpose in life, and social connection. When someone asks him which of these pillars predominates, his answer is surprising: it is neither diet nor crossword puzzles, but exercise, movement. Believe it or not, Gupta, a neurologist, presents evidence that exercise is "the only activity that triggers biological effects that can maintain a healthy brain."
What do these findings have to do with case method teaching? ALL. Just as a novice swimmer has to think about breathing and arm and leg movement before integrating these skills into swimming, the instructor can think of “asking, listening and answering” as separate elements of the process of leading a case discussion. .
Let's start with questions: C. Roland Christensen offers ten categories of questions in Education for Judgment (Chapter 9): open-ended, diagnostic, informational, challenge, action, priority, and predictive questions; hypothetical questions, extension (about implications) and generalization. Choosing from this range, to ask the right question to the right person at the right time, requires a very sharp mind.
Listening and responding are even more challenging because the discussion leader has to do both at the same time, which requires discerning the relevance of the comment, its connection to previous and future contributions, while formulating their response. Some veterans argue that these skills are developed over long years of experience; they are not teachable.
You are wrong. Being able to refer to a typology like Christensen's enables the novice to mine the richness of the art of asking questions. But it is a trade that does not lend itself to following manuals; there is much to be learned by trial and error.
In my coaching, I do not try to present a single roadmap but to share what goes through my head when I am teaching and the decisions that I have to make. I think about what the students' responses might be to the “trigger questions” I ask at the start of each discussion block, and how I should respond. I can explore their train of thought if it's interesting, probe with follow-up questions if their analysis is shallow, or pass the word to another student if they say something controversial and there is opportunity for discussion. The range of options presented by Christensen contains 18 types of responses, and selecting among them, in nanoseconds, is not for the faint of heart.
Until the age of 57, when I became president of a company with active projects on four continents, I always thought that I did not have time to exercise. During that difficult but successful experience, I realized that I could not afford to No. do exercise. And since I was 60 years old, when I returned to academia, this habit has served me well, in and out of the classroom.
But you don't have to wait until you're 57 to discover the magic of movement. You also don't have to be a fanatic to start an exercise routine that maintains mental agility. Experts agree that 150 minutes a week may be enough, and Dr. Gupta gives us a simple recommendation: Try to do something that breaks a light sweat—light sweat-every day.