Inside HBS

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Grading and The Case Method

October 19th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

I love the case method.  I really do.  I’ve always been a fan of innovative teaching methodologies (after all, what else is there to think about when you’re forced to listen to a boring professor drone for hours?).  The case method (as implemented by HBS) comes about as close to an ideal teaching style as I can imagine.

You’re forced to constantly pay attention, to continually integrate everything that’s been said, and to try to think one-step ahead of the discussion.  All while being prepared at-any-moment to jump into the conversation and communicate a relevant, timely, and insightful comment in an entertaining and clear way.  Believe me, it’s even tougher than I can make it sound!

One professor says the only true take-away from HBS is that it teaches you to become good at multitasking.  You have to listen carefully, follow the discussion, and craft a defensible theory / point all at the same time.  That’s not too far from the truth… and it’s one of the things I love about HBS.  So much of “academia” seems to be about dumping thousands of facts into your head.  How much of that is retained?  How much of that is useful?  The case method understands that education is about teaching and reinforcing behaviors.

A Classroom in Hawes

A Classroom in Hawes

I could go on about the case method for hours.  I’ve really become a convert after seeing it in action here.  However, I am a bit skeptical on the grading portion.  Especially after receiving feedback from a couple professors this past week.  Now, I know I haven’t contributed the most brilliant comments in class, but I still think the evaluation of one professor was a bit off-the-mark.  But that just brings up the whole subjectivity of the whole process.  How can I defend my position?  I can’t.

At HBS, 50% of your final grade is from “class participation”.  What does that mean?  After each class, the professor takes time to record every single comment that was put forth during the 80 minute class.  Then he grades the comments, 1 to 3, based on how good he thinks they were.  Can a professor remember every comment given during a class?  More importantly, can he assign them to the correct person?  Further, can he remember their relative importance and weight them accordingly?

These are all difficult tasks for one person… let alone the person who’s already under so many stresses to lead a group of 90 people through a complex conversation!  Like I said, I’m a a bit skeptical on how accurate this all is…

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One Comment so far ↓

  • JulyDream

    Oh boy!! Do I know this feeling. We had mid-quarter participation grades… I was hanging with the “pack”, which surprised a lot of people. Oh well, exams come back starting tomorrow.

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