The Sound of Silence

Last night my executive MBA class discussed the case study “Deaconess-Glover Hospital” about a Massachusetts healthcare system that made significant improvements using the Toyota Production System. But before this column digresses into a “how do we improve healthcare?” debate, I’d like to share seven sentences Dr. Steven J. Spear wrote in the teaching note that accompanies the case.

Like most case study teaching notes, there is a recommended teaching plan. Immediately after suggesting that instructors ask, “Given what you know from the case, what would you recommend…?” Spear says, “Wait! Give students a chance to offer responses. Instructor silence is a powerful tool!”

If you read my 26-Nov-2008 post “Understanding ‘The Pause’,” hopefully Spear’s remark puts a smile on your face.

Spear offers other advice uncommon in most teaching notes. For example, he later suggests, “A key objective is to teach them [the students], through experience, to be specific both in terms of what they have observed and also in terms of what they would recommend. Therefore it is the responsibility of the instructor to challenge students.” And a little later in the lesson plan he advises, “Don’t let students off the hook. Whatever their response, ask…”

I appreciate these comments because case studies are hard work. They require significant student reading and digesting time as well as prep time on the part of the professor. However, when they work well, even exhausted executives have lively discussions at 8 pm at night. A little silence and challenge do go a long way.

(For those interested in learning more about the art of case teaching, please allow me to plug Baruch’s fall 2009 workshops.)

This entry was posted in Classroom Management, Student Participation, Students' Thinking. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Sound of Silence

  1. Arthur Lewin says:

    I recently reviewed the content of, and method of testing in, the AP College Course in US history. I was sruck by how crtical analysis of issues and the writing of essays predominates over rote memorization and multiple choice testing.

    Though I certainly prefer this approach, and also group discussion of case studies, I wonder how accurately one can measure these processes. The AP prospectus made a great show of explaining the ability of their graders to do an objective, fair and competent job. But isn’t the idea of objectively grading creative thought a contradiction in terms?

    Not that multiple choice tests do not have their own problems of interpretation and grading. . .

    And no matter what happens in the healthcare debate, without better diet and more exercise any individual or national health plan will fail.

  2. Steve Spear says:

    Dear Will,

    Thanks for the nice plug on the teaching note. For those further interested in healthcare, there is my 2005 Harvard Business Review article, “Fixing Healthcare from the Inside, Today.” Then, there is my new book, “Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance of the Competition.”

    In terms of education, Chapter 11 has a case study on medical education and opportunities to improve that process.

    With best wishes,
    Steve Spear

Comments are closed.