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A Problem-based Approach for Management Education


A Problem-based Approach for Management Education Preparing Managers for Action

by

PHILIP HALLINGER Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand and

EDWIN M. BRIDGES Stanford University, CA, U.S.A.

with contributions by Kamontip Snidvongs Randall Shannon Vichita Vathanophas Sooksan Kantabutra and Brian Hunt


A C.I.P. Catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN-10 1-4020-5755-5 (HB) ISBN-13 978-1-4020-5755-7 (HB) ISBN-10 1-4020-5756-3 (e-book) ISBN-13 978-1-4020-5756-4 (e-book)

Published by Springer, P.O. Box 17, 3300 AA Dordrecht, The Netherlands. www.springer.com

Printed on acid-free paper

All Rights Reserved Š 2007 Springer No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording or otherwise, without written permission from the Publisher, with the exception of any material supplied specifically for the purpose of being entered and executed on a computer system, for exclusive use by the purchaser of the work.


TABLE OF CONTENTS About the Authors

vii

Foreword KELVIN W. WILLOUGHBY

xi

Preface

xv

PART I: INTRODUCTION

1

Chapter 1 Preparing ‘Managers for Action’

5

Chapter 2 PBL: A Promising Approach to Education in the Professions

25

Chapter 3 Developing Problem-based Learning Materials

45

Chapter 4 Implementing Problem-based Learning in the Classroom

69

Chapter 5 Integrating Technology and Problem-Based Learning

91

Chapter 6 Student Assessment in a PBL Environment

109

Chapter 7 Problem-Based Learning as a Curriculum Approach

133

Chapter 8 Implementing Problem-Based Learning in Higher Education Programs

147

PART II: INTRODUCTION

173

Chapter 9 Leading Organizational Change PHILIP HALLINGER

177

Chapter 10 Data to Intelligence KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

199

Chapter 11 New Product Positioning RANDALL SHANNON

223

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Chapter 12 Retail to e-Tail VICHITA VATHANOPHAS

245

Chapter 13 Reorganizing for Competitiveness SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA

263

Chapter 14 Employee Selection PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

287

Chapter 15 A Problem at Organization X PHILIP HALLINGER & BRIAN HUNT

309

Index

325


ABOUT THE AUTHORS AUTHORS PHILIP HALLINGER Mahidol University Dr. Philip Hallinger is Professor and Chief Academic Officer at the College of Management, Mahidol University. Professor Hallinger received his Ed.D. in Administration and Policy Analysis at Stanford University. For the past six years, he has directed the design and implementation of a ‘problem-based learning track’ in Mahidol University’s Master of Management program. Prior to coming to Mahidol University, Dr. Hallinger was Professor of Leadership and Organizations at Vanderbilt University where he employed problem-based learning in Bachelor, Master, Doctoral, and executive education programs. His research interests have focused on leadership, leadership development and organizational change. Within these domains, he has focused his attention on application in education contexts, including numerous books and journal publications on problem-based leadership development, education change and reform, instructional leadership, and learning organizations. Professor Hallinger has also been active in assisting other institutions in the implementation of problem-based learning. He has directed training institutes in PBL for university faculty members in the USA, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, and China. He can be reached at the College of Management, Mahidol University at Philip.h@cmmu.net. EDWIN M. BRIDGES Stanford University Edwin M. Bridges, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University, pioneered the use of problem-based learning in the field of educational administration. He and Professor Hallinger have co-authored two previous books and numerous articles about problem-based learning and the preparation of educational leaders. Professor Bridges has conducted training institutes for professors in North America and Asia and is a two time recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award in the Stanford University School of Education. He also has served as a Vice-President of the American Educational Research Association and received the Roald F. Campbell Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to educational administration. Professor Bridges holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and held professorial appointments at Washington University (St. Louis), the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as Stanford. He can be reached by email at: bridges@leland.Stanford.edu

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CONTRIBUTORS KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS Mahidol University Dr. Kamontip Snidvongs is Director of Strategic Partnerships and Chair of the Innovation in Management program at the College of Management, Mahidol University. She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Imperial College in the UK. Prior to coming to the College of Management at Mahidol University in 1997, Dr. Snidvongs accumulated more than 25 years of experience as a manager and management consultant in the UK and Thailand. In addition to designing the PBL project, Data to Intelligence and Projects and People (see Chapter 10), she teaches courses in Project Management and MIS. She can be reached at kamontip.s@cmmu.net. RANDALL SHANNON College of Management, Mahidol University Dr. Randall Shannon is Assistant Professor of Management at the College of Management, Mahidol University. Dr. Shannon received his Ph.D. in Marketing from Thammasat University in Thailand, and formerly worked as a market researcher for A.C. Neilson. In addition to designing the PBL project on New Product Positioning (see Chapter 11), he teaches Strategic Marketing Management and Consumer Behavior. He can be reached at randall.s@cmmu.net. VICHITA VATHANOPHAS College of Management, Mahidol University Dr. Vichita Vathanophas is Assistant Professor of Management at the College of Management, Mahidol University. She received her Ph.D. in Information Science and Telecommunications from the University of Pittsburgh (USA) and held a faculty position at National University of Singapore prior to coming to Mahidol University in 2003. In addition to contributing to the design of the Retail-to-e-Tail PBL project (see Chapter 12), Dr. Vathanophas also teaches MIS and Knowledge Management. She can be reached at vichita.v@cmmu.net. SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA College of Management, Mahidol University Dr. Sooksan Kantabutra is Assistant Professor of management at the College of Management, Mahidol University. He received his Ph.D. in Management from Macquarie University in Australia where his research focused on the development of a model of vision-based leadership. Prior to coming to Mahidol University, Dr. Kantabutra worked for several years as a management consultant for Accenture. In addition to designing the PBL project on Reorganizing for Competitiveness (see Chapter 13), he teaches Principles of Management and Leadership and Team Development. Dr. Kantabutra can be reached at sooksan.s@cmmu.net.


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BRIAN HUNT College of Management, Mahidol University Brian Hunt is Assistant Professor of management at the College of Management, Mahidol University. He received his M.B.A. from the University of Bath in the UK, and is working towards his Ph.D. in Management at the University of Technology – Sydney (Australia). With prior experience in management research, Hunt teaches courses in Research Methods and Organizational Behavior, in which he has contributed to implementation of the A Problem at Organization X PBL project. He can be reached at brian.h@cmmu.net.


FOREWORD Most seasoned teachers know the satisfaction of witnessing students going through the “ah ha!” experience. It happens when students understand the meaning of a concept as they realize how it relates to a practical problem with which they are already familiar. Imagine a management education program in which that “ah ha” experience becomes a normal part of the learning environment. That is the promise of Problem-based Learning (PBL); and that is the promise of this exciting new book by Professors Hallinger, Bridges and colleagues. There are at least eight features of this book that will make it valuable to management educators as well as to teachers more generally. First, it describes what could be possibly the most powerful pedagogical approach for fulfilling the primary espoused educational goals of management schools. Management schools, along with other professionally-oriented schools such as medicine, law, architecture, education and engineering, share a common interest in educating students to become knowledgeable practitioners skilled both at thinking analytically and solving practical problems. Research finds that PBL not only enables students to develop theoretical understanding of abstract concepts, but also prepares them for the real world of professional practice. Second, while the authors of this volume focus on the use of PBL in management education, their work is deeply informed by a rich tradition of problembased learning in other fields, especially medicine and education studies. The book makes many fresh contributions to thinking about management education, drawing upon the distinctive experience of the authors in using PBL for close to 20 years. At the same time, it is enriched and strengthened by solid scholarship and obvious respect for the collective efforts of scholars who have employed and studied PBL in other disciplines. Third, the book makes a strong case for treating PBL as a methodology that is especially pertinent for management education. The authors argue that the rapidly changing context of business organizations has created new ‘imperatives’ for management education. Moreover, they identify the unique contribution that PBL can make in management education programs that take these ‘new imperatives’ seriously. Fourth, the authors elaborate the basic concept of PBL along several dimensions in a way that brings it alive for those who are unfamiliar with the approach. Practical examples abound which clarify the theoretical and design features that underlie the use of PBL. At the same time, they also bring much fresh thinking to the work, thereby producing a book that will also engage the PBL veteran. For example, the chapters that discuss the linkage between PBL and curriculum design, learning technology, curriculum implementation and student assessment will challenge even experienced educators to think deeply about how we organize learning opportunities for students.

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Fifth, while the enthusiasm of the authors for PBL is obvious, the critical reader will be impressed by the respect that Hallinger and Bridges show for other modes of learning (e.g., case teaching, lectures, guided individual reading, field projects, etc.). While the authors are passionate about the potential of PBL to address fundamental shortcomings of MBA education, they are not evangelists. Their seasoned wisdom as professional educators – accumulated in several universities, countries, and programmatic settings – enables the authors to illustrate lucidly how PBL may be mixed, matched and modified together with other pedagogies, according to the prevailing educational or institutional context. A superb (and sixth) feature of the book that makes it a powerful tool for management educators is a series of chapter-length examples that illustrate how management faculty are applying PBL in practice. These are real PBL projects that have been developed, tested and refined by the authors in management programs at Stanford, Vanderbilt and Mahidol Universities. These examples elucidate the variety of formats that PBL may take to match the learning goals, resource constraints, educational philosophy, subject matter and student characteristics of each setting. In reading the chapters comprising Part II of the volume, I was especially engaged by the candid and sober reflections the authors have applied to their own professional experiences in using PBL. Their ability to identify the salient weaknesses and strengths of their experiments with PBL in different settings makes the book particularly useful for the reader. The authors set a useful tone by inviting the reader to learn from their mistakes as well as from their successes. Seventh, the book draws heavily on the unique experience of the College of Management of Mahidol University, in Bangkok, which has applied the PBL method in greater scope and depth than any other management school with which I am familiar. This has two ramifications that deserve attention, especially from those involved in management education outside of North America or in ‘multinational’ programs. First, it demonstrates that active learning approaches like PBL are broadly relevant for higher education programs, even in cultural contexts such as Asia that traditionally placed higher value on teacher-directed lectures from experts. Second, it reveals an approach to customizing ‘global management education’ in a way that addresses the unique context of different settings. The authors offer numerous examples of how their PBL curricula have taken into account local culture, national economic and institutional characteristics, and the international geopolitical context. These facets will challenge management educators to rethink our collective responsibility to prepare students for using knowledge constructively in their own contexts. Thus, I must emphasize that the book does not present PBL as a fashionable trend from ‘Western’ management schools that others are advised to emulate. Rather, it is offered as a robust but flexible approach relevant for business schools around the world that are interested and committed to “preparing managers for action.” The following quote from the book illustrates the astute international perspective that the authors bring to their work: The global-local imperative suggests that the knowledge base that underlies management does not exist as a commodity to be bought and sold across borders like auto parts or soybeans. Its meaning and utility are only constructed and activated when introduced into a particular sociocultural context. We contend that management education has an obligation


FOREWORD

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that goes beyond the simple delivery of a reputable North American or European curriculum. A world class curriculum should take into account the application of knowledge for the context in which it will be applied. (p. 11)

Finally, this is a well crafted book that is easy to read. Hallinger, Bridges and their colleagues combine analytical discipline, logical structure, formal scholarship, and the lucid expression of fresh ideas, with engaging descriptions of PBL experiences in real classrooms with management students. The volume achieves a pleasing combination of academic rigor and accessibility for the reader interested in management education, or in problem-based learning more generally. I especially recommend this book for others who believe that recent critiques of MBA education offered by respected scholars – Mintzberg, Bennis, Pfeffer, O’Toole, Levine – deserve a substantive response. ‘Preparing Managers for Action’ makes such a contribution by providing a conceptual rationale and at least a portion of a roadmap for meeting the complex challenges of 21st that we face in 21st century management education. I found it to be both an intellectual and practical beacon amidst the maelstrom of contemporary management fads. As a professional educator who has experimented with problem-based approaches to learning for two decades I was delighted by how often I found myself challenged and informed as I read this new volume. Your reading pleasure will be more than matched by the practical lessons you will take away from this book. Read on …

Professor Kelvin W. Willoughby Honeywell / W.R. Sweatt Chair in the Management of Technology The University of Minnesota July 2006


PREFACE This book explores the use of problem-based learning in management education. Based upon the response to our prior volumes on this subject, however, we believe the book has relevance for a broader audience of instructors and program designers working in other fields of professional education. Indeed, our own work in this field was largely inspired by previous writing about problem-based learning in medical education. We begin with the assumption that the context of management and management education has changed rather dramatically in the past two decades. These changes have created a new set of educational imperatives to which higher educational institutions must respond if we are to remain relevant to our societies and competitive in the marketplace. These imperatives include: x To develop graduates who are able to synthesize and apply management knowledge along with the skills that enable managers to solve significant problems at work and in their careers; x To provide curricula that not only draw upon global knowledge resources about management, but also place that knowledge in a local organizational context; x To offer programs that enable graduates to learn how to use and manage technologies as an integrated feature of management practice; x To develop graduates with the capacity to engage and reflect productively on the emotional and moral dimensions of leading people; x To inspire graduates with the motivation and skills to embrace lifelong learning as a fundamental professional norm for managers. Readers from other fields of professional education will judge for themselves whether these capacities appear relevant for their learners. If so, we assert that PBL represents an approach to curriculum and instruction that has the potential to achieve these aims. We highlight the word potential because gaining the full benefits of PBL requires a set of conditions that are often difficult to create in institutions of higher education: small class size, flexible classroom design, curriculum integration, faculty collaboration, problem-focused curriculum, and rewards for excellence in teaching. Creating these conditions requires investment of resources, the ability to motivate and develop faculty members, and long-term institutional commitment. We wish to emphasize at the outset of this volume that we neither view problembased learning as the panacea for all educational problems. We assert that educators should strive towards employing a variety of powerful methods of teaching and learning that actively involve and engage students in thinking, doing, and reflecting. PBL is one approach that meets these criteria for powerful learning. There are many other potentially powerful methods of active learning that deserve a

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place in our educational repertoire including case teaching, project-based learning, inquiry learning, simulation, reflection, Socratic questioning, cooperative learning, observation, and role play. Even teacher-directed instruction can be learner-centered when conducted skillfully.1 Moreover, as we shall elaborate, PBL may not be suitable for all learning situations. Constraints including time duration of the lesson, learner characteristics (e.g., readiness or learning style), class size, instructor characteristics (e.g., readiness), specific subject matter objectives, program philosophy and goals, and facility configuration all weigh on the decision whether and to what extent we wish to incorporate PBL in a higher education curriculum. Indeed, our goal in this book is not to convert faculty members into PBL advocates. Rather, we wish to provide a clear view of the range of approaches that may be used in the implementation of problem-based learning, especially in management education. We will have succeeded if, upon completion of the book, the reader has developed his/her own answers to the following questions: x Why should I consider the use of problem-based learning in the development of managers, leaders, or other professionals? x What is problem-based learning, how does it differ from the case method, and are the intended outcomes of PBL suitable for my group of learners? x What is the best approach by which I could develop PBL materials and how would I use this method in my own classroom? x What are the costs and benefits of employing PBL as a curricular approach, and what resources and issues do I need to consider prior to adoption, in whatever degree? x Finally, does PBL have a role in my context, and if so, what are the optimal modes of implementation? In our two earlier books on PBL, we focused primarily on the preparation of education managers. In this volume, we have turned our attention to the education of managers more generally, but with a particular emphasis on the development of managers in the business sector. The book is organized into two parts. In Part I, we introduce the reader to the model of problem-based learning we have adapted for use in management education. This section is designed with both the novice and experienced user of problem-based learning in mind. For the novice or occasional user of PBL, we offer a general introduction to the rationale and use of PBL in management and professional education. In addition, however, we also provide in-depth discussion of key issues concerning the design, implementation, and assessment of problem-based learning in higher education classrooms. In Part II, we offer examples of a variety of different types of PBL projects. These projects are offered not as a complete management curriculum, but simply to illustrate different approaches to PBL project development. Part II of this volume provides the reader with examples of a variety of different types of PBL projects.


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The purposes of this section are as follows. x To provide the reader with a clear picture of what PBL projects look like in terms of format and content; x To offer insight into how different instructors organize and use PBL in their classrooms; x To explicate a variety of practical issues involved in materials design and classroom implementation; x To illustrate the wide range of different types of PBL projects all of which are based on the design template offered in Chapter Three (e.g., some projects incorporate simulation or role play, others do not); x To model some of the ways in which technology has been integrated into PBL projects; x To provide examples of PBL projects in different knowledge domains (e.g., organizational behavior, e-commerce, leadership, marketing). We have included in-depth descriptions of six PBL projects in this volume. These cover a variety of management domains including organizational behavior, human resource management, leadership, e-commerce, MIS, and marketing. The inclusion of these PBL projects in the book should help the reader gain an in-depth view into how instructors actually employ PBL projects used in the classroom. We wish to emphasize from the outset that the PBL projects included in Part II are not intended in any way to represent a complete PBL curriculum for management education. They simply represent a set of PBL projects that we selected to illustrate different approaches to PBL project design. Therefore, the reader should not draw conclusions about the nature of a PBL curriculum by viewing these projects as a group. The Introduction to Part II provides brief descriptions of the projects.

NOTES 1

Saphier, J., & Gower, R. (1997). The skillful teacher: Building your teaching skills. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.


INTRODUCTION TO PART I We have designed this portion of the volume to provide readers from a broad set of professional fields and disciplines with the background knowledge needed to design and implement problem-based learning in higher education programs. We believe that this approach addresses the major questions that faculty instructors or program designers would ask, regardless of their academic or professional discipline. In Chapter One we provide an overview of the educational imperatives that we believe make PBL suitable for management education in the global context of the 21st century. In particular, we emphasize the idea that management education in a global era should be based on local problems that enable students to contextualize the knowledge they learn in their programs. The use of local, as well as global, management problems motivates students, provides a firmer basis for understanding the business context of the problem, and also sensitizes them to the need to consider how knowledge is applied, including the limitations of the knowledge base. Chapter Two introduces the reader to problem-based learning as an approach to teaching, learning and curriculum innovation. We discuss the motivational, functional, and cognitive grounds that support problem-based learning as a pedagogical approach. We then contrast PBL with the more common approach of teaching business cases, and clarify the characteristics of the PBL model that we have adapted from that used by medical educators.1 The chapter concludes with a discussion of the empirical knowledge base underlying problem-based learning and the outcomes instructors might expect to achieve through its use. Chapter Three focuses on the development of PBL materials. It first presents the options facing instructors who wish to experiment with problem-based learning. We then define the different species of problem-based learning (i.e., student-centered learning and problem-stimulated learning) and discuss why the problem-stimulated variety of PBL has assumed a more central role in our own programs for preparing and developing managers. The chapter then offers an in-depth examination of the process by which instructors can develop or adapt PBL materials. The central feature of the chapter is presentation of a template that instructors can use to develop PBL projects. We provide numerous examples that illustrate the elements of a successful PBL project. Chapter Four places the spotlight on how instructors use PBL in the classroom. Our model of PBL incorporates and synthesizes features of case teaching, cooperative group learning, role play, simulation, and performance-based assessment. Thus, PBL represents a radical departure for most instructors, even those accustomed to case teaching. The chapter first discusses the attitudes that support teacher effectiveness in a PBL classroom environment. Then we explore in-depth, the roles that an instructor assumes before, during and after the implementation of a PBL project in the classroom. We offer examples of how instructors engage the roles of coach,

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INTRODUCTION TO PART I

consultant, monitor, process observer, discussion leader, guide, and assessor during the course of a PBL project. The chapter also discusses typical problems and obstacles that an instructor is likely to face when using PBL, and strategies that address them. In sum, Chapter Four seeks to provide the novice PBL instructor with the conceptual and practical tools needed to prepare for using PBL successfully in the classroom. Chapter Five focuses on the integration of PBL and learning technologies. While learning technologies are increasingly ubiquitous in higher education, influential critics continue to question whether they are achieving results worthy of the required investment.2 We assert, along with others, that problem-based learning provides a useful pedagogical framework for employing technologies in the service of learning.3 Moreover, we believe that higher education programs claiming to educate professionals in virtually any field today (e.g., management, engineering, architecture, medicine, nursing etc.) ignore the role of technology in work at their own risk. At the same time, however, the role of a professional school is not to serve as a training center in technology. Therefore, we argue for an integrated approach in which students learn to use relevant technologies in the course of solving relevant business problems. Chapter Five presents a framework for thinking about how technologies can be integrated into PBL projects. We provide specific examples from projects that we have developed and used. Chapter Six examines the role of student assessment in a PBL environment. When studying in a PBL environment, students work towards developing theoretically informed, practical solutions to significant business problems. However, their solutions are seldom expressed in the format of an academic paper or even a case analysis. Instead, students express their solutions in terms of performances and products. Solutions expressed in terms of a performance could take the form of an employee selection interview, a supervisory conference, or a formal presentation of a strategy plan. Solutions expressed in terms of a product could take the form of a corporate website, an e-marketing strategy, or a memo to the HR Director. The form of the solution performance or product reflects, to the greatest extent possible, the manner in which the problem solution would be expressed in the workplace. This requirement challenges learners to transform theoretical conclusions into practical, feasible realistic solutions. These conditions place a much higher premium on the use of high quality methods of assessment than is the case in traditional classrooms. Instructors must, therefore, learn to use more comprehensive and powerful approaches designed explicitly for performance-based assessment. This chapter provides an introduction to the types of assessment problems that PBL instructors face, as well as tools and strategies they can employ to ensure that assessment serves the purpose of learning. Chapter Seven looks at problem-based learning as an approach to curriculum design. While it is possible for an individual instructor to use PBL effectively in a classroom, the true power of this learning method is achieved when we employ PBL as a curriculum approach. This does NOT mean that we believe the entire management curriculum should be comprised of PBL projects! Indeed, we argue strongly against that approach. Nonetheless, we do believe that a coordinated


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approach to curriculum design that enables students how to learn in a PBL environment offers numerous advantages over a stand-alone approach. In this chapter, we delineate a variety of curricular alternatives for employing PBL in a higher education curriculum. We discuss the pros and cons of these alternatives, and offer examples of how problem-based curricula can be organized to increase its impact. Chapter Eight builds upon the prior chapters by providing an examination of PBL implementation in a Master of Management curriculum at a specific institution, the College of Management at Mahidol University in Thailand. Although the chapter is written in the form of a case study, we also draw upon our experience implementing PBL at Vanderbilt and Stanford Universities in the USA, as well as consulting to program implementers at other universities in North America, Asia and Australia. The Chapter provides insight into key issues concerning materials development, use of PBL in the classroom, student assessment, the changing role of faculty and students, resistance to change, and curriculum design and organization. We do not believe that one best model of PBL implementation exists; local factors will always determine the optimal curriculum approach for any specific program. Since no two institutions are likely to implement PBL in the same manner, our perspective on implementation seeks to inform the reader of predictable issues and obstacles to consider before setting out on the path of curricular and instructional change.

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For examples of PBL used in medical education please see Barrows, H. & Tamblyn, R. (1980). Problem-based learning: An approach to medical education. New York: Springer. Boud, D. & Feletti, G. (1991). The challenge of problem-based learning. New York: St. Martin’s press. Colliver, J. (2000). The effectiveness of problem-based learning curricula: Research and Theory. Academic Medicine, 75, 259-266. See Cuban, L. (2003). Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Se also Stoll, C. (1995). Silicon snake oil: Second thoughts on the information highway. New York: Doubleday. See for example, Harris, T., Bransford, J., & Brophy, S. (2002). Role for learning sciences and learning technologies in biomedical engineering education: A review of recent advances. Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering, 4, 29-48.


CHAPTER 1 PREPARING ‘MANAGERS FOR ACTION’

In this chapter we introduce what we mean by ‘preparing managers for action’ and how problem-based learning addresses this goal of management education. We place this discussion within the changing context of organizations and management education. We identify five imperatives that have emerged from this context in recent years and elaborate on the role problem-based learning can play in meeting these imperatives.

INTRODUCTION Over sixty years ago, Charles Gragg, one of the originators of case teaching at the Harvard Business School, stated: “Education in the professions should prepare students for action.”1 As teachers of management, we have long shared Gragg’s value concerning the importance of this purpose of education. Indeed, our initial interest in problem-based learning (henceforth referred to in this volume as ‘PBL’) during the 1980s resulted from our own search for approaches to teaching and learning that met this criterion for education in the professions. Our subsequent experience using PBL management education programs in North America, Australia and Asia reinforces our belief in its efficacy as an approach that prepares ‘managers for action.’ In this book we share what we have learned from our experience using PBL in management education,2 as well as from research on the use of PBL in higher education in general3 and management education in particular.4 More specifically, this volume explores and documents how problem-based learning can be employed to ‘prepare managers for action.’ In this chapter we discuss the changing context of management in this era of globalization and the implications for management education. We assert that the changing global context of organizations has created a new, more ambitious set of goals for higher education programs that seek to prepare management professionals. This changing context has given rise to several imperatives to which higher educational institutions must respond if they are to make relevant, meaningful contributions to society. These imperatives demand experimentation as well as implementation of innovative educational approaches such as problem-based learning. The adoption of innovations like problem-based learning requires investment of significant resources whether we are talking in terms of institutions, programs, or individual faculty members. There must, therefore, be a significant reason to undertake such programmatic changes. For those considering the adoption of problem-based learning (PBL), we seek to clarify two issues in this chapter: 5


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First, what are the educational imperatives emerging from this changing context of organizations and management education? Second, how does problem-based learning address these emerging needs?

However, before proceeding further we would like to clarify a key assumption underlying this entire volume. Although we believe that PBL represents a potentially powerful approach to preparing ‘managers for action,’ at no point do we advocate for others to employ PBL as the only method of teaching and learning for use in all schools, by all instructors, and for all subject matter. PBL is one of a number of approaches that, used skillfully, enables us to meet the ambitious goal of preparing ‘managers for action.’ In this book, we hope to clarify not only the range of ways in which we can employ PBL in management education programs, but also the conditions that bear on its effectiveness. PBL may not be suitable for all subjects or learning objectives. Moreover, factors such as program and course goals, time duration of the lesson, learner readiness or learning style, class size, instructor skill, and facility configuration also weigh on the decisions of whether, when, and to what extent to incorporate PBL into a management curriculum. Thus, we assert that educators should strive towards employing a variety of instructional approaches that actively engage students in learning to think and do. In our schools, we are quite eclectic in our selection of active learning methods. These include case teaching, project-based learning, inquiry learning, simulation, reflection, Socratic questioning, cooperative learning, observation, and role play. We believe that even teacher-directed instruction (i.e., lecture and discussion) can be effective when conducted skillfully with a learner-centered orientation.5 THE CHANGING CONTEXT OF MANAGEMENT EDUCATION A Continuing Crisis in Higher Education Even a casual reading of the literature could lead one to conclude that higher education has been in a constant state of crisis over the past 50 years.6 Claiming the existence of a ‘crisis’ is a tried and true way of attracting attention. Nonetheless, the focal issues intertwined with this ‘crisis’ have changed in recent years, especially in professional schools. As suggested above, we began our own exploration of problem-based learning almost 20 years ago, inspired by PBL pioneers in medical education. Many of the concerns expressed about the state of medical education at that time seemed, in our view, equally relevant to management education.7 Critiques of medical education during the 1980s included the following main points. Ɣ Studies indicated that medical graduates tended to forget a large portion of the knowledge base included in their coursework by the time of graduation; this was attributed largely to instructional methods that focused on memorization and development of basic understanding of bodies of functional knowledge.


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Doctors lacked skills in applying what they had learned to people; this was attributed, at least in part, to a medical curriculum that was organized around academic disciplines with distal linkages to the problems that patients present to doctors. There was a growing perception among the public that doctors did not “care” for their patients; this was linked to a lack of attention to the development of attitudes and skills in working effectively with clients. Leaders in the field of medicine feared that doctors were ill-prepared for the independent, continuing learning necessary in a context where the knowledge base was changing rapidly; this was related to educational approaches that made the learner overly dependent upon the teacher and which failed to prepare future physicians for life-long learning.

These critiques were accepted widely enough in the medical education community to result in major revisions to university curricula and the adoption of new teaching methods. Problem-based learning was one of the significant educational innovations adopted by medical schools in response to these critiques. During the 1980s and 1990s, leading higher medical schools around the world (e.g., Harvard University in the USA, McMaster University in Canada, and Maastricht University in the Netherlands among many others) implemented problem-based learning as the major organizing feature of their medical education curriculum. During this same period, business schools were largely shielded from this crisis. There was a rapidly expanding demand for management education across the globe. This reduced pressures for innovation and change and led to a higher degree of comfort and self-satisfaction among business schools. More recently, however, a series of critiques of MBA programs have appeared from influential sources. These have called into question the quality of MBA education.8 The tenor o the comments recall some of the criticisms lodged against medical education 20 years ago. For example, Henry Mintzberg questioned whether management programs are producing graduates with the right stuff to manage people and organizations for results.9 His critique included the following points: Ɣ Many MBA students enter their programs with an insufficient base of Ɣ Ɣ

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experience upon which to develop the ‘wisdom of practice’ that should be a fundamental outcome of a Master Degree program in management. In the absence of students with significant management experience, graduate programs teach what the faculty members know best, their own academic disciplines. This results in an MBA curriculum that is organized around the delivery of functional knowledge (i.e., marketing, economics, decision science,

finance) and which emphasizes the development of skills in analysis and calculating. “Conventional MBA students graduate with the impression that management is analysis, specifically the making of systematic decisions and the formulation of deliberate strategies.”


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Graduates are, therefore, often ill prepared for the predominant ‘work of managers’ which involves solving messy, value-laden, ambiguous problems 10 that often have no clear solution.

Warren Bennis and James O’Toole, eminent management scholars for the past several decades, weighed in with a scathing critique of conventional MBA programs. Their critique has been summarized as follows: [T]hey argue that: business schools are too focused on ‘scientific’ research; are hiring professors with limited real-world experience; and graduating students who are ill equipped to wrangle with complex, unquantifiable issues (Bennis and O'Toole, 2005, p. 96). They call the reality of business – the “stuff of management”. They also contend that when applied to business – where judgments are made with messy and incomplete data – statistical and methodological wizardry can blind rather than illuminate (Bennis and O'Toole, 2005, p. 99). Furthermore, they comment that the problem is not that business schools have embraced scientific rigor but that they have forsaken other forms of knowledge (Bennis and O'Toole, 2005, p. 102). Topics that may be addressed are: the scientific model versus the professional model from other intellectual angles and cultural settings; the competence and the knowledge of business schools; the contribution of business education to business practice; the purpose of business school; what is taught – how and why – at business schools; the influence from academic journals on business school curriculum; and the tenure and reward structures in academia.11

James Heskett, a noted management professor at Harvard University, concluded that management schools must address fundamental questions of effectiveness and relevance. Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves a number of questions. First, have business schools in general lost their relevance? Are they preparing graduates in useful ways for careers in management? If there is room for improvement, can it be achieved within the "academy," where business schools seem to be caught in a tug-of-war between the "scientific" and "professional" models? Or will it increasingly be achieved in the institutions created and run by large business enterprises to train not only their own employees but those of other organizations as well? What do you think?12

As in the domain of medical education, these critiques highlight the tension that exists among the interests of faculty, the expectations of students, the goals of the university, and the needs of employers. While no consensus has emerged in response to these critiques, they have stimulated the leaders of business schools to reconsider the goals of graduate education programs in management. The Changing Goals of Management Education Management education exists within a broader societal context. Graduates go on to work for a broad range of private and public sector organizations. Hopefully they add value, gained in part from their education, to their organizations and society. As


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such, higher education programs must respond to changing societal demands in order to remain relevant and competitive. With this in mind, it is clear that management education has operated in a global context of rapid change that has accelerated since the early 1990s.13 The sources of these changes include the following. Ɣ Growth and integration of a global, increasingly free-market economy has raised the standard of competition in all sectors that provide goods and services. Ɣ Greater openness of political systems among nation states has increased access to global information and facilitated cross-border business. Ɣ Developments in information technologies have fundamentally changed the way in which business is conducted allowing for less expensive communication, easier sharing of information, and greater efficiencies in production and management of goods and services. These change forces have brought about fundamental changes to the ways in which organizations are managed. For example, over the past decade we find the following management trends increasing in global prevalence: Ɣ Transacting business across national boundaries has become a fact of life, not just for large corporations but also for small and medium size enterprises (SMEs).14 Ɣ Organizations have undertaken redesign in response to more open competition, increasingly adopting more diverse organizational structures.15 Ɣ There has been an increased emphasis on entrepreneurship as an engine of global economic growth.16 Ɣ Technology has become an enabling force, allowing organizations to manage and exploit information more effectively and comprehensively.17 Ɣ The recognition that ethical crises and environmental problems located in a single nation or organization become magnified in a global society has led to greater emphasis on moral leadership and social responsibility.18 Ɣ There has been an increased emphasis on linking corporate goals with human resource practices, especially through the use of performance measurement and management.19 Ɣ Knowledge has come to be viewed as a key currency of organizations, one that requires proactive management.20 Ɣ Capacities for innovation and change have become competencies that distinguish organizations that thrive vs. ones that flounder in the midst of a turbulent environment.21 These changes in the management of organizations call for managers who possess a broader set of both leadership and management capacities. In response, educational institutions will need to undertake significant adaptations in the


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management curriculum. The first area of adaptation concerns program goals. In our view, today’s management curriculum must address the following: Ɣ Problem-solving skills and attitudes: Confidence to take on problems as opportunities, as well as the ability to think systematically, analytically, critically, and creatively. Ɣ Global perspective: A broad perspective based on an understanding of issues and opportunities in both the local and global environments. Ɣ Leadership competencies: The ability to work collaboratively in creating a vision for the organization, developing a socially responsible strategy for implementation, and motivating others to join in working towards its achievement. Ɣ Management competencies: Ability to use skills in managing projects, resources and business processes to achieve results efficiently. Ɣ Ethical judgment and decision-making: Awareness of the ethical impact of decisions and the importance of values in managing people and organizations in a diverse, global society. Ɣ Adaptability, self-reflection, and personal development: Understanding ones’ own value orientation, developing a capacity for reflection, and cultivating skills and attitudes that support lifelong learning. Ɣ Communication: Ability to communicate effectively, orally and in writing, in working with culturally diverse audiences. Ɣ Functional knowledge: A comprehensive knowledge of the functional areas of management including the ability to employ relevant social science theories and craft knowledge in managing organizations. Ɣ Managing information and technologies: Knowledge of and ability to plan for and use information technologies as tools for productive management of organizations. While neither universal nor all-inclusive, these competencies represent increasingly accepted goals for graduate management education. We wish to highlight several features of these goals. First, they are considerably more ambitious than those delineated for management education in the past. No longer is preparing graduates with knowledge about management considered sufficient. Knowledge, thinking, attitudes, values, skills, and the ability to act upon them are all grist in the 21st century management education mill. Second, as a consequence of globalization, these goals are rapidly converging into a set of global expectations for graduate management education. A decade ago, futurist Kenichi Ohmae observed that consumers around the world are developing similar expectations about what they ought to be able to buy as well as about what it is they want to buy.22 This global trend now applies to education as well as restaurants, hotels, hotels and airlines. Educational content, quality and modes of delivery are increasingly scrutinized through a common ‘global lens’ by consumers and accrediting agencies. Finally, these increasingly ambitious, global goals are challenging the effectiveness of the “core technologies” traditionally employed by higher education programs over the past century. Management education programs, like those in the


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field of medical education, must seek innovative methods of achieving these goals. This changing context has created an emergent set of imperatives for management education in the 21st century. FIVE IMPERATIVES FOR 21ST CENTURY MANAGEMENT EDUCATION In designing management education for this changing context, we have identified five imperatives that demand our attention. They include the following: 1. Learn to ‘manage for action’ 2. Learn to think globally and apply knowledge locally 3. Learn to lead and to manage 4. Learn how values, emotions and ethics underlie leadership 5. Learn to integrate technology into management practice. The 1st Imperative: Learn to Manage for Action Some critics maintain that the emphasis on analysis and calculation prevalent in MBA programs produces graduates who suffer from ‘analysis paralysis’.23 Students, well versed in business cases, often believe that the job is done when they have finished their analysis, drawn conclusions and made recommendations for solution. In fact, they have no idea how to act on the analysis. Yet, this lack of capacity to act is seldom revealed because our expectations do not extend to this level of knowledge application. Saying ‘what they would do’ seems insufficient to us as a goal for management education. Learning to ‘manage for action’ reflects Gragg’s normative admonition that education in the professions should emphasize the application of knowledge.24 We note recent work in the cognitive sciences that has begun to define the conditions that make ‘learning for action’ possible.25 John Bransford, for example, elaborates on the learning conditions and processes that enable students to “use knowledge as a tool” for problem-solving.26 We shall discuss these conditions in Chapters Two and Four, as well as the ways in which problem-based learning achieves them. For the purpose of this chapter, however, we limit our discussion to an explanation of what we mean by learning to ‘manage for action.’ Phrases such as ‘managing for action’ and ‘using knowledge as a tool’ reflect our belief that students should learn how to transform the fruits of analysis into practical actions. By using the phrase, managing for action, we are suggesting that students be able to demonstrate the capacity to: Ɣ Analyze and define problems thoroughly and systematically; Ɣ Search for knowledge that is relevant to the problem from formal and informal sources; Ɣ Consider the contextual conditions that impact on the use of that knowledge; Ɣ Identify and develop solutions that are well-informed, practical, and justifiable in light of the information and assumptions provided; Ɣ Enact their solutions and experience the consequences;


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Ɣ

Reflect productively on what they learned from their experience.

The last two bullet points represent the distinctive, value-added contributions that we contend professional education programs should strive towards. Indeed, in the world of work, the greatest learning often occurs when our solution does not turn out as we expected. This causes us to stop and rethink our definition of the problem, as well as the conditions that might have affected the implementation of our solution. Although this type of reflection leads to far deeper understanding and learning, it is more difficult to achieve when the students lack real world experience. This was a central premise of Mintzberg’s critique of MBA education.27 PBL seeks to foster the capacity to ‘manage for action’ in several ways. We describe these at length in subsequent chapters. In brief, they include: Ɣ Placing students in self-managing project teams through which they are able to experience a variety of leadership and team member roles; Ɣ Transforming the classroom into a project environment in which students set goals, manage and delegate work tasks, collaborate in finding relevant knowledge resources, address team problems, and achieve results under tight time constraints; Ɣ Using this project environment as a ‘crucible’ in which students experience the frustrations, pressures, joys and other emotional states that characterize the work context of the manager; Ɣ Requiring students to implement, to the greatest extent possible, the conclusions and recommendations that they draw from their problem analysis. The PBL methodology is discussed in detail in Chapter Two. For the purposes of this chapter, we only wish to illustrate how PBL seeks to bridge the gap between analysis and action. As in a business case, each PBL project presents a problem(s) that requires solution. In a PBL project, however, student teams are responsible for delivering an authentic product or performance that demonstrates or conveys the recommended solution. To the greatest extent possible within the constraints of the classroom setting, this product or performance takes the form in which the solution would be expressed in the workplace. Examples of solution products include a memo, strategic plan, website, or emarketing strategy. Examples of performances include presentation of a strategy, role play of employee selection interview, role play of a supervisory conference, simulation of an organizational change, or a management of a meeting. Readers may feel, at first glance, that our emphasis on implementation is overly simplistic or contrived. We ask you to keep an open mind on this point. We discuss the nature, range and use of these solution products in Chapters Two, Three and Four. We provide in-depth descriptions of their use in the PBL projects that comprise Part II of the book. At this point, suffice it to say that this orientation towards transforming solutions into actions has numerous implications. For example, by placing the solution in the form used in the workplace, students are required to think about the solution in quite different terms. They immediately begin to place more emphasis on issues of practicality and feasibility. Performance-based solutions are especially effective at


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placing students in a position where they must face the consequences of their actions. Thus, even when the product or performance is contrived, it begins to bridge the chasm between learning to analyze and learning to manage for action. By way of example, we may refer to a leadership case, Helen’s Awkward Problem28 that we have used both as a “case” and as a “PBL project.” As a business case, the students confront a management problem that has occurred in the workplace, refer to leadership theory to inform their analysis, draw conclusions as to causes, and offer recommendations for solution. After redesigning this business case as a PBL project, we ask students to convey their solutions through a product or performance. Sometimes we have asked students to write a memo (i.e., a product) from the manager to her supervisor that conveys the recommended decision solution. At other times, we have asked students to engage in a role play of a supervisory intervention (i.e., a performance) between the manager and the staff member who is presenting the problem. We expect that it would be easy for the reader to imagine how the role play of a supervisory conference could lead students towards the goal of learning to manage for action. The students must translate their theoretically-informed solution into practical actions that include effective use of verbal and non-verbal behavior. Moreover, in the case of this performance, they must respond to what the staff member has to say (e.g., anger, verbal abuse, stalking out of the room). Unlike a piece of paper, the employee can talk back! Perhaps less obvious to the reader, however, is the extent to which the requirement to convey the solution in a one-page memo causes students to place their solution in a more active perspective. Especially among students lacking significant management experience, we are continually shocked at the gap in understanding that is revealed when students are asked to transform formal analysis into an action-oriented memo. Some of the common errors include: Ɣ Incorrectly translating the theoretical solution into a decision; Ɣ Mistaking the nature of the management action that is implied by the theoretically-informed conclusion; Ɣ Writing in an academic style rather than getting to the point; Ɣ Writing from the point of view of the writer rather than the reader, thereby emphasizing the wrong points; Ɣ Failing to consider contextual and psychological factors that will impact on the supervisor’s acceptance of the recommended decision; Ɣ Failing to show the supervisor how an otherwise excellent recommendation will be feasible and practical; Ɣ Failing to consider the legal consequences of the memo’s wording and the memo as a business document. These weaknesses are revealed simply by asking for a one page memo instead of a case analysis. Since we also ask students to provide their back-up analysis as an attachment, we are able to see clearly how well students are able to translate their conclusions and recommendations into practical terms. The frequency with which we have found a significant gap between the two has convinced us of the importance of incorporating an implementation focus if we want students to learn to


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‘manage for action.’ Other performances and products serve similar purposes of stimulating students to consider the implementation of their solutions and to experience the consequences of their actions. The 2nd Imperative: Learn to Think Globally and Apply Knowledge Locally As the global economy became increasingly integrated during the 1990s, developing economies around the world began to experience an expanding demand for professional managers. In many developing nations, local educational institutions simply did not possess the necessary infrastructure to meet this increasing demand for management education. This resulted in the rapid expansion of multinational higher education, as Business Schools from North America, Europe and Australia rushed to meet this demand by offering programs globally. 29 These multinational education programs have tended to offer their standard curriculum through a variety of delivery modes. Ɣ A few programs have relied entirely upon their own full-time faculty members for delivery on-site in the foreign country, sometimes using the facilities of a local university partner. Ɣ Some programs have used their own full-time faculty members, along with qualified faculty members supplied by local university partners (e.g., Kellogg and Wharton Business Schools have used this approach widely). Ɣ Some schools have used one of the above models in concert with online learning. Ɣ Some programs have been delivered 100% on-line using the internet, books and supplementary CD ROMs (e.g., Herriott Watt Business School). Ɣ More recently, some institutions have set up their own subsidiary units in foreign countries (e.g., the Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago in Singapore). Management students attending classes in their home environment have been willing to pay the higher fees charged by overseas institution due to a perception that they are receiving a “world class product.” They are buying the brand. The quality guarantee of these programs is symbolized in the foreign (i.e., Western) university’s internationally recognized and accredited management curriculum, the use of international (i.e., largely North American) English-language knowledge resources (i.e., textbooks, cases, electronic databases), and the use of high reputation faculty members. It is not our purpose here to critique these developments in general, but rather to focus on a single feature that we refer to as the global-local imperative. The global-local imperative for management education concerns the need to develop the capacity of graduates to apply knowledge to the types of management problems they are likely to encounter in their current and future work contexts. We agree with Mintzberg’s contention that the knowledge base that skillful managers employ is a best described as a form of craft knowledge.30 This is not to say that managerial problem-solving cannot benefit from knowledge grounded in the social


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sciences. However, in practice, effective managers blend craft knowledge drawn from experience (their own and that of others) with an understanding of their organizational context, their personal values, and formal knowledge. With this in mind, the global-local imperative encompasses two underlying assumptions: Ɣ First, management education should expose students not only to the business problems included in standard texts and curricula, but also to problem scenarios built around the types of problems they are likely to encounter in their local contexts. Ɣ Second, management education should enable students to learn how to critically appraise knowledge and the conditions that bear upon its application in their local context. The global-local imperative suggests that the knowledge base that underlies management does not exist as a commodity to be bought and sold across borders like auto parts or soybeans. Its meaning and utility are only constructed and activated when introduced into a particular socio-cultural context. We contend that management education has an obligation that goes beyond the simple delivery of a reputable North American or European curriculum. A world class curriculum should take into account the application of knowledge for the context in which it will be applied. By voicing these assertions, we do not mean to suggest that business problems drawn from ‘foreign’ contexts cannot play a useful role in the education of managers. Certainly, they can. However, we argue in this volume that management is a socially constructed activity; as such management learning must take into account the local environment as an important variable. For example, consider that the use of practices encompassed under performance management. A business case built around a problem concerning performance management would look quite different in New York, Tokyo, Bangkok and Berlin. The cultural differences embedded in these contexts impact not only on the case analysis, but also on the implementation of a solution. The global-local imperative suggests that the business curriculum needs to be localized to varying degrees in different knowledge domains. Problem-based learning is one approach that offers the possibility of meeting this imperative. PBL accomplishes this by constructing portions of the curriculum around problems that are meaningful in the local business context. Part II of this volume provides sample PBL projects, each of which has been adapted for the Asian context in which it is being used. Several of these projects were already adapted from PBL materials developed in the USA (e.g., see Chapters Nine and Fourteen). Moreover, these and other projects could be similarly adapted for use in the context of other developing nations. PBL is not, however, the only means by which we may address the global-local imperative. Cases, simulations and many other methods can be employed as well. We contend that the method should be judged by the end results: are students developing the capacity to apply knowledge in their work and in their lives?


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Indeed, we see the global-local imperative for management education heading in a new direction. Up to now, Western universities have been able to market their MBA degrees with little or no adaptation to the context of developing countries. While the top ranked schools will no doubt be able to continue on this path, we see both ethical and practical reasons for change in the future. Ethically, universities should take those steps that are in the best interests of their students. Practically, multinational educational institutions that fail to localize their curricula will, over time, lose out to those that do. The 3rd Imperative: Learn to Lead and to Manage Sixty years ago management was defined as the process of planning, leading organizing, directing and control of human, material and fiscal resources with the aim of achieving the organization’s goals. Management has been characterized as focusing on identifying and using the most efficient approaches – the right ways – of achieving the organization’s goals. Critiques of management as a concept have focused on the fact that this drive for efficiency can make untenable assumptions about the ends towards which the organization is working. These critiques have contributed to increased interest in the leadership roles of education managers. Leadership has been characterized as determining the right ends towards which the organization will focus its financial and human resources. Given the rapidly changing business environment of the past two decades, it should come as no surprise that leadership has attained a degree of ascendancy over management. Influential management scholars, (e.g., March, Bennis, Kotter, Peters, Drucker, and Deal) contend that during times of rapid change capacities for leadership come to the fore.31 Leadership is fundamentally concerned with seeking opportunities, setting direction, and motivating stakeholders to strive towards their accomplishment. Leadership is considered necessary for successful change at the organizational level. It would also be accurate to observe that the current interest in leadership derives from the belief that there is a moral crisis in organizational life.32 Leadership involves the definition and explication of values that underlie the direction of the organization. It is, however, highly simplistic to believe that only the capacities to define the vision and motivate people are sufficient for successful goal achievement. We assert that strengthening management knowledge and skills is essential if leadership is to achieve the vision defined for the organization. Twenty-five years ago James G. March described this necessary balance between artful leadership and competent management as “creating bus schedules with footnotes from Kierkegaard.”33 He observed: Elementary competence in organizational life is often under-rated as a factor in managerial effectiveness when we write against a background of concern for the issues of great leadership. . . Much of what distinguishes a good bureaucracy from a bad one is how well it accomplishes the trivia of day-to-day relations with clients.34


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As we shall elaborate in Chapter Two, Bridges, identified “socialization of future administrators to unrealistic expectations of the role” as a common design flaw in preparation programs.35 He noted that the propensity of programs to focus on overly lofty conceptions of leadership dimensions of the administrator’s role created a gap between socialized expectations and the reality of the job. This led Bridges to call for preparation programs to ground their design in a realistic assessment of the managerial role, one that incorporates both leadership and management competencies.36 In subsequent chapters we discuss in detail how problem-based learning addresses this imperative by integrating the development of management and leadership knowledge and skills into the learning process. Students work in project teams under time constraints to solve management problems (think of these as action-oriented cases). During this process of learning in self-managing teams, students gain experience through enacting leadership roles and tasks, including goalsetting, team-building and conflict management. Each PBL case, or what we term a project, also requires students to apply and refine selected management skills. The specific skills (e.g., project management, meeting management, and written communication, decision-making) vary project by project depending upon the nature of the problem scenario and the learning objectives of the instructor. The 4th Imperative: Learn how values, emotions and ethics underlie leadership More than 30 years ago, Henry Mintzberg contrasted the folklore and fact of managing organizations.37 After observing the actual work of managers, he drew the simple but powerful conclusion the work of the manager is as much or more about managing people and their emotions as it is about planning and analysis. This “fact of management life” is even truer at the junior and middle management levels inhabited by recent MBA graduates. Bridges extended Mintzberg’s conclusions in a critique of management education in which he explicitly contrasted the nature of the managerial role with the role of a student encompassed in administrative preparation programs. As we elaborate in Chapter Two, this critique identified a wide gap between the importance of emotions in managerial work and the attention devoted to these issues in management education programs. Simply stated, preparation programs either ignore the emotional side of management entirely or treat it as a “topic” for consumption in a management or organizational behavior course. Moreover, most university programs emphasize affective neutrality and discourage emotional displays; cognition, not emotion, is the currency of the realm. In contrast, management jobs are heavy on emotional labor, that is, managing one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. More recently the concept of emotional intelligence has gained greater currency in management education. Nonetheless, the fact remains that traditional forms of instruction offer little leverage in doing more than helping students learn about the topic of emotional intelligence and its role in achieving results through people. We would draw similar conclusions concerning the critically important role of ethics and values in the work of the manager. Some schools seek to teach values and


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ethics directly in courses. Problem-based learning offers an alternative approach for engaging students in the consideration of ethical issues. Many of the problem scenarios that students face in a PBL curriculum have ethical, value-based dimensions. In some instances, the ethical issues arise out of features of the problem scenario itself. In the Stanford program, for example, students learn skills in problem framing through exposure to a variety of messy, complex problems. They learn to distinguish problems from dilemmas (i.e., problems that derive from possibly irresolvable value conflicts). Ethical and value-oriented issues may also arise out of the process of students working together to carry out the PBL project. While working as a team, students will face the conflicts that accompany diversity of thinking, background and values. This is often the case when the team is faced with making decisions about “what we should do.” As we elaborate in Chapters Two and Four, PBL creates a context for learning about these dimensions of leading people. The learning process incorporates a structured process of goal-setting, team learning and experience, feedback, and selfreflection. We have designed the PBL environment as projects so that students who lead projects are likely to deal with a range of their own emotions (stress, disappointment, and the like), as well as the emotions (indifference, anger, aggressiveness, hostility, resistance etc.) of their “subordinates.” By experiencing and then reflecting upon value conflicts in their own teams, students begin to clarify the values that will drive their own decision-making, especially under conditions of ambiguity. This action-oriented approach to learning about the role of emotions, values, and ethics in managerial work grounds these important issues in the common experience of the students. So, for example, students do not view ethics or values as “curriculum topics” but rather as part and parcel of managing oneself and others in the workplace. The 5th Imperative: Learn to integrate technology into management practice During the past 15 years there has been a quiet revolution in the role and use of information for managing organizations. At the organizational level, Enterprise Resource Management (ERM) emerged as a new management concept during the 1990s. ERM views an organization and its activities as an integrated whole in which information acts as a form of connective tissue linking the activities of different business units. Advances in information technology during the 1990s moved the concept of ERM from theory to practical implementation. ERM empowers managers by enabling easier access to information throughout the organization. As such it has become a tool for mitigating the long-standing tendency for departments to function as silos, each holding separate stores of information. ERM offers potential for managing the firm in a cohesive, customerdriven manner. During the same short period of time, we have witnessed a wide range of software technologies become not only ubiquitous, but also essential to achieving greater efficiencies in the work of managers and staff. This is demonstrated in the


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rapidly expanding use of “basic software programs” such as word processing, spreadsheet, email, presentation, and internet packages, as well as more specialized software used for project management, web design, business intelligence and decision-making, statistical analysis, graphics, video editing etc. If we compare the extent and breadth of use of IT in the workplace today with just 10 years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine the extent to which managers have come to rely on software to accomplish the work of organizations. These changes in the use of technology in organizations have carried over to the work tasks of the manager as well. A decade ago, managers tended to delegate tasks accomplished with software to others. Today they are expected to perform many of those tasks (e.g., email communication) themselves. Similarly, today organizations expect managers to understand how to manage technology as a corporate resource. For example, Mark Lutchen, former CIO of PricewaterhouseCoopers, contends: If someone comes out of school but doesn’t know how to apply fundamental business disciplines to things like managing IT spending, or dealing with organizational and cultural changes in IT, then the school has met your needs. . . Most schools don’t provide a deep understanding of technology and how to use it.38

Thus we assert that preparation programs for managers should aim to develop several related skills in: Ɣ Identifying the information needs of the organization, Ɣ Developing an awareness of IT tools available for information management and decision-making, Ɣ Using analytical tools to explore and obtain insights from data, Ɣ Synthesizing facts into meaningful answers to a wide range of problems that impede organizations from achieving their goals, Ɣ Appreciating the need for and able to contribute to technology management. To attain these goals in IT usage and technology management requires that they be addressed in the basic management curriculum. While there are different approaches for accomplishing this, we believe in treating the use of technologies as a management skill that is as fundamental as meeting management or time management. We have found that PBL represents an excellent vehicle for this purpose. In the PBL portion of the curriculum at Mahidol University, we have identified a range of technology competencies that we believe our graduates should possess and integrated them into a number of PBL projects. We have highlighted the word integrate because the students learn to use relevant software (e.g., spreadsheet, project management) during the process of solving significant business problems that cut across the domains of finance, strategic management, marketing and organizational behavior. The advantage of this approach is that students learn to use IT as tool for problem-solving rather than as a stand-alone skill. The reason for learning to use the pivot table function of MS Excel as a tool is self-evident when one is faced with a corporate data set (see Chapter Ten). The utility of MS Project becomes similarly


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evident when students teams are trying to manage a complex project with limited time. Understanding the use of e-commerce and web design software packages, even at a basic level, takes on a different meaning when students are engaged in designing an e-marketing strategy and web-based sales and marketing platform for a firm (see Chapter Twelve). In Chapter Five, we discuss how we have sought to integrate information technology and technology management skills into a PBL curriculum. The chapters comprising Part II of the book provide specific examples of PBL projects that incorporate IT in various ways. CONCLUSION The purpose of this book is to provide an in-depth examination of how problembased learning can be employed in management education. In this chapter, we have sought to lay the groundwork for the rest of the volume by introducing the concept of problem-based learning and discussing how it can be employed to prepare ‘managers for action’. We noted that the context of education has changed in recent years due especially to the forces of globalization. The new context of management education encompasses important changes both in the methods of managing organizations and in the goals and methods of education. This new context for management education is more demanding in terms of the types of competencies sought by employers among graduates. This new context has created a set of imperatives to which, we believe higher education programs must respond in order to remain relevant to the employers of our graduates and to society. These include: 1. Learn to ‘manage for action’; 2. Learn to think globally and apply knowledge locally; 3. Learn to lead and to manage, 4. Learn how values, emotions and ethics underlie leadership, 5. Learn to integrate technology into management practice. In this chapter, we briefly foreshadowed how PBL responds to these imperatives. In subsequent chapters we will elaborate on this theme in greater depth, showing how PBL can be employed as an approach to both curriculum design and teaching which fosters the capacity of graduates to ‘manage for action.’

NOTES

1

 Gragg, C. (1941, October 19). Because wisdom can’t be told. Harvard Alumni Bulletin, Reprinted by Harvard Business School, HBS Case #451-005, p. 12.


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Professor Bridges’ experience with PBL comes from his role in designing, managing and teaching a PBL-oriented Master degree program. Bridges was the founding Director of the Prospective Principals Program in the School of Education at Stanford University between 1988 and 2002. Between 1989 and 2000, Professor Hallinger used PBL in a general management program at Vanderbilt University at the Bachelor, Master and Doctoral levels, as well as in Executive Education programs. Since 2000, Hallinger has played a key role implementing PBL in a Master of Management program in his role as Chief Academic Officer at the College of Management, Mahidol University in Bangkok Thailand. Both authors have conducted training institutes and consulted to universities on PBL. 3  For example, see Colliver, J. (2000). Effectiveness of problem-based learning curricula. Research and theory. Academic Medicine, 75(3), 259-266. Gijbels, D., Dochy, F., Van den Bossche, P., & Segers, M. (2005). Effects of problem-based learning: A meta-analysis from the angle of assessment. Review of Educational Research, 75(1), 27-61.Smits, P., Verbeek, J., & De Buisonje, C. (2002). Problem-based learning in continuing medical education: A review of controlled evaluation studies. British Medical Journal, 321, 153-156. 4  For example, see Copland, M. (2000). Problem-based learning and prospective principals’ problem-framing ability. Educational Administration Quarterly, 36(4), 585-607. Habschmidt, B. (1990). Something old, something new, and the principal’s blues. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University. Walker, A., Bridges, E., & Chan, B. (1996). Wisdom gained, wisdom given: Instituting PBL in a Chinese culture. Journal of Educational Administration, 34(5), 12 – 31. Merchand, J. (1995). Problem-based learning in the business curriculum. An alternative to traditional approaches. In W. Gijselaers, D. Templaar, P. Keizer, E. Bernard, & H. Kasper (Eds.), Educational innovation in economics and business administration: The case of problembased learning. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer. 5  Saphier, J., & Gower, R. (1997). The skillful teacher: Building your teaching skills. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. 6 Altbach, P. (2000). The crisis in multinational higher education, International Higher Education, Newsletter of the Center for International Higher Education, Boston College, Boston, MA. Bennis, W., & O’Toole, J. (2005, May). How business schools lost their way. Harvard Business Review, 96-104. Bok, D. (1989). Needed: A new way to train doctors. In H. Schmidt and others (eds.), New directions in medical education. New York: Springer Verlag, 17-38. Kerr, C. (1982). AGB Reports, 25(4), 4-7. Bridges, E. (1977). The nature of leadership. In L. Cunningham, W. Hack, & R. Nystrand, Educational administration: The developing decades. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan, 202-230. Mintzberg, H. (2002). Managers, not M.B.A.s. San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler. Pfeffer, J., & Wong, C. (2004). The business school ‘business’: Some lessons form the US experience. Journal of Management Studies, 41(8), 1501-1520. Whitehead, A.N. (1955). The aims of education and other essays. In Northrup and Gross (eds.), Alfred North Whitehead: An Anthology. New York: MacMillan. Starkey, K., Hatchuel, A., & Tempest, S. (2004). Rethinking the business school. Journal of Management Studies, 41(8), 1521-1531. 7 Bok, op. cit. For in-depth discussion see Bridges, E. & Hallinger, P. (1993). Problembased learning in medical and managerial education. In P. Hallinger, K. Leithwood, & J. Murphy (Eds.), Cognitive perspectives on educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press.


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Cone, E. (2006, May 12). Management: IT education and the modern-day MBA. CIO/Insight, 1-4. Bennis & O’Toole, op. cit., Holstein, W. (2005, June 19). Are Business Schools failing the world? The New York Times, p. BU13. Mintzberg, op. cit., Pfeffer & Wong, op. cit. 9 Mintzberg, op. cit. 10  Ibid. p. 10. 11 Svensson, G., & Wood, G. (Eds.)(2006). Call for papers for special issue: Business Schools or Schools for Scholars? European Business Review. www.emeraldinsight.com/info/ journals/ebr/bs_cfp.jsp 12  Heskett, J, (2005, July 4). How can Business Schools be made more relevant? Harvard Business School Working Knowledge for Business Leaders, http://hbswk.hbs.edu/ item/4886.html 13  Mintzberg, op. cit. Naisbitt, J. (1997). Megatrends Asia. London: Nicholas Brealey. Ohmae, K. (1995). The end of the nation state: The rise of regional economies. New York: Free Press. Rohwer, J. (1996). Asia rising. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. 14 Naisbitt, op cit.; Ohmae, op. cit. 15  Mintzberg, H. (2002). Managers, not M.B.A.s. Ohmae, op cit. 16  Drucker, P. (1995). Managing in a time of great change. New York: Talley House, Dutton. 17  Drucker, P. (1998). The next information revolution. Forbes, 62(4), 47. 18  Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2004). Good business: Leadership, flow, and the making of meaning. New York: Penguin. Lockett, A., Moon, J., & Visser, W. (2006). Corporate social responsibility in management research: Focus, nature, salience and sources of influence. Journal of Management Studies, 43(1), 115-136. Windsor, D. (2006). Corporate social responsibility: Three key approaches. Journal of Management Studies, 43(1), 93-114. 19  Kaplan, R. (2004). Strategy maps: Converting intangible assets into tangible outcomes. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. 20  Buckman, R. (2004). Building a knowledge driven organization. New York: McGraw Hill. Stewart, T. (1997). Intellectual capital: The new wealth of organizations. New York, Doubleday. Stewart, T. (2001). The wealth of knowledge: Intellectual capital and the twenty-first century organization. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. 21  Op. cit., Drucker, 1995; Kotter, J. (2002). The heart of change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. O’Toole, J. (1995). Leading change. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Trompenaars, F. (2004). Managing change. London: Capstone Publishing Ltd. 22  Ohmae, K. (1995). The end of the nation state: The rise of regional economies. New York: Free Press. 23 24 25

 Bridges, op. cit.  Gragg, op. cit. See for example Bransford, J. (1993). Who ya gonna call? Thoughts about teaching problem-solving. In P. Hallinger, K. Leithwood & J. Murphy (Eds.), Cognitive perspectives on educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press, 171-191. Bransford, J., Franks, J., Vye, N., & Sherwood, R. (1989). New approaches to instruction: Because wisdom can't be told. In S. Vosniadou & A. Ortony (Eds.), Similarity and analogical reasoning (470-497). New York: Cambridge University Press. Wagner, R. (1993). Practical problem-solving. In P. Hallinger, K. Leithwood & J. Murphy (Eds.),


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Cognitive perspectives on educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press, 88102. 26  Bransford et al., op. cit. 27 28

 Mintzberg, op. cit.  Cooley, G. (n.d.). Helen’s awkward problem. Case published by the Intercollegiate Case

Clearing House, Soldiers Field, Boston, Mass. 02163. Altbach, op. cit. Jackson, T. (2005). The competitive landscape of business education: Staying ahead of the curve. Presentation to the AACSB Conference on World Class Practices in Management Education, Sydney AUS. 30  See Mintzberg op. cit. Chapter One for an excellent discussion of the nature of the knowledge base in management education. 31  Drucker, 1995, 1998, op. cit.; Kotter, 2002, op. cit., Trompenaars, op. cit. 32  Brown, M. (1990). Working ethics. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. 33  March, J. G. (1978). American public school administration: A short analysis. The School Review, 86(2), 224. 34  Ibid., 223-224. 35  Bridges, op. cit. 36  Ibid. 37  Mintzberg, op. cit. 38  Quoted in Cone, op. cit., p. 1. 29


CHAPTER 2 PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING: A PROMISING APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT EDUCATION ABSTRACT In this chapter we introduce the reader to problem-based learning. We first seek to give the reader a sense of what PBL looks like in the classroom. Next we discuss the underlying rationale for PBL. We then define the essential features of PBL and distinguish this model of management education from the case method. Finally we discuss research on the outcomes of problem-based learning as used in higher education

INTRODUCTION Messy, real-life problems provide the starting point for learning in a radically transformed instructional environment that we refer to as problem-based learning, or PBL. The “students” – prospective and current managers – jointly decide how to deal with these problems. In the process of grappling with these real-world challenges, students acquire the knowledge and skills needed by managers who lead by facilitating collaboration and building consensus rather than by relying on formal authority. Problem-based learning, though a relative newcomer to the field of management education, has been use for more than two decades to prepare future physicians and other professionals.1 As one reads about how other fields are using PBL, one discovers that it comes in various forms. This variety stems in part from differences inherent in the professional roles for which the students are being prepared. Accordingly, the version of PBL discussed in this book reflects the nature of the role that students enact when they complete their professional training in management. This future role, as the reader will discover, influences a host of instructional decisions about goals, content, instructional process, and evaluation\. In discussing this version of PBL, we elaborate on the model, illustrate how we use it to prepare managers, contrast this approach with the case method, and discuss research findings on the use of PBL. PBL: THE MODEL PBL: What is it? To begin our discussion of problem-based learning, let us step inside three classrooms and listen to the instructors introduce the topic of employee selection. 25


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Classroom 1: Traditional Instruction Near the end of the class session, the instructor announces: That concludes our discussion of socialization in organizations. At our next meeting, we will discuss employee selection. In line with previous class discussions, you should come prepared to discuss the readings listed in your course syllabus. I want you to pay particular attention to the readings about two selection tools – the interview and the work sample – and the paper that discusses research on the effectiveness of various selection tools. I would also like you to think about how managers might use this material to design an employee selection process.

Classroom 2: Case Method of Instruction Near the end of the class session, the instructor announces: Having completed our reading and discussion about concerning approaches to employee selection and socialization, I want you to read the case, “Mr. Jones: A Case of Mistaken Identity.” This case describes the selection process that the XYZ Organization used when choosing Mr. Jones for an entry-level supervisor position, and what happened during his first year on the job. Come to class prepared to discuss the following: 1. What are Mr. Jones’ principal strengths and weaknesses? 2. Why does Mr. Jones seem to be doing so poorly? 3. How would you change the company’s selection process to increase the odds of choosing someone with the “right stuff”? 4. Be prepared to explain and justify your conclusions.

Classroom 3: Problem-Based Learning Near the end of the class session, the instructor announces: The materials in front of you describe your next PBL project on the topic of employee selection. You will have six class sessions (three hours each) to complete this project. You will need to organize yourselves into teams of four to six members per team. Each team should identify a team leader who will coordinate project activities with the instructor. In this project, your team is constituted as a selection committee for an entry-level supervisory position at XYZ Company. XYZ Co. has experienced a number of problems in recent months culminating in the resignation of a supervisor at one of its high profile branches (see the project specifications for details). In this project, you will design a selection process for this position, and then implement it with three final candidates. You will have to decide which candidate to recommend for the position. To assist you in designing the selection process, I have supplied a number of pertinent readings and guiding questions. If you look at the learning objectives in the project description, you will have a sense of what I expect you to learn from this experience. As with previous projects, I will act as an observer and a resource to the team. You, of course, will decide how you are going to complete your committee’s assignment and to accomplish the learning objectives. If you choose the right person for the job, you can spare yourself all the problems that result when you hire someone who does not possess “the right stuff” for the job.


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From the third example, we can see that problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional strategy that has the following characteristics: 1. The starting point for learning is a problem (that is, a stimulus for which an individual lacks a ready response). 2. The problem is one that students are apt to face as future professionals. 3. The knowledge that students are expected to acquire during their professional training is organized around problems rather than the disciplines. 4. Students, individually and collectively, assume a major responsibility for their own instruction and learning. 5. Most learning occurs in the context of small groups rather than lectures. There are two major versions of problem-based learning: problem-stimulated learning and student-centered learning.2 These two species of problem-based learning are defined primarily by the major goals of the curriculum and the extent to which the instructor or the student determines the learning objectives, the resources (e.g., references and relevant experts), and the modes of evaluation for each focal problem within the curriculum. We will define and discuss each of these versions in greater detail in Chapter Three. PBL: Why Use It? Our own interest in exploring the potential of PBL in preparing managers rests on cognitive, motivational and functional grounds. In the paragraphs that follow, we elaborate on these three grounds; they constitute our rationale for designing and using a problem-based learning strategy for preparing managers. Cognitive Grounds For more than 25 years, medical educators have used PBL extensively to train future physicians.3 The rationale for this approach rests, on four propositions that, in our judgment, apply with equal force to the preparation of management professionals. 1. Students retain little of what they learn when taught in a traditional lecture format.4 2. Students often do not know how to use the knowledge they have been taught. 3. Since students forget much of what is learned or use their knowledge inappropriately, instructors should create conditions that optimize retrieval and appropriate use of the knowledge in future professional practice. 4. PBL creates the three conditions that information theory links to subsequent retrieval and transfer of new information: activation of prior knowledge, similarity of contexts in which information is learned and later applied, and opportunity to elaborate on that information.5 Prior knowledge is activated when learners are asked to apply knowledge they already possess in order to understand new information. This prior knowledge, and the kind of cognitive structures in which it is stored, determine what is understood


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from the new experience and what is learned from it. In a PBL context, the instructor(s) select and sequence problems to ensure the activation of prior knowledge. The context in which information is learned should resemble, to the greatest extent practical, the types of contexts in which it will later be applied.6 We achieve this in problem-based learning by having students acquire knowledge in a functional context; that is, they learn in a context containing problems that closely resemble the problems they will encounter later in their professional careers. Moreover, students are asked to express their learning using tools and formats that are similar to those used in their professional role. The advantage of this approach is that students become more aware of how they can put the knowledge that they are acquiring to use. Adopting a problem-solving mentality, even when it is marginally appropriate, reinforces the notion that the knowledge is useful for achieving particular goals. Students are not being asked to store information away, but to see how it works in organizational situations. This increases accessibility of the knowledge in the future.7 Information is better understood, processed, and recalled if students have and opportunity to elaborate on that information. Elaborations provide redundancy in the memory structure, which in turn reduces forgetting and aids future retrieval. Elaboration occurs in problem-based learning in various ways, namely, discussing the subject matter with other students, teaching peers what they first learned themselves, exchanging views about how the information applies to the problem they are seeking to solve, and reflecting in writing on about what they have learned while seeking to solve the problem. Motivational Grounds According to expectancy theory, the effort that people are willing to expend on a task is a product of two factors. One factor is the degree to which they expect to be able to perform the task successfully if they apply themselves, and the other is the degree to which they value the rewards that successful performance will bring.8 In line with the tenets of expectancy theory, instructors should use motivational strategies that create preconditions that are essential to effective learning.9 Problem-based learning strives to create the essential preconditions for successfully using motivational strategies. The instructor creates a supportive learning environment by encouraging students to take risks, by praising students for their risk-taking attempts, and by treating mistakes and “failures” as learning opportunities. The instructor assigns tasks at the appropriate level of difficulty. This precondition is achieved by choosing projects that are neither too easy nor too difficult for the student and by gradually increasing the complexity of each project. The instructor chooses each PBL project with meaningful learning objectives in mind. Finally, the instructor uses a variety of strategies to stimulate student motivation. Some of the motivational strategies employed in PBL are discussed later in this section. To maintain students’ expectations of success, the PBL instructor underscores how the curriculum has been designed to promote success. Projects have been


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chosen and sequenced in such a way that students will acquire the basic skills they will need to succeed in this instructional environment. Moreover, each project contains a knowledge base and a set of guiding questions that may prove helpful to students as they attempt to deal with the focal problem. Finally, students are encouraged to draw on other resources to assist them in thinking through and solving the problem. Each successful completion of a PBL project strengthens the expectation that effort leads to success. To underscore the value of learning activities in a PBL curriculum, instructors may use extrinsic or intrinsic motivation strategies. An extrinsic motivation strategy links task performance to consequences that students value. These may take one of several forms: rewards for good performance, instrumental value in achieving future success, and rewards achieved through competition with others. In a PBL environment, we emphasize the instrumental value of learning activities. Each PBL project contains an explicit rationale that explains why the project was included in the curriculum. The rationale also discusses how the knowledge and skills that are emphasized in the project relate to the future tasks and role responsibilities of the manager. Intrinsic motivation strategies are based on the assumption that students will expend effort on tasks and activities they find inherently enjoyable and interesting, even when there are few extrinsic incentives. Each PBL project contains six elements that most students find enjoyable or intrinsically rewarding.10 1. Provides opportunities for active response. In each PBL project, students learn by engaging in tasks similar to those performed in the future professional role – leading, recording, discussing, facilitating, making decisions, developing and revising schedules, making oral presentations, holding conferences, and the like. 2. Includes higher-level objectives and divergent questions. At the heart of each PBL project are a problem to be solved, a situation to be analyzed, knowledge to be applied, alternatives to be evaluated, decisions to be made, and consequences to be forecast. All these tasks involve higher-order intellectual skills. The hallmark of PBL is the analysis, application and synthesis of knowledge, not simply recall. 3. Includes simulations. In a PBL environment, the instructor often incorporates simulations or role plays into the learning process. For example, the sample projects in Part II of the book challenge students to role play conferences, make presentations, implement changes, design a training program, resolve a conflict, handle in-basket items, and select staff members for a position. 4. Provides immediate feedback. In a PBL environment, instructors position themselves to observe students and how they are using the knowledge they are attempting to master. When it becomes clear that students either do not understand a particular concept or are unable to use it appropriately, the instructor can supply immediate corrective feedback. 5. Provides an opportunity to create workplace-like products. Most PBL projects conclude with a real-world product (for example, a memo to


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6.

the HR Director), or performance (such as coaching session with a staff member), or both. The expectation that they will transform their knowledge and solution into such products challenges students, heightens their level of concern, and creates an incentive to excel. Provides an opportunity to interact with peers. Since the basic unit of instruction in PBL is a project, students are required to interact extensively with their peers. Each student has a role on the project team and participates actively in accomplishing its objectives.

Functional Grounds In an earlier paper, Bridges11 analyzed the work of a student and the work of a manager along four dimensions: the rhythm of the work, the hierarchical nature of the work, the character of work-related communications, and the role of emotions in work. Based on this analysis, he concluded that there is a major disjunction between the work of a student and the work of a manager. He further contended that this disjunction may result in trained incapacity; in essence, to paraphrase Kenneth Burke, the student “becomes unfit by being fit for an unfit fitness.”12 Problem-based learning narrows the gap between the work of a student and the work of a manager in several ways; therefore, it is more likely to result in trained capacity rather than trained incapacity. With respect to the rhythm of the work, the tempo of a student’s work in a PBL environment more closely corresponds to the accelerated work pace of a manager than does the work of a student in a conventional instructional environment. Students work under time constraints to complete a problem-based learning project, and the time available is rarely sufficient. Moreover, the modes of thought and action that students use in a PBL environment differ from those that students use in conventional instruction. Time deadlines in the PBL environment force students to balance the need to understand (i.e., analysis) with the need to make decisions and act on the basis of incomplete information. Since students are judged on the feasibility of their actions, as well as on the thoroughness of their analysis, they are less likely to become victims of analysis paralysis. The nature of the work of a student in a PBL environment also more closely resembles the work of a manager. In a conventional instructional environment, students occupy subordinate roles in a hierarchical classroom structure. Their work is largely individualistic and competitive; the deficiencies of “fellow employees” enhance rather than diminish their standing in the class. The student’s work in a PBL environment is strikingly different. Students serve as team leaders, facilitators, and members of a project team. Through these experiences, students come to appreciate the dependency inherent in managerial roles, the necessity of delegating responsibilities to others, as well as the possibilities, difficulties, constraints, and frustrations inherent in trying to obtain results through other adults. The character of work-related communications contrasts sharply when comparing PBL and conventional instructional environments. In conventional instructional environments students spend most of their time in “relatively passive


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receiving� roles. They rely heavily on written communication using the impersonal language and detached style of the academician. Most of their communication is one-way communication. The character of work-related communication in a PBL environment more closely resembles that of the manager. PBL students, like managers, spend roughly equal amounts of time in sending and receiving roles, rely heavily on oral modes of communication, prepare written memos (the dominant form of written communication for managers), and work in small, face-to-face, interpersonal settings that are conducive to two-way communication. The role of emotions in work also is quite different in the two types of instructional environments. In a conventional instructional environment, students work in a relatively placid, emotional climate. Ideas, not feelings, are the currency of the realm. Affective neutrality is the dominant expressive state as it is congruent with the contemplative and scientific character of academic work. In a PBL environment, the emotional tone of the interpersonal environment is more varied and often jagged. Students, like the managers they aspire to be, encounter the emotional problems that inevitably arise when working with people. These occasions create opportunities for students to test their competence in interpreting and responding to the feelings of others. When projects go awry, students also acquire insights into how to the deal with frustration, anger, and disappointment. A DESIGN FOR USING PBL IN PREPARING MANAGERS Major Components Designing a management education program based on PBL requires one to consider five interrelated issues: 1. The realities of the workplace, 2. The goals, 3. The content, 4. The process by which the content is taught and learned, 5. Student evaluation. By attending to these five issues simultaneously, the program designer increases the likelihood that students will be able to transfer their newly acquired knowledge and skills to the work context. Realities of the Workplace Crafting an educational program rooted in the principles of PBL involves making several assumptions about realities of the workplace. As discussed in Chapter One, the world of work is changing rapidly. There is an increasingly accepted belief that organizations must be responsive to their stakeholders. Managers are expected to collaborate with a widening group of people (e.g., staff, boards, customers, suppliers etc.) who may span the globe. They need expertise in solving problems and in


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creating a work environment that effectively and humanely responds to the needs of increasingly diverse cultural groups. Moreover, the problems and the knowledge base relevant to these needs and problems are continually changing as well. Goals In light of these workplace realities, the following educational goals seem appropriate for prospective managers: 1. Familiarize prospective managers with the problems they are likely to face in the future. Such problems should be those with high impact; they affect a large number of individuals for a relatively long period. 2. Acquaint students with knowledge that is relevant to these high-impact problems. Such knowledge likely comes from a variety of disciplines, rather than from a single one. It also comes from global and local sources, as well as from theory, empirical research and the craft knowledge of practicing managers. 3. Foster skills in applying this knowledge. Since PBL assumes that knowing and doing are equally important, students should be provided with opportunities to use their knowledge and to test its utility in dealing with real problems. In the process of applying the knowledge, students discover gaps in their understanding and in their ability to use the knowledge. This awareness stimulates them to revisit conceptual material and to solidify their understanding. 4. Develop problem-solving skills. Since the character of future problems is somewhat unpredictable, attention must be paid to promoting skills in finding, framing, analyzing, and solving problems. Moreover, future managers need to learn how to distinguish between problems and dilemmas as well as acquiring strategies for addressing both. While problems generally contain no value conflicts, dilemmas do. Since dilemmas usually arise from competing values, they resist solution and are likely to surface repeatedly. Students should be able to distinguish between types of problems and understand the implications for solution. 5. Develop skills in implementing solutions. Consistent with the emphasis on doing as well as on knowing, students need opportunities to craft and implement proposed solutions. Simply analyzing a problem and discussing what one should do to solve it is insufficient. Implementation of a solution to a problem often proves more difficult than anticipated; moreover, the solution may bring about additional problems. Consequently, managers need to acquire skills in anticipating potential problems, assessing their seriousness, and developing preventive or contingency actions for dealing with potentially serious problems that may arise from their solutions. 6. Develop leadership skills that facilitate collaboration. Critical to collaboration are skills in planning and organizing projects, running


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8.

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meetings, achieving consensus, resolving conflict, making decisions, and listening to others. Again, development of skills and attitudes that support collaborative leadership requires opportunities to engage in a leadership role. Develop affective capacities. As suggested above, leadership does not result simply from the development of a set of skills. It also entails the development of self-awareness and a range of emotional competencies. For example, unless managers acquire a strong affective commitment to collaboration and the patience to use this leadership style, they are unlikely to use these skills in working with others. Moreover, when things go awry, managers need to know how to deal constructively with frustration, anger, and disappointment. Above all, they need to acquire confidence in their ability to handle the many emotionally demanding facets of this demanding professional role. Finally, they also should develop the ability to reflect on their practice and gain benefits from feedback on their performance. Develop self-directed learning skills. With an exploding knowledge base and ever-changing problems in the workplace, managers also need to acquire self-directed learning skills. These include identifying gaps in their own knowledge, locating relevant resources, and evaluating the suitability and appropriateness of resources for the issues confronting them. Self-directed learning also entails the development of attitudes that reflect an openness to change, knowledge-seeking, and passion about one’s life and work.

Content Domain specific knowledge in a PBL curriculum is organized around high-impact problems of professional practice. PBL adherents follow this maxim: first the problem, then the content. Problems are used as the stimulus for leaning new content instead of the context for applying previously learned material. A major criterion guides the selection of domain relevant content. The content should be functional in fostering understanding of the problem, possible causes for the problem, constraints that must be taken into account when considering solutions, and/or possible solutions. Problem-relevant knowledge comes from variety of sources: selected management disciplines, the relevant expertise and craft knowledge of practitioners, the policies and practices of the organizations, and from experiences of the students themselves. Although the instructor may suggest pertinent reading material, students exploit an array of sources that may assist them in understanding and dealing with the focal problem – a practice that is consistent with the type of on-the-job learning that PBL seeks to develop.


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Instructional Process In a PBL curriculum, students assume greater responsibility for their learning. The process by which they learn mirrors realities of the workplace and curricular goals. Accordingly, the process affords students repeated opportunities to practice and refine the skills needed to lead today’s organizations – skills in promoting collaboration, cooperative problem-solving, and implementation of change. Unlike traditional M.B.A programs, the basic unit of classroom instruction in PBL is a project. Embedded in each project are a high-impact problem, a set of learning objectives, and a collection of reading materials that illuminate different facets of the problem. The problems are often messy, ill defined, and representative of the problems the students will face in their organizations as managers. Students are assigned to project teams responsible for framing the problem and deciding how to use the knowledge gleaned from the readings and other resources to deal with it. Each team usually has five to seven members and a fixed period of time – six to 18 hours spread over a period of two to nine weeks – to complete the project.13 During a class session, the instructor takes on a variety of different roles. Although the instructor may occasionally offer direct input through mini-lectures, the predominant role can be characterized as “an unobtrusive guide on the side.” At times, the instructor will raise questions, answer questions, engage students in reflecting on their process, or provide feedback to students about their use or understanding of problem-relevant knowledge. If the instructor senses that the team is heading in the wrong direction, she may or may not choose to intervene. Missteps or mistakes represent occasions for learning and often provide valuable insight into the problem, the problem-solving process, the solution, the implementation, the group’s functioning, or the student’s own sense of self. Evaluation Student evaluation, like the goals, content, and instructional process, reflects the realities of the workplace. As part of each PBL project, students are expected to perform tasks and to create products that approximate what they would do while solving a similar problem on the job. Student performance during a project provides a basis for formative evaluation. Accordingly, students receive feedback from peers, the instructor, and practitioners about their performance, as well as on the products they create. When providing feedback to students, we underscore what they have done especially well and raise questions for them to ponder. Given the nature of PBL projects, students may receive feedback on their performance relative to any of the eight goals described earlier. As a way of encouraging students to consolidate what they have learned and to think about transferring newly acquired knowledge to their future roles, some PBL projects require the student to prepare a reflective essay. This essay details what the student learned and how he or she could use the insights, knowledge, and skills in the future.


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PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING AND THE CASE METHOD In our discussions with professors who are unfamiliar with PBL, we are often asked how it differs from the case method. Providing a definitive answer to this common question is difficult because there are several different versions of both methods. We have attempted to clarify the similarities and differences between these two instructional approaches by developing a Defining Features Matrix (see Table One). We acknowledge in advance that some varieties of the case method could well address selected criteria noted in the Table.14 These two methods have several features in common. Both use reality-based, problem-centered materials. In PBL, these are described as problems while in the case method they are referred to as cases. The PBL problems may be presented in various ways – written cases, vignettes with limited information (additional information supplied in response to students’ requests for specific data), video-taped episodes, simulated problems, and real-time problematic situations. As with the case method, PBL places considerable emphasis on developing analytical, problemframing, and problem-solving skills. There are numerous differences between the two methods, however, particularly in relation to goals, content, process, and student evaluation. In addition to emphasizing analytical and problem-solving skills, PBL emphasizes life-long learning skills, meeting-management skills, project-management skills, and the application of problem- relevant knowledge. The approaches to content selection in PBL and the case method also differ. In PBL, the problem determines the content (relevant theory and knowledge) that students will learn during a unit. As we stated earlier, the guiding rule is “first the problem, then the content.” In contrast, when content is introduced in the case method, the instructor will generally present the theory or conceptual material first. We expect students to apply these concepts to a case that has been chosen because it lends itself to analysis using the conceptual material introduced earlier. Perhaps the most dramatic difference between PBL and the case method is the process of instruction. In the case method, the basic unit of instruction is the case. The instructor takes on the role of an orchestra leader, artfully leading the class by asking probing questions and integrating contributions from many students in a whole class teaching environment. Students may (or may not) discuss the problem among themselves in small groups as a means of processing their analysis and recommendations. The instructor directs their learning process.15 In PBL, the basic unit of instruction is the project. In contrast to the case method, the PBL project always employs student-led project teams. One of the students serves as a project leader; the team sets its agenda each class session and schedules how they will use the allocated time. Some meetings take place during class; others occur outside of scheduled class time. The instructor serves as a resource and remains relatively unobtrusive during most of the class session. Students, not the instructor, direct the discussion and manage the use of class time. Another important difference between the two methods is the nature of student evaluation. In the case method, students typically prepare a written analysis and statement of how they would deal with the situation. They ordinarily do not put their


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solution into effect; nor do they experience the consequences associated with implementing it. The instructor would wait until the end of the case to evaluate the student’s analysis and proposed solution. Table 1. Defining Features Matrix: PBL and Case Method PBL

Case Method

Problem-centered

X

X

Student-led teams

X

Emphasis on analysis

X

Class time is managed by students

X

Basis unit of instruction is a project

X

Emphasis on implementation and experiencing consequences

X

Criteria

Teacher-led discussion Problem is a starting point for learning new content

X

X X

Basic unit of instruction is a case

X

Instructor assumes role of guide on the side

X

Formative evaluation focuses on realistic job-related performances

X

Emphasizes life-long learning skills

X

Emphasizes problem-solving skills

X

Emphasizes meeting management skills

X

Emphasizes project-management skills

X

Concern for emotional aspects of leadership and getting results through others

X

X

In PBL, as we have noted, evaluation serves learning and centers on performances and solution products. Students in a PBL classroom do more than analyze and say what they intend to do to solve the problem. To the greatest extent possible, they actually implement their solution in a realistic, though contrived, situation. Evaluation differs in at least two important respects. First, there is an emphasis on formative evaluation – providing feedback to students while they are learning as


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well as at the conclusion of the project. This corrective feedback is designed to stimulate further student thinking about their selected approach, possible alternatives, and the principles that underlie the solutions. Moreover, corrective feedback may address the process of team learning as well as the application of knowledge in the solution. Finally, since the solution to the project problem takes the form of a performance, the instructor must assess it on practical as well as theoretical grounds. PBL: FORESHADOWED OUTCOMES Since PBL represents a radical departure from the traditional way in which universities typically educate prospective and practicing managers, one question often arises among prospective users: “How does this learning strategy impact the classroom environment, the learners themselves, curriculum content, learning outcomes, and the teacher? To provide a partial answer to these questions, we draw on research as well as on our experience directing and teaching in PBL programs at universities in the United States and Asia. Much, though not all, of the systematic empirical research on PBL has been conducted in the field of medical education. We, therefore, refer selectively to the implications of this research for management education.16 Classroom Environment Our rendering of PBL for use in management education creates a more intense learning environment than in traditional programs. This intensity stems in large part from the project nature of the PBL curriculum. Project teams work without the active facilitation of an instructor; the team’s facilitator, as we mentioned earlier, is one of the team members. The instructor observes only intermittently since many team meetings are held outside of class time. When the instructor is present, as noted above, s/he only intervenes selectively in the team’s deliberations. Thus, intensity derives, in part, from the relative lack of guidance provided by the instructor in assisting the teams in navigating the ambiguity of the problem-solving process and interpersonal conflicts that often result. Moreover, as noted, teams must reach consensus on how to implement the problem. Although the context for implementation may be contrived (e.g., role of a supervisory conference), the vast majority of participants – even experienced ones – do not experience it as such. Rather, the context has the “feel” of the real thing and that “feel” can produce a rather high level of performance anxiety. Thus, both the requirement to develop real products rather than academic papers, and to implement the solution under severe time constraints contribute to the creation of a classroom environment that is at the same time exciting, meaningful, and stimulating, as well as stressful and exhausting for students.


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The Learners Despite the more intense and stressful PBL classroom environment, students report high levels of satisfaction.17 They also view their leadership preparation as much more realistic, practical, and meaningful than counterparts in traditional programs. This finding is supported by systematic studies conducted in medical education and by anecdotal reports from other disciplines including management education.18 However, when one asks, “Would you like the portion of the curriculum that is taught using PBL to increase, decrease, or remain the same?” students consistently answer, “Remain the same.” According to them, PBL is too intense to be increased and too valuable to be decrease. Note that the PBL curriculum implemented by Bridges at Stanford occupies about 40% of the program. In the Mahidol University master of management program, PBL comprises approximately 20% of the total management curriculum. In a PBL environment, students often learn more than formal knowledge, the kind of knowledge emphasized in traditional leadership preparation programs. Some adopt new perspectives on leadership. For example, following a project, one student wrote: At the beginning of the project I had little confidence in participative leadership. As a time-conscious professional, I doubted that a group could efficiently produce a product in a timely manner using consensus… Over time, however, I gained new perspectives on the role of the leader. Midway through the project I realized I was feeling very stressed. I felt I needed to determine the “right” answer and then sell it to the group. Reflecting on this, I concluded that this wasn’t my responsibility as the leader. Problem-solving was the group’s responsibility…. I can improve (as a leader) by continuing the participative style I tried in this experience– an agenda open to revision by the group, decision-making through a mixture of consensus and majority-rule, equal participation of group members, meeting closure with a review of accomplishments, and follow up actions.19

Still other students learn how to deal with disappointment and the importance of balancing the demands in one’s life. By way of illustration, one project leader wrote: As to pressure and priorities, I give too much authority to external authorities – bosses, assignments, and so forth – and so lose sight of people priorities outside of the job. To be specific, during this experience I sacrificed my family relationships at a crucial time (for them). This was irresponsible…I have to learn how to put the job in better perspective with the rest of my life and with the world context. Furthermore, by making the assignment and my responsibility for it too big a deal in my own mind, I also limited my creativity in trying to help the group to be more creative and less stressed…I find it difficult to fail, but no one died, and if I can learn about making mistakes and carrying on creatively despite them, particularly in not letting difficulties get me down, that will be progress.20

As participants’ exposure to a PBL environment broadens and deepens, most become comfortable in working with adults and internalize the value of collaboration. An alumnus of the Stanford program captured these affective


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outcomes when she was asked to comment on the essays that students prepare following each project. These essays give a sense of what students say and feel about their performance on specific projects. They are intentionally deeply reflective and thoughtful, and so do not convey the enthusiasm of people about this program and PBL method…. The affective outcomes are not emphasized – -the amazing camaraderie, the sensitivity to others, the change from intolerance to tolerance to acceptance to appreciation of different viewpoints – all these are important in the operational goal of the program, and in developing a new breed of manager.21

Curriculum Content Each PBL project confronts students with multiple goals of acquiring problemrelevant knowledge, reaching consensus on how to deal with the focal problem, and implementing a solution. Thus, instructors consistently report that they are unable to cover as much content when using PBL compared with conventional lecture and discussion methods. Thus, there is a predictable tradeoff that instructors must accept between the breadth and depth of content coverage when adopting PBL. Part of the inherent inefficiency derives from the student-centered nature of the PBL process. Students make more of the choices about what they will learn (i.e., personal learning objectives) and on which aspects of the project the team will focus. This will, at times, lead them down blind alleys. Sometimes the team’s progress will be impeded by interpersonal conflict among team members. The PBL instructor must become comfortable with the perspective that the inefficiency of the PBL process is offset by valuable learning that would not take place in a more instructor-directed classroom environment. Moreover, there is also the ever-present danger that students will lose sight of the learning objectives and concentrate only upon solving the problem. Unless instructors take steps to ensure that students grapple with the content and how it applies to the focal problem, participants may overlook the learning resources that are provided. The chapters in Part II of this volume offer ideas on how instructors try to manage these problems and the content tradeoffs in a PBL classroom. Learning Outcomes Perhaps the central question for teachers with respect to any new teaching method concerns its efficacy when compared to commonly used techniques. Early studies on the learning outcomes of PBL came almost exclusively from medical education and presented a mixed picture of the outcomes of problem-based learning.22 Broadly interpreted, these early studies suggested the following. 1. Students in PBL programs finished their programs more quickly and at a higher rate, enjoyed their education more, and adopted a meaningoriented rather than a memorization approach to their studies. 2. Students using PBL in their studies tended to perform better than students in conventional programs on measures of problem solving


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3.

proficiency and clinical competence, but the performance differences were small. Students in conventional programs scored slightly higher on standardized tests of medical knowledge than students in PBL programs but the differences were too small to be of practical importance.23

During the ensuing 15 years, the scope and quality of empirical research on PBL has improved, especially in the specification of learning outcomes.24 Most of the early comparative studies of PBL used tests of student recall of facts and theories. PBL proponents claimed that such tests did not do justice to the learning PBL was intended to elicit. Fortunately, more recent studies have focused on this issue by differentiating among three levels of knowledge that management education typically seeks to attain: 1. Recall and understanding of facts and concepts, 2. Understanding of underlying principles that link concepts, 3. Ability to link concepts and principles to the conditions and procedures for their application.25 By organizing the results of multiple studies of PBL learning outcomes according to these levels of knowledge, a recent meta-analysis by Gijbels and colleagues yielded results that should be of interest. Ɣ In general, the effect of PBL differs according to the levels of the knowledge structure being measured. Ɣ Students in PBL programs performed at least as well as students in conventional programs when assessed on their understanding of concepts. Ɣ PBL had the most positive effects at level two, understanding of principles. Ɣ At the third level, application of knowledge, PBL had more positive effects, but the results were not statistically significant. Ɣ Linking these results to the main goals of PBL and the expert – novice studies, it could be concluded that the students’ path towards expertise has been accelerated.26 These findings are still incomplete, especially with respect to the use of PBL in management education. Nonetheless, they begin to provide an empirical basis for the contentions made by proponents of PBL in higher education. In particular, they begin to unpack the mixed pattern of findings from the earlier generation of research in a manner that seems sensible when interpreted in light of theories of cognition and learning. The Teacher Faculty members generally find PBL a satisfying way to teach. When describing their experiences with PBL, most highlight the students’ level of motivation, the quality of their work, and their engagement with the classroom tasks. However,


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some instructors miss lecturing and become frustrated while watching their students grope and struggle with the messy realities of the problem. A few instructors express concerns about the interpersonal problems that sometimes arise in project teams and the “free rider” problem (letting other members do the work) which occurs when individuals are not held accountable. Some respond to this discomfort by substituting other forms of teacher direction. In a PBL classroom environment that emphasizes doing, as well as knowing, some instructors make discomforting discoveries. By way of example, one professor wrote: The major discovery is how much I have learned as a professor about the quality of my instruction. The last group of students who solved a problem in my class was critiqued severely by a panel of senior managers. The students got defensive’, and I realized that I did not prepare them well enough… Students could write beautiful descriptions of how they would deal with problems…BUT THEY COULDN’T DO ANYTHING!!! Problem-based learning, especially using problems that require a reaction from a panel of expert practitioners, has caused me to look very carefully at my teaching more generally.

For other professors the discoveries have been similarly enlightening, but less painful. Two professors who experimented with this approach described their experiences as follows: Here was where we discovered one of the fundamental requirements of an effective PBL approach – the concept of “front-loading.” We realized quite early that preparation for this course would mean a significant investment of time prior to the beginning of the class…. We discovered as soon as the class began how valuable front loading was…. We found that we were able to play different roles as instructors. Instead of believing that we were obligated to “perform” each day in front of the class (and thereby convince ourselves that we were giving students their money’s worth), we became more relaxed and under less pressure. Our role quickly evolved into one of a coach, although we also had to be careful not to “over-coach” or “hover” as we called it… In one of our post-class sessions, while discussing how the class had affected each of us, one of us termed the experience as transformative. By that he meant that he had come to see that with adult learners especially, a much different approach was necessary. For years he had taught the same way that one would use to teach novitiates – that is, a heavy emphasis on content taught in a very didactic style. It became clear, however, in teaching this class that such an approach was inappropriate.27

CONCLUSION As we have argued in this chapter, PBL represents a radical departure from the traditional way of preparing managers. In our judgment, this approach can play an instrumental role in developing managers who can make meaningful contributions to organizations as they grapple with a changing environment. Managers are being asked to move away from command-and-control models of leadership to “transformational” styles. Problem-based learning holds promise for preparing


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leaders who have the capacities to facilitate, collaborate, make decisions, and implement solutions to significant organizational problems. Graduates also develop personal and team-learning skills that will support further professional learning throughout their careers.

NOTES 1

 Boud, D. & Feletti, G. (1991). The challenge of problem-based learning. New York:

St. Martin’s press. Waterman, R., Akmajian, P., & Kearny, S. (1991). Community-oriented problem- based learning at the University of New Mexico. Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico School of Medicine. 3 Jonas, H., Etzel, S., & Barzansky, B. (1989). Undergraduate Medical Education. JAMA, 262, 8, 1011-1019. 4  Bok, D. (1989). Needed: A new way to train doctors. In H. Schmidt et al. (Eds.), New directions in medical education. New York: Springer Verlag, 17-38. 5  Ibid. p. 12. 6 Godden, D., & Baddeley, A. (1975). Context-dependent memory in two natural environments: On land and underwater. British Journal of Psychology, 66, 325-32. 7 Prawat, R. (1989). Promoting access to knowledge, strategies, and disposition in students: A research synthesis, Review of Educational Research, 59(1), 1-41. 8 Good, T., & Brophy, J. (1987). Motivation. In T. Good & J. Brophy (Eds.), Looking in classrooms (4th ed.), New York, NY: Harper & Row, 173-215. 9 Ibid. pp. 180-185. 10  Ibid. pp. 182-189. 11  Bridges, E. (1977). The nature of leadership. In L. Cunningham, W. Hack, & R. Nystrand (Eds.), Educational administration: The developing decades. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan, 202-230. 12  Burke, K. (1935). Revolutionary symbolism in America. In Henry Hart (Ed.), American Writers’ Congress. New York: International Publishers, 87-94. 13 The length and format for delivery of a PBL project can vary widely, depending on the nature of an instructional context. 14  Note that the approach to case teaching embedded in the Defining Features Matrix comes from that described by Chris Christenson as used at the Harvard Business School. See Barnes, L., Christensen, C.R., & Hansen, Abby. (1994). Teaching and the case method (3rd Edition). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press. 15 Christensen, C. Roland. (1991). The discussion teacher in action: Questioning, listening, and response.” In C. Roland Christensen, David A. Garvin, and Ann Sweet (Eds.) Education for judgment, Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1991. 16 For a more in-depth early analysis of the literature see Bridges, E. & Hallinger, P. (1993). Problem-based learning in medical and managerial education. In P. Hallinger, K. Leithwood, & J. Murphy (Eds.), Cognitive perspectives on educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press. 17  Bridges & Hallinger, 1992, op. cit. 18  Ibid. 19 Bridges & Hallinger, 1992, op cit., p. 70. 2


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23 24

25 26 27

43

 Ibid. pp. 78-79.  Ibid. p. 68.  See Albanese, M., & Mitchell, S. (1993). Problem-based learning: A review of literature on its outcomes and implementation issues. Academic medicine, 68, 52-81. Walton, H., & Matthews, M. (1989). Essentials of problem-based learning. Medical Education, 23, 542558.  Bridges & Hallinger, 1993, op. cit.  Colliver, J. (2000). Effectiveness of problem-based learning curricula. Research and theory. Academic Medicine, 75(3), 259-266. Gijbels, D., Dochy, F., Van den Bossche, P., & Segers, M. (2005). Effects of problem-based learning: A meta-analysis from the angle of assessment Review of Educational Research, 75(1), 27-61.Smits, P., Verbeek, J., & De Buisonje, C. (2002). Problem-based learning in continuing medical education: A review of controlled evaluation studies British Medical Journal, 321, 153-156.  See for example, Gijbels et al. op. cit.  Ibid. p. 47. Chenoweth, T., & Everhart, R. (1994). Preparing leaders to understand and facilitate change: A problem-based Learning approach. Journal of School Leadership 4(4), 414-31.


CHAPTER 3 DEVELOPING PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING MATERIALS ABSTRACT A key issue for instructors revolves around the selection and development of suitable PBL materials. This chapter orients the reader to fundamental choices concerning these issues. These include defining alternative varieties of PBL as well as identifying potential sources of PBL projects. The bulk of the chapter is devoted to presentation of a template for the design of PBL projects. We highlight distinctive features of the project components that foreshadow the examples of PBL projects that comprise Part II of this volume.

INTRODUCTION Whenever we discuss PBL with potential users, the conversation at some point turns to the issue of instructional materials. Common questions include: Ɣ Are projects available in my area of teaching? Ɣ Do projects take a long time to develop? Ɣ Are they difficult to develop? Ɣ Where should I begin? These practical questions frame the concerns of potential users concerning adoption of PBL for use in their own classrooms. Although there are increasing numbers of management instructors using PBL around the world, we are unaware of any centrally-organized “PBL project banks” that management instructors can access.1 To date, most sharing of PBL projects has occurred through informal networks. In this chapter, we share what we have learned about the design of successful PBL projects. While our perspective on the design of PBL materials is informed by cognitive theory and trends in other disciplines that have been using PBL, we draw primarily on our experience. This included the following: Ɣ Designing our own PBL materials from scratch; Ɣ Converting existing “case problems” into PBL projects; Ɣ Constructing PBL projects out of problems arising from consulting and research projects in which we or our colleagues were engaged; Ɣ Guiding master and doctoral students in the design of PBL materials within the scope of thesis projects and graduate courses; Ɣ Assisting colleagues in the design of PBL materials; Ɣ Reviewing and evaluating PBL projects for publication.

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We hope the chapter will assist readers by reducing the time and effort needed to design their own successful PBL projects.2 MAJOR CHOICES IN PROJECT DEVELOPMENT We have discovered that three major choices determine the amount of time and effort that the instructor must expend when crafting PBL projects: 1. Who develops the project? 2. Should one start from scratch or adapt existing materials? 3. What version of PBL should be used? Who Develops the Project? We have used two different approaches to creating PBL projects. In the beginning, we developed all of our own PBL materials. We discovered that one project might take three or more weeks to create, field-test, and revise. As our familiarity with the process increased, we found that the required time and effort decreased. Later we used several formats that involved students in developing PBL projects. Graduate students with a reasonable base of working experience have the capacity to develop excellent PBL projects. Some of our students have created and field-tested projects to fulfill dissertation project requirements for master or professional doctorate degrees.3 Other students, working individually or cooperatively, have developed projects as part of a course. In some instances, the resulting PBL materials have been of sufficient quality to disseminate and use internationally. Given this fruitful but largely untapped resource for project development, we would like to make some additional comments here concerning how we have worked with graduate students on this task. Student-Designed Projects To facilitate project development by students, we provide them with a set of learning resources. Students first develop an understanding of PBL by reading material about the nature, process, and effects of PBL. In addition, students receive a copy of the template discussed in the next section, an example of a completed project, and a set of guidelines for using the template. These guidelines resemble the ones we will introduce following initial presentation of the template. Prior to commencing the development of a project, we encourage students to submit a project prospectus. This prospectus requires students to describe their focal problem and its significance, the resources they anticipate needing to develop the project, a calendar for completing the various parts of their project, their preliminary thoughts about pilot-testing their work, and the biggest concerns or questions they have about their PBL project. Our role during the development of the project takes several forms. First, we provide feedback on the project prospectus by commenting on the suitability of the problem, scope of the project, potential obstacles, and additional directions they might wish to explore in relation to the proposed project. Then we facilitate its


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completion by providing feedback, raising questions, suggesting possible resources, and commenting on the various components of their project as they proceed. Irrespective of the context, our students have found the challenge of developing a PBL project to be a satisfying, rewarding, and profoundly educational experience. Moreover, when the students designing the PBL projects are themselves practicing managers, the resulting project materials often have an air of reality about them that university instructors can match only with difficulty. Thus, we are enthusiastic about the potential this method could have for the development of PBL materials in the future. Moreover, although we have observed a global proliferation of professional doctoral programs, there remains a dearth of suitable research models for conducting the associated dissertation projects. The result is often a watered down academic dissertation of poor quality that neither contributes to new knowledge nor management practice. We assert that the development of PBL project materials represents one potential model that achieves some of the key outcomes of professional doctorates: deep knowledge of selected knowledge domains, ability to apply this knowledge to problems of the profession, and knowledge-rich products that contribute to management practice. Should I Adapt Existing Materials or Start Anew? PBL requires considerable time and effort to implement, especially when the instructor decides to develop new materials from scratch. The novice PBL instructor is especially handicapped by a lack of in-depth understanding of the PBL process. This suggests the advisability of using existing PBL projects or adapting existing PBL or case materials. If one is considering the use of PBL on a trial basis, one can reduce the front-loading of time and effort substantially by choosing a project that is already available. In the Mahidol University management curriculum we have designed or adapted PBL projects that address problems in leadership, organizational behavior, strategic management, marketing, project management, MIS, and human resource management. Bridges has designed a similar range of materials focused on educational management that were developed for use in Stanford’s Prospective Principals Program. We have included sample PBL projects in Part II of this volume, along with detailed discussions of their use in management education. These represent a variety of different project types in terms of design characteristics, problem focus, and disciplines represented in the learning resources. What Version of PBL Should I Use? As we noted in Chapter Two, the basic unit of instruction in a problem-based learning curriculum is a project. PBL projects come in two forms: problemstimulated and student-centered.4 We list the components of each project type in Table 1. In the next section, we discuss and illustrate each of these parts, while providing a template for their development.


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The major differences between the two types of PBL projects concern who identifies the learning objectives, the resources, and the guiding questions. In problem stimulated projects, the instructor assumes primary responsibility for this task. In a student-centered project, the student assumes primary responsibility for these three components. In terms of the front-loading of time and effort involved, student-centered learning projects require less instructor time and effort. Since the students identify their own learning objectives, locate the relevant resources, and generate the guiding questions, the instructor does not need to spend time developing these three components of a PBL project. Additional time is saved in future use of the project since the instructor does not need to update these components as new issues and literature emerges. The students will set their own learning objectives and seek out their own learning resources as part of the problem-based learning process. Chapter Fifteen provides an example of a student-centered PBL project that has been used at Mahidol University in our Organizational Behavior course. In this project, even the problem is left for the students to define. This student-centered project provides a template that others could use to design student-centered projects for any number of different courses or topics. Although less front-loading is required in creating a student-centered project, there are also some costs. When given the opportunity to choose their own learning objectives, students may identify ones that only partially overlap with those considered important to the faculty. Since students are generally less knowledgeable than faculty about the subject content, they may fail to locate high-quality resources in the time available to them. Moreover, in student-centered projects, students may cover less of the content deemed desirable by the instructor than is possible in problem-stimulated projects. Although we have been impressed with some of the outcomes achieved from student-centered projects, our experience suggests that this form of project is less consistent in terms of results. Table 1. Components of Problem-Stimulated and Student-Centered PBL Projects Problem-Stimulated Projects

Student-Centered Projects

Introduction

X

X

Problem

X

X

Learning objectives

X

Resources

X

Product specifications

X

Guiding questions

X

Assessment exercises

X

X

Time constraints

X

X

Features

X


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Most of the projects included in the succeeding sections of this volume represent problem-stimulated projects. We have chosen to focus primarily on this variant of PBL due to several characteristics and goals of management education. Foremost among these is that we expect students to conduct their projects as self-managing teams. Unlike most of the medical schools that employ PBL, we do not provide a faculty tutor to facilitate the group’s deliberations. Students fulfill this facilitation role themselves. Our rationale is twofold. First, we have resource constraints. Second, we wish for our management students to gain the experience of learning how to manage their own teams. Indeed, as we asserted in Chapter Two, a management curriculum should offer students structured opportunities to develop and refine their management skills as well as to experience the emotional consequences of managing others. The use of self-managing learning teams in a PBL context offers this opportunity. The use of self-managing teams does, however, increase the ambiguity of the learning process for students. In Asia, for example, the vast majority of students enter graduate programs accustomed to conventional learning methods. We find that the additional structure of problem-stimulated projects aids students in making the transition to PBL. Indeed, at Mahidol University, we believe that the predominant use of problemstimulated projects facilitated our relatively rapid implementation of PBL, even in a “traditional” Asian context. Problem-stimulated projects represent a somewhat less radical departure for students. As suggested above, they are also more efficient in the sense that we have greater certainty that students will be working with quality learning resources. GUIDELINES FOR DEVELOPING A PBL PROJECT When developing the following guidelines, we assumed that the instructor will already have decided to use the problem-stimulated variant of PBL. These guidelines would apply regardless of whether the instructor or a student was designing the project. They are also similarly applicable regardless of whether the instructor is adapting a case for use in a PBL mode or starting from scratch. The Template As we indicated in the preceding section, each problem-stimulated project has eight major components: introduction, problem, learning objectives, resources, product specifications, guiding questions, assessment exercises, and time constraints. In the paragraphs that follow, we discuss each component in terms of purposes it serves. We then illustrate each project component using excerpts from a PBL project. The illustrative project is one that we used at Vanderbilt University as well as at Mahidol University, Systems Thinking/Systems Changing. The project is organized around a problem-based computer simulation that focuses on the challenge of developing an organization’s capacity for learning and change. The reader may refer


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to any of the chapters in Part II in order to get a more in-depth feel for the range of information included in these components in other PBL projects. An Introduction This component introduces the student to the focal problem for the project and provides a rationale for including the problem in the curriculum. The introduction states how and why the project is relevant to the work of the manager and connects the problem and the learning objectives to the reality of the workplace. The introduction should serve to motivate the student by answering the questions: “Why would I want to participate in this project, and what will I gain from it?� Sample: Introduction Many organizations today find themselves undertaking a number of projects as part of their change effort. An organization may simultaneously be working on TQM, process reengineering, employee empowerment, and several other programs to improve performance. But the key to the change effort is not attending to each party in isolation; it’s connecting and balancing all the pieces. In managing change, the critical task lies in understanding how pieces balance one another, how changing one element changes the rest, how sequencing and pace affect the whole structure. (Duck, 1993)5 In the post-modern era, the capacity of organizations to adapt and to respond rapidly and effectively to changes in their environments can spell the difference between becoming an industry leader or a dinosaur. In the past, the success of an organizational change was often attributed to the efforts of an individual or perhaps a team. Today, we increasingly view the capacity to change as an attribute of an organization. The best example of this perspective is illustrated in the efforts of companies to become learning organizations. In the words of Peter Senge, a learning organization is able first to envision its desired future, and then to develop its internal capacity to create that future.6 The term, learning organization, highlights the relationship between successful change and the collaborative learning of people throughout the organization. Learning organizations have developed structures, processes, and cultures that support the ongoing learning of individuals, teams, and business units. These characteristics of the learning organization enable individual leaders and project teams across the company to bring about changes continuously and with a higher rate of success. Despite the attractiveness of this concept, transforming the concept of a learning organization from the abstract into practice is more difficult. This project is organized around Systems Thinking/Systems Changing, a problem-based, computer simulation. Its purpose is to help develop your ability to lead continuous improvement in organizations. By engaging in the Systems Thinking/Systems Changing simulation, you will refine your ability to understand how to develop the capacity of organizations to become learning organizations and, more generally, to think strategically about organizational change. The simulation draws on three decades of research on change efforts in organizations. Through the project, you will learn to apply change principles drawn from several research-based models: Systems Thinking, TQM (Total Quality Management),


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CBAM (Concerns Based Adoption Model of Change), Learning Organizations, Change Adopter Types, Diffusion of Innovations, and Knowledge Management. In this simulation, you will assume the role of a project team charged with helping develop the long-term capacity of your company to adapt to change. The overall goal of the project is to help transform the company into a learning organization. During the simulation, you will work with staff from Head Office as well as several branches. Your goal is to reorganize management processes to increase the company’s capacities for: Ɣ Thinking systemically, Ɣ Learning individually and collectively, Ɣ Adapting to change, Ɣ Improving stakeholder satisfaction, Ɣ Improving productivity. Systems Thinking/Systems Changing simulates an organization that is learning to use these tools to make positive changes. Enjoy the challenge of bringing about change!

Problem Each PBL project is structured around a high-impact problem that the administrator is apt to face in the future. A high-impact problem is one that has the potential to affect large numbers of people for an extended period of time. Some of these problems are highly structured, while others are complex, messy, and ill-defined. Both structured and ill-defined problems may take one of the following forms: Ɣ The swamp, consisting of a complex problem that contains numerous sub-problems. Ɣ The dilemma, in which the manager knows what is wrong but must choose among alternatives involving a sacrifice or trade-off of important personal and/or organizational values or objectives. Ɣ The routine problem, one that most managers encounter regularly in their work. Ɣ The implementation problem, in which the manager must figure out how to ensure the successful implementation of a new policy or program. In our view, students need opportunities to confront a variety of types of problems in order to gain an understanding of the different challenges that accompany them. Empirical studies of expertise in managerial problem solving support this approach. These studies find that expert managers are better able to identify the key issues in managerial problems.7 Their approach enables them to develop routines for finding and solving problems.8 Educational programs can contribute to the development of managerial expertise by providing guided practice in understanding and solving problems similar to those that students will encounter in the workplace. The sample problem shared below is only an excerpt from the computer simulation. At the start of the project, the problem scenario is left intentionally vague. As is the case with many organizational problems, it is only through trying to solve them that you actually discover the sub-problems. Thus, in this project, the


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problem scenario unfolds gradually. As the project team engages in the simulation, members gain access to additional information about the organization’s history, the perspectives of individuals, the corporate culture of different branches, value conflicts, political issues, and social cliques and relationships. Sample: The Problem You are members of a project team appointed by the Managing Director of the Best Company. Your team just met for the first time and you don’t know whether to feel shocked, confused, angry, or pleased. At the meeting, the MD gave the charge to your project team to spearhead a new company-wide initiative to become a Learning Organization. Your confusion comes from the fact that not very much about the initiative seems very clear. Thus far, about all that you know can be summed up in the following: Ɣ The MD went to a conference and came back excited about the idea of learning organizations. He said that it would solve continuing problems that the company was experiencing in improving product quality, stimulating innovation, breaking down departmental barriers, and adapting to technological changes in the industry. Ɣ However, when queried about what this concept of a learning organization was, he was rather vague. He did share a handout from the conference which stated: “A learning organization systematically plans, acts and monitors its progress towards the goal of benefiting all of its stake-holders. In a learning organization people work together to create their desired future. They think and work in innovative ways and are continually learning how to learn together.”9 Ɣ While that sounded good, it provides little guidance to the team. Nonetheless, you have been assigned to the internal project team responsible for implementing the learning organization approach in the company. Your team will be working with staff in three branches as well as the Head Office to begin the task of creating a learning organization. You will shortly read about each of the staff who you will be trying to influence in the simulation. In the simulation, you will work for three years to accomplish two goals: Ɣ To move most members of the company through the stages of becoming a learning organization from lack of awareness to consistent skillful use of relevant practices. Ɣ To produce as many stakeholder benefits as possible through making improvements in the workplace. Stakeholder benefits include improved staff morale, higher customer satisfaction, increased productivity, and higher profits.

Learning Objectives These objectives, limited in number, signal what knowledge and skills the student is expected to acquire by completing the project. These objectives often emphasize higher order thinking (e.g., analysis, application synthesis, evaluation), as well as basic concept understanding. As we shall elaborate shortly, the learning objectives form a link between the problem and relevant knowledge domains.


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Sample: Learning Objectives 1.

2. 3. 4.

To understand and be able to apply concepts of organizational change including Total Quality Management, Learning Organization, Knowledge Management, Change Adopter Types, Change Management. To analyze change problems from a systemic perspective; To develop and apply strategies for transforming companies into learning organizations. To work effectively as a team in a problem-solving context under time constraints.

Resources For each project, the student receives some combination of the following types of resources: books, articles, videos, website links, and consultants (instructors or practicing managers). The specific nature of the resources depends upon the learning objectives, the problem that is the focal point of the project, and the culminating product or performance. Since students often bring specialized knowledge and skills to a project, they should be encouraged to inventory the resources existing within their own project team and to take advantage of the material and human resources in their own organizations. The resources should also be designed so as to draw upon relevant knowledge that they may have learned in other courses. Sample: Resources Garvin, D. (1993, July-Aug). Building a learning organization. Harvard Business Review, 79-91. Hallinger, P. (1998). Increasing the organizational IQ: Public sector leadership in Southeast Asia. The Learning Organization, 5(4), 176-183. Marquardt, M. (2002). Building the learning organization. Palo Alto, CA: Davies Black Publishing. Rogers, E. (2002). Diffusion of innovations. New York, NY: The Free Press. Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday. Senge, P., Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R., & Smith, B. (1994). The Fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning organization. New York: Doubleday.

Product Specifications Each project culminates with some type of performance (e.g., role play of a supervisory conference, oral presentation of a plan), product (e.g., simulated implementation, strategic plan, corporate website, memo to the HR Director), or both. In our experience, these culminating experiences, along with the focal problem, exert a profound influence on what students learn during the project. Therefore, it is imperative that the project designers choose their product or


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performance with considerable care. By consciously varying the products, one can enhance the learning that occurs as a result of participating in a series of PBL projects. These products ensure that students will deal with issues involved in getting results through others. Team products require students to reach group decisions, to confront varying views about what the problem is and how it should be handled, and to figure out how they should organize themselves to create the product within the time constraints. These products provide a focus for the team’s efforts, an incentive for learning, and a means by which the leader and team members can judge the effectiveness of their efforts. They contribute to learning by forcing students to transform abstract concepts and principles into workable solutions. The requirement to put the solution into the form of a relevant performance or product means that the solution can be assessed not only in academic terms, but also according to professional standards relevant to the workplace. Since real-world products are often ambiguous, the product specifications reflect similar levels of imprecision. Prospective managers need to learn how to function effectively when the task is unclear and how to cope with the psychological discomfort that often accompanies such uncertainty. The products specified in our illustrative project involve the simulated implementation of change in an organization. The students’ results on the simulation itself, thereby, comprise the primary product or performance. The simulation actually classifies the results according the level of mastery of the implementation strategy. However, in this project, we also ask students to write a reflective paper in which they elaborate on “their strategy” and then discuss “what actually happened” during implementation. The paper, while not a workplace product per se, assists the instructor in understanding the thinking of the students as well as stimulating students to explicitly relate important concepts to the application of the learning organization. Sample: Product Specifications 1. 2.

3.

Simulation: Following completion of the 3rd class session, play the simulation through to completion as a team. Print our and turn in your strategy record sheet. Strategic Analysis of Change: As a team, review your results in the simulation. Then prepare a team report that addresses the questions below. Attach your strategy record sheet to your report as an appendix. a. Was your team successful in creating a learning organization? On what bases would you judge your success? Refer to your results to back up your response. b. Describe your goals and strategy for each of the three years of the simulation. For each year, describe the change process by giving examples of the sequence of activities that you used to implement your strategy. Discuss why your strategy was successful, or not. Simulation Results: In the final class session, you will complete the simulation again individually in class. Print out your results and turn them in to the instructor.


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Guiding Questions With each PBL project, we provide several guiding questions. These questions serve several purposes: Ɣ To direct students to key concepts, Ɣ To assist students in thinking through the problem, and Ɣ To stimulate students to view the problem from alternative perspectives. Students may elect to discuss any of the questions that seem important to them or to ignore the questions completely. Accordingly, they are not required to prepare written answers to the guiding questions or to set aside time for discussing them. How students choose to use these questions rests entirely with them. Sample: Guiding Questions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

What are the positions and interests of the various actors in this situation? How do the problems presented by individuals affect the dynamics of their social groups and organizational units? What are the main obstacles to systemic change in this company? As a project team, which activities will assist you in developing a systemwide view of problems? How does the collection and analysis of data assist in fostering your change effort? What roles do people in the organization play in fostering system-wide change? How do different sources of power affect the implementation of change? Who do you need to include in activities in order for the activity to be successful? What happens if you don’t obtain participation from all stakeholder groups?

Assessment Exercises As we underscored earlier, assessment in PBL serves learning and, thereby, promotes personal growth and improved performance. In line with this philosophy, within a PBL classroom environment, assessment accomplishes several purposes: Ɣ To contribute to the revision of projects to make them more productive and meaningful learning experiences for students, Ɣ To promote retention, transfer, and application of student learning, Ɣ To foster introspection and reflection, Ɣ To cultivate the appropriate use of knowledge and skills, and Ɣ To determine the extent to which students, individually and collectively, have achieved the learning objectives of the project. The first four of these purposes are formative in nature and are accomplished in various ways. Throughout the project, students receive feedback regarding their process skills (e.g., facilitating meetings, setting agendas, handling conflict) and


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their utilization of the problem-relevant knowledge. At the conclusion, each project contains assessment exercises that elicit students’ reactions to the experience and stimulate them to reflect on what they have learned how they might use these insights in the future. We discuss these issues in greater depth in Chapter Six on Student Assessment. The last of the assessment purposes noted above is summative in nature. It refers to our efforts to understand whether students learned “what we intended for them to learn.” With this purpose in mind, the PBL projects include a variety of assessment exercises (i.e., quizzes, exams), products, and performances that are systematically assessed. In particular, as we shall elaborate upon in Chapter Six, the need to reliably assess student products and performances has been one of the most significant challenges to successful implementation of PBL in the program at Mahidol University. In this PBL project, the assessment of student knowledge draws on a combination of performance products, examination, and reflective exercises. Evaluation in this project addresses the learning objectives and serves several purposes. Therefore, the evaluation components focus on: Ɣ Student understanding of the core change theories, Ɣ Student ability to think analytically and to apply change theories to the design and implementation of systemic change strategies, Ɣ Student teamwork, Ɣ Student perceptions of their own learning, Ɣ Student feedback that can improve the design and implementation of the PBL project. Sample: Supplementary Assessment Exercises 1.

Knowledge Exam: You will complete a Knowledge Review exam during the final class session.

2.

Teamwork Assessment: Complete the Teamwork Assessment Form on each of your teammates and turn them in as directed by the instructor.

3.

Talk-back Sheet: Complete and turn in the Talk Back Sheet to the instructor when completely finished with the project.

4.

Reflective Essay: Following completion of the project, write a two page Reflective Essay reflecting on what you have learned from this project.

Time Constraints Most projects that we have designed require six to 21 hours of inside and/or outside class time. Projects terminate when the learning and product objectives have been achieved, or the clock has stopped. The clock is a constant enemy in the conduct of problem-based-learning projects. Team members find themselves continually struggling with the dilemma that confronts every conscientious manager, namely, how to achieve a reasonably high level of performance within given time


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constraints. Managing this dilemma requires participants to make difficult choices and to set priorities (e.g., family vs. work, quantity vs. quality of output, learning objectives vs. product objectives). Moreover, the dilemma underscores the need to work efficiently and to adopt time-saving measures. We have used PBL in a wide variety of time formats. These include once per week for three hours, week-end mode with all-day sessions, and twice per week for 90 minutes. While the instructor must shape the delivery of the project to these constraints, we have not found one mode to be superior to others. With proper planning, any of these formats can succeed. Using the Template To assist those who choose to use our template in developing a PBL project, we describe the process that we have generally followed. When reading our description, bear in mind that the actual process is less straightforward and sequential than our discussion suggests. The process is more fluid and dynamic; the developer moves back and forth among the components to ensure that they align to form a coherent whole. Moreover, the process of project development is more challenging than it initially appears. In the words of one student: Developing the PBL project was far more work than I ever imagined. The project kept growing…I learned that although the projects look as though they’d be easy to develop when you’re working on one in class; they aren’t.

Although we organize our discussion of the process around each of the components, we have tried to show the relationships among a project’s various parts. We have discovered that students often become preoccupied with getting the individual components right and lose sight of the linkages between and among them. One of our students underscored this point when he wrote in his “Talk Back”: I learned the importance of integrating the introduction, learning objectives, performance requirements, resources and evaluation. I now view the project as more of a system than discrete parts. Seeing the interrelationship of the sections gave me new insights into the difficulty of developing a good PBL project and the power of that project for the participant.

The Problem The starting point for developing a PBL project is a focal problem; the problem comes first, then the learning. When selecting a problem, the designer of the project should attempt to choose one that is representative of the kinds of problems students are likely to encounter in the roles and contexts for which they are being prepared. Moreover, the problem should be one that affects large numbers of people for an extended period. Since an important skill to be obtained through problem-based learning is problem-finding, we strive to create problem scenarios that contain numerous subproblems. If the problems presented are too clearly defined, two things often happen. First, students lose the opportunity to engage in problem-finding. Second, the problem loses some of the flavor of reality. Sometimes the sub-problems are


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included in the initial problem scenario given to students; in others, such as the Systems Thinking/Systems Changing problem cited earlier, they are revealed later. A large portion of the problems that managers face are messy, ill-defined, and difficult to disentangle. Therefore, even if there is a set of technical skills that the designer wants students to acquire within a given project, it is likely that those skills will be used in an organizational setting that is rife with cultural norms, ethical conflicts, and corporate politics. Students need to experience applying technical skills with due consideration of the problematic contextual issues that tend to complicate organizational life. Having chosen the problem to be included in the project, the developer then decides how to present it. Focal problems can be presented as a written case, a case incident, a live role-play, a real-time issue, an interactive computer simulation, an interactive videodisc presentation, or a videotaped episode. We offer examples of most of these approaches in Part II of the book.

Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ

Features of Distinctive Problems High impact on the manager, the organization, and/or clients Typical, rather than atypical, of managerial problems High importance to those experiencing it Messy, rather than narrow and clear Realistic, not contrived Sufficient information for the reader to know what is in the situation and to prepare the products

Sole reliance on written cases or verbal vignettes, as Bransford10 and others have noted, may have dysfunctional consequences for the learner. For example, the manager who is trained to make assessments based solely on verbal vignettes may be at a loss when confronted with real people! Since the verbal vignette itself is “the output of an expert’s pattern recognition process, the student may not learn “to recognize symptoms like ‘slightly defensive’ and ‘moderately depressed’ on their own.”11 To become an expert, a great deal of perceptual learning must occur, and this cannot happen unless the student learns to recognize the salient visual, auditory, and nonverbal cues. When designing a series of PBL projects, program designers should strive to include problem representation that incorporates a variety of modalities. If students encounter only verbal descriptions of problems, they may be unprepared to deal with real people and real problems. Moreover, in contexts, such as Asia, where many of the students are studying management courses in a second language, text cases can be problematic. Video cases provide additional modalities for students to understand the nuances of a problem scenario.


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The Product Once the problem and its mode of representation have been chosen, the next task is to specify the nature of the product or the performance through which resolution of the problem will be expressed. We view the product as the second most critical element of the project. From the outset of the project, it shapes the students’ perception of how the knowledge and skills to be acquired figure into the work of a leader. Moreover, the product represents in the minds of students the action element of the project. The performance aspect of the product, therefore, acts as a major motivator and mediates the students’ understanding of the project.

Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ

Features of Distinctive Products Forces students to go beyond analysis to solution implementation Mirrors the form of problem resolution and expression in the real world Promotes collaboration among team members Builds on previous learning Requires a performance that is reasonable in light of the information provided about the problem and the context, the resources, the learning objectives, and the time allocated Identifies prerequisite skills needed for completing the product and provides the resources needed to acquire necessary skills

When creating products and product specifications, designers should strive to follow these guiding principles: Ɣ Primary products should be authentic, similar to ones a manager would actually create or engage in when resolving the problem. Ɣ Products should enable students to use knowledge and skills learned in the current as well as previous projects. Ɣ Product specifications should require students to take action and to grapple with issues of implementation. Ɣ Products should challenge students to transform theoretical analysis into the format and language of action, be it in a memo, a supervisory conference, or an interview. Ɣ Product specifications should place students in situations where they experience the consequences of their actions and the actions of other team members, and are able to gain feedback.12 When developing the product specifications, we have found it useful to involve practicing managers in designing realistic products and performances. Learning Issues With the focal problem and the culminating product or performance chosen, the next step is to identify the learning issues that are inherent in solving the problem and preparing the product. We have found it helpful in identifying the learning issues to distinguish between the problem-relevant knowledge that is the focus of the project


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and the related, requisite skills and knowledge that students need to complete the project successfully. By way of illustration, in the Systems Thinking/Systems Changing project we identified problem-relevant knowledge by convening a group of relevant experts and asking them the same sorts of questions that we ordinarily pose to ourselves: Ɣ What knowledge, drawn from theory, research, practice, is most directly pertinent to the core issues in the problematic situation? Ɣ What other knowledge domains (for example, legal, financial, historical, organizational, political, and psychological) might be helpful to the student in understanding and dealing with this situation? Once we identified the problem-relevant knowledge, we turned to uncovering the additional skills and knowledge required to complete the project. These skills and knowledge are more difficult to discern because they are often implicit and taken for granted. In an effort to identify these potential learning issues, we consider the centrality of various skills in solving the problem and developing the solution products. This analysis could point towards skills in problem-solving, running meetings, managing task forces, leading a project, preparing memos, making oral presentations, and conducting conferences. If we suspect that students may lack one or more of these skills, we include them in our list of learning issues. Learning Objectives and Resources Describing the focal problem, specifying the product(s), and identifying the potential learning issues lay the groundwork for choosing the major learning objectives and key resources. In selecting these major objectives, we generally emphasize ones that relate to the learning issues identified as directly relevant to the core issue or issues in the problematic situation. When constructing these objectives, we strive to state them in terms of what students are expected to learn from the project, not in terms of what they will be doing in the project. The resources that we include with each project cover a broader range of learning issues than the ones directly applicable to the learning objectives. In addition, these resources illuminate various facets of the problematic situation (for example, pertinent legal and historical content), and they provide knowledge and skills that students may lack but are essential to solving the problem and/or preparing the product. Whenever possible, the resources expose students to the relevant theory and research and provide examples of how theory and research have been translated into organizational policy and practice.

Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ

Features of Distinctive Learning Objectives Stress different learning domains (i.e., cognitive, skill, and affective) Emphasize development of analysis, application, and synthesis, as well as basic knowledge and comprehension Appear reasonable in scope given the other parts of the project (for example, time constraints, resources, problem, and product) Accent what students will learn from the project, not what they will be doing to prepare the product


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In choosing resources for a project, we have used consultants in various ways. For example, practitioners who have encountered similar problems in their own professional practice may be invited to suggest materials that they have found useful in understanding and dealing with the problem that is the focal point of the project. Practitioners and professors who are expert in the problem may also be provided for the students as they work on the project, either live or via a video clip. When we include consultants, we establish a set of norms. Consultants are prohibited from providing advice on how to handle the problem. Instead, they are encouraged to answer questions that student might ask in relation to the problem and to raise questions that might sensitize students to aspects of the problem they may have overlooked.

Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ

Features of Distinctive Resources Variety of forms (print, video, human, internet) Useful in framing/resolving the problem and developing the product Interdisciplinary, rather than single subject Representative of multiple types of knowledge (theory, research, practical wisdom) and points of view relevant to the problem Reasonable number in light of time constraints

Guiding Questions The next step in the process of developing a PBL project involves stating a set of “guiding questions.” When we discussed the template in an earlier section, we suggested three purposes that may be served by these questions. In choosing which purposes to emphasize, we generally have relied on our judgment about whether the problem was so messy and complex that students may need some assistance in thinking through the problem. We also have considered whether students are likely to frame the problem by making a fundamental error, namely, viewing the problem solely from the perspective of the people involved. Finally, we have exercised our judgment as to whether students may overlook or dismiss without much thought concepts that may prove useful in illuminating and dealing with this type of problem. Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ

Features of Distinctive Guiding Questions Stimulate consideration of alternative viewpoints Suggest issues that may not be apparent to students given their stage of professional development Foreshadow issues that pertain to the product, as well as to the problem Raise issues relevant to the knowledge domains included in the resources

Assessment Exercises With each project, we include several types of assessment exercises. To ensure that projects continue to provide productive and meaningful learning experiences, we include a “Talk Back” sheet. At the completion of a project, students use the


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“Talk Back” sheet to discuss what they liked about the project and how it might be improved. Their suggestions for improvement usually center on the resources, the problem, or the product. Regardless of how many times the project has been used, we continue to solicit students’ reactions to it. Through repeated assessments conducted over time, we can obtain suggestions for improving the project and determine when it no longer provides a productive and meaningful learning experience for students. To encourage reflection, retention, and transfer, we often ask each student to prepare a two-page integrative essay at the end of a project. These essays capture what students have learned and how they propose to use their knowledge in the future. The designer of the project should suggest some possible questions for students to address in this essay. We have suggested questions like the following: Ɣ What principles or approaches have you learned in working with this problem that will help as you work on future problems with similar characteristics? Ɣ What new information did you acquire that changed your knowledge and understanding of this problem? Ɣ Is it possible for you to construct an outline, model, or generalization about the processes involved in dealing with this problem? Ɣ What have you learned about project leadership, meeting management, problem-solving, and the work of the manager that may be of use to you in the future? Ɣ What did you learn about yourself, your ability as a leader, and your participation in a management team as you worked on this project? Ɣ What did you learn in a previous project that proved helpful in this one or needed to be revised in light of what happened during this project? Ɣ What strongly held personal views, beliefs, or opinions have been changed during this project? Ɣ What questions have been raised in working with this problem that suggest the need for further study?13 Depending on the preferences of the designer, the student may be given the option of choosing what to discuss from a list of possible questions or may be required to discuss one or two questions of particular interest to the person constructing the guidelines for the essay. If the problem-relevant knowledge is relatively technical (for example, legal requirements for intellectual property), the designer may wish to include a knowledge review exercise and to provide the answer key after students complete the exercise. In Chapter Six, we supply an example of a Knowledge Review exercise. Time Constraints Setting realistic time limits for a project becomes more feasible as the designer gains experience with PBL. In the beginning one can expect to underestimate the time students need to complete a project. The upside of underestimating the time is that it provides students with an opportunity to experience how they react to the stress and


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time pressures that are so characteristic of managerial work. However, the downside is that underestimates can frustrate students and result in their slighting the learning to “get the product out the door.” Given this potentially undesirable outcome, we are now inclined to make liberal estimates of the time required to acquire the knowledge and to use it to produce a high-quality product or performance. If students lack a background in meeting and project management and have not worked together previously, they will require even more time to complete a project. Introduction Although this component of a project appears first, we have discovered that it is easier to prepare the “Introduction” last. Possessing greater familiarity with the problem, the product, the learning objectives, and the resources, one has a deeper sense of how and why the project is relevant to the work of the administrator. When writing the “Introduction” different techniques can be used to engage the reader. An interesting quote or an anecdote can capture the readers’ interest and assist them in understanding why the problem to be addressed in the project is important. Citing statistics that show the prevalence of the problem can also underscore the significance of the problem. Identifying the consequences of failing to handle the problem successfully can further highlight its importance and relevance. For example, choosing the wrong candidate for a shift supervisor position creates numerous future problems – time spent on responding to customer complaints, assisting the staff member, documenting the poor performance; and profound pain and anguish for the staff member and manager if the employee must be dismissed. Features of Distinctive Introductions Content Ɣ Describes how and in what form this issue arises the current organizational context Ɣ Indicates why this issue is salient to administrators Ɣ Suggests how the knowledge and skills included in the project are useful in dealing with this issue Style Ɣ Engages the reader Ɣ Uses active voice and straightforward, intelligible language Ɣ Discusses the content succinctly and to the point

Finally, concluding the introduction with a statement that tells readers explicitly what they are going to learn through this project may stimulate their interest in the project. Field-Testing the Project When the designer has completed a draft of the project, it should be field-tested. The importance of field-testing a project is reflected in this student’s comments:


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“The field test was essential. I thought the project was in good shape, but the test revealed it needs more depth and more clarity in the instructions.”14 We heartily agree with her observation, and other project developers have echoed these same sentiments. Prior to the main field-test, we have found it useful to conduct a preliminary field-test. This dry run ordinarily occurs with a small group of colleagues (student or faculty) whom we have asked to review the project and to provide feedback. Their feedback usually centers on the clarity and unity of the project, as well as the suitability of the resources and the guiding questions. Their comments often lead to another round of revision prior to the main field-test. The main field-test represents the real thing. Students receive a copy of the entire project (all components), along with the resources, and implement it within the time constraints. By observing students work on the project and reviewing their “Talk Back” sheets, the author of the project may discover problems like the ones that we have uncovered in our own field-tests. The following are representative of issues that we have encountered: Ɣ Students experienced the problem or the product as contrived. Ɣ We overlooked some critical knowledge or skills students needed to complete the project successfully. Ɣ The instructions or guidelines that we gave the persons providing the feedback were inadequate or unclear. Ɣ We either underestimated or overestimated the time required to complete the project. Ɣ We included too many resources. Ɣ Some of our resources were either poorly written or of little value in dealing with the problem or preparing the product. Ɣ Our guidelines for the product were too ambiguous. Ɣ The various components of the project were insufficiently linked to one another. When issues like these surface during the main field-test (as they nearly always do), they become an occasion for revising the project. The completed PBL project should not, however, be viewed in the same way as a completed sculpture. We contend that the instructor is best served by viewing any PBL project as a continuous work in progress. In our own experience, at the start of any given term, we may tweak the project in terms of the learning resources, the time frame, or the learning process or products. Designing Multiple Versions of a PBL Project Given that the development of PBL materials represents a considerable investment of time and effort, it makes sense to gain maximum benefit from each PBL project. Here we wish to alert readers to the fact that a field-tested PBL project also represents a foundation for the development of additional versions of a single project. As we shall elaborate in Chapter Seven, at Mahidol University the Master of Management program serves a large number of students. More than 300 students


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could be studying in the PBL track at one point in time. This means a PBL project could be delivered to as many as four or five different class sections in a single term. This situation produces two significant problems for the sustainability of the PBL program. The first issue concerns educational quality. With this number of students studying the same PBL project term after term, it is hard to avoid the sharing of information by students who already completed the project. Although we seek to avoid a one right answer approach, information sharing from graduates of the project can reduce our certainty in what students have learned. This potential problem is exacerbated by the fact that assessment in PBL requires a large amount of substantive feedback to students. The provision of extensive feedback at the conclusion of the project can, however, work against our learning goals if former students share the feedback with subsequent students. The second issue concerns instructor freshness and motivation. Even though the teaching load for our PBL projects is taught by several instructors, some instructors will teach the same project several times each year. Over a period of time, it can become routine and the instructor’s motivation may diminish. Our solution to these problems has been for instructors to design additional versions of the same PBL project. They essentially use their own original version as a template for the subsequent versions. The new versions focus on a similar type of problem, but at a different organization. The new organizational context not only keeps the project fresh for the instructor, but it also creates new and different issues in terms of sub-problems and solutions. This translates into products and performances that differ substantively from those of prior cohorts. Moreover, the time required for the re-design of a project that the instructor already understands in-depth is reduced dramatically. Indeed, in several projects our instructors undertook this task on their own initiative. They saw the problems noted above and designed new versions of their projects quite spontaneously. For example, in the project Reorganizing for Competitiveness (see Chapter Thirteen), the lead instructor designed the first version around a competitiveness problem at an up-country ceramics factory. After using this version for four or five terms, he designed a second version based on his experiences consulting for a private hospital in Bangkok. He later designed a third version following completion of a consulting assignment for a scientific R & D center at a university. In each instance, he used his prior experience to develop a new problem scenario and simply placed the new scenario within the structural design of his PBL project (see Chapter Thirteen). Instructors have used a similar process successfully in creating multiple versions of our Data to Intelligence (see Chapter Ten), Retail to e-tail (see Chapter Twelve), and Employee Selection projects (see Chapter Fourteen). This has reduced concerns over student sharing of information about solutions as well as maintaining high levels of instructor motivation. Finally, and critically important for this book, this experience also increases our confidence that instructors elsewhere in the world could follow a similar process of PBL project design to create locally relevant PBL projects. As the reader will see in the subsequent sections of this volume, PBL projects come in a wide range of styles. They vary in terms of the problems they address, the learning process in which


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students engage, and in the types of solution products that they deliver. Based on our experience, it should be equally feasible and effective for an instructor in Brazil or Tokyo to adapt a field-tested PBL project using a similar process of problem substitution. This will result in the greatest reduction of time with the highest likelihood of a successful outcome. ADAPTING PBL MATERIALS In recent years, we have reduced our own front-loading of time and effort by exchanging PBL projects with one another as well as with other instructors. In some instances, we have used the projects in their original form. We will discuss this in more detail after introducing the reader to the PBL project template. For example, in Mahidol University’s Master of Management curriculum we introduce students to PBL with a project on Meeting Management that was designed by Bridges for his Prospective Principals Program. Despite differences in the audience – corporate managers vs. school managers, Asian context vs. Western context – we have made surprisingly few substantive modifications to the project. Other project adaptations have been more substantial. For example, Bridges developed the Write Right! Project (available with a Teaching Note from ERIC/CEM) for use in the Stanford Prospective Principals Program. While working at Vanderbilt University, Hallinger decided to use this project with a class of upper division business undergraduates. Given the nature of the group he was teaching and the purpose of the course, he retained the structure of the project but revised it substantially. His revisions included the following: minor changes in the introduction, additional learning objectives emphasizing situational leadership, a new problem based on a case from the Harvard Business School series, a new set of guiding questions, revised product specifications, and some additional readings. Although these modifications were substantial, he saved considerable time by reusing the format and structure of the original project. When designing the PBL track for Mahidol University’s Master of Management programs, Hallinger saw a similar opportunity to save time by adapting a PBL project on Teacher Selection already designed by Bridges for use in the Stanford Prospective Principals Program. However, since the Mahidol program focuses on preparing managers for business organizations located in Thailand and the Asia Pacific region, significant changes were necessary to ensure the project’s relevance. In Chapter Fourteen, we discuss in-depth design considerations related to the adaptation of the project. In brief, after reviewing the Teacher Selection project materials, Hallinger concluded that project’s structure engaged students in an active learning experience related to employee selection. His adaptation, therefore, sought to maintain the overall structure of the project while substituting a local selection problem. Ɣ The new design incorporated all major features of the Teacher Selection project template: type of problem, learning process, products, and assessment.


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Students completing the new project focus on a very similar set of process tasks: problem analysis, design of a selection process and selection tools, implementation of the selection tools with job candidates in a final role play. The new design, however, substituted a local, corporate problem scenario: hiring a new shift supervisor for a branch of Starbucks (Thailand) in place of the problem of teacher selection for a school in California. The new design also updated and changed the learning resources to be more relevant to staff selection in the local business context.

As we discuss in Chapter Fourteen, this adaptation of existing materials required far less effort than would have been the case if we had tried to design a new project from scratch. We have adapted other projects as well including projects focusing on problems of Time Management, Meeting Management, and Leadership. The nature of the adaptation and time needed to create the new project has varied widely. In general, we conclude that adaptation of existing materials is a very useful means of reducing the front-loading of development time. Indeed, management instructors in other parts of the world could easily adapt many of the projects included in this book by following a similar approach. This approach has added benefits. When compared with the purchase of “readymade materials” the process of adaptation ensures that the instructor is intimately familiar with the project when s/he uses it in the classroom. In addition, the process of adaptation creates a feeling of ownership for the product that builds the instructor’s self-confidence in the classroom. CONCLUSION Developing PBL projects and instructional materials is a formative, iterative, and continuous process. The process relies heavily on student feedback gathered in a systematic fashion each time the project is used. This developmental process comes to an end only when the project becomes outdated and no longer serves the purposes for which it was created. Before that time arrives, the author of the project and the students who have participated in it will have savored the joy, the satisfaction, and the challenge inherent in problem-based learning. In our experience, the frontloading of time and effort inherent in PBL is well worth it.

NOTES 1

Merchand, J. (1995). Problem-based learning in the business curriculum. An alternative to traditional approaches. In W. Gijselaers, D. Templaar, P. Keizer, E. Bernard, & H. Kasper (Eds.), Educational innovation in economics and business administration: The case of problem-based learning. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.


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The content of this chapter was adapted from an earlier version that appeared in Bridges, E.M. & Hallinger, P. (1995). Implementing problem-based leadership development. Eugene, OR: ERIC. The content has been used with the permission of the prior publisher. 3  Ibid. See Chapter Five which describes this in detail. 4 Waterman, R., Akmajian, P., & Kearny, S. (1991). Community-oriented problem-based learning at the University of New Mexico. Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico School of Medicine. 5 Duck, J. (1993, Nov.-Dec.). Managing change: The art of balancing. Harvard Business Review, 109-118. 6  Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday. 7 Bransford, J. (1993). Who ya gonna call? Thoughts about teaching problem-solving. In P. Hallinger, K. Leithwood & J. Murphy (Eds.), Cognitive perspectives on educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press, 171-191. Bransford, J., Franks, J., Vye, N., & Sherwood, R. (1989). New approaches to instruction: Because wisdom can't be told. In S. Vosniadou & A. Ortony (Eds.), Similarity and analogical reasoning (470-497). New York: Cambridge University Press. Wagner, R. (1993). Practical problem-solving. In P. Hallinger, K. Leithwood & J. Murphy (Eds.), Cognitive perspectives on educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press, 88-102. 8  Leithwood, K., & Stager, M. (1989). Expertise in principals' problem-solving. Educational Administration Quarterly, 25(2), 126-151. 9 Senge, op cit. 10  Bransford, et al 1989, op. cit., pp. 470-475. 11 Bransford, et al. 1989, op. cit., p. 484. 12 Bridges, E., with Hallinger, P. (1992). Problem-based learning for administrators. Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse for Educational Management, 98. 13  Ibid., pp. 66-67. 14  March 1995, Personal Communication to Professor Hallinger from B. Habschmidt


CHAPTER 4 IMPLEMENTING PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING IN THE CLASSROOM ABSTRACT As suggested in the first three chapters, PBL represents a major departure in teaching method for most instructors. In this chapter we focus on how instructors can create the conditions that foster effective learning in a PBL context. We discuss student responses to PBL as well as 1 instructor roles, attitudes, tasks and behaviors that will lead to desired outcomes for students.

INTRODUCTION Some years ago, we conducted a training program on PBL for management faculty in a professional development institute. On the first morning, the participants engaged in an actual problem-based learning project, Because Wisdom Cannot be Told. The objectives of this project are for learners to understand what problembased learning is, its rationale in theory and research, and how it operates in the classroom. During the classroom session, participants sought to achieve these objectives through solving a realistic problem. They worked in small groups, largely independent of the instructor, using a set of relevant text and video resources on PBL. The PBL project culminated with each group delivering a report that outlined its proposed resolution of the problem presented in the project. In the debriefing that followed, one participant commented on the instructor’s classroom role during the PBL project. I know you were doing a lot during the actual PBL session, even though it wasn’t necessarily obvious to us. In thinking back, I recall that you sat in on our group periodically, but made only a few comments. You interrupted the large group a couple of times for announcements but this was pretty minimal, given that we worked in our teams for four hours. Still, I’m sure you were actually doing many things that facilitated our ability to learn so much in such a short period of time. Much of your own decision making as the teacher was, however, hidden from our view. What were you were thinking and doing, before and during the project in your role as the teacher? We need to understand this if we’re going to use PBL successfully in our own institutions.

On the one hand, it was refreshing to hear a potentially critical audience draw the conclusion that our apparent inactivity during the PBL project was only an illusion! On the other hand, his query forced us to stop and reconsider, “what do we do in our 69


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role as teachers that others would need to know in order to use problem-based learning in their classrooms?� This question represents the focus of this chapter in which we will identify and explore key facets of the instructor’s role in implementing PBL in a classroom setting. Before beginning, however, we must reiterate how the form of PBL that we use differs from the approaches commonly used in problem-based medical education. The differences may not appear large, but they have a significant impact on many aspects of classroom implementation. Problem-based medical education uses a tutorial format in which students work in groups towards the solution of an assigned problem. A tutor, usually a professor or advanced graduate student, facilitates the problem solving process by which students engage the problem. The tutor also provides occasional clarification of knowledge issues that arise. Thus, in a medical education setting the PBL tutor does not provide direct instruction, but he/she does remain an active facilitator and central figure in the group’s learning process.2 In problem-based management education, students also work in cooperative groups. However, two essential characteristics of the group learning process distinguish this model from the approach commonly used in medical education. First, students work without the facilitation of a faculty tutor. As suggested above, they manage virtually the process of their learning for the duration of each PBL project. In adapting PBL for use in our discipline, we chose this format because we believe that an essential element of effective leadership is the capacity to achieve results through people. The actual classroom process in problem-based leadership education, therefore, emphasizes the development of skills that enable managers to achieve this end. Students must have opportunities to practice skills in meeting management, time management, conflict resolution, group problem solving, and decision-making in order to learn how to lead teams in the workplace. Understandably, medical educators view the development of these capacities as secondary for future doctors. Consequently, they see less to be gained through ceding control over the learning process to students. They also give less explicit attention to the development of these skills as goals of the curriculum. Second, our PBL model places a greater emphasis on the implementation of actions that lead towards the resolution of problematic situations. Problem-based medical educators give greater weight to understanding the scientific and human processes that underlie medical problems than to the resolution of the problem. Since both problem analysis and implementation skills are essential to effective leadership, we explicitly incorporate action-oriented performances into our PBL projects. The demand for an active resolution of the problem offers students the opportunity to experience, even in a limited fashion the consequences of their analytical plans as well as to practice skills they will need in the workplace (e.g., conferencing, memo writing). We note these differences because they have far-reaching and quite specific implications for the role of the instructor and students in our model of PBL. In this chapter we seek to provide a detailed answer to the question posed by the faculty


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member in our PBL training program. What were you were thinking and doing, both before and during the project in your role as the teacher? With this in mind, we also wish to note that although we make occasional references to our model, we use this term in a broad sense. Our experience with the implementation of PBL at Stanford, Vanderbilt and Mahidol Universities varies in several significant ways. Ɣ The use of PBL at Stanford and Mahidol was programmatic and largely implemented via a PBL track; at Vanderbilt it was nonprogrammatic and simply incorporated into the instructor’s class. Ɣ At Stanford and Vanderbilt, the use of PBL was limited to a few faculty members at each institution; at Mahidol, more than 35 faculty members have engaged in teaching PBL within the PBL track. Ɣ The American students at Stanford and Vanderbilt, though unaccustomed to PBL, were familiar with other modes of studentcentered learning; at Mahidol the use of PBL represented a radical departure from for most students. These contextual factors have had a large impact on the implementation, even of the same PBL project. However, since we do not approach PBL dogmatically, this has not been a major cause of concern for us. We try to keep two guidelines in mind with respect to the role of the instructor in carrying out a PBL unit: Ɣ Adhere to the core principles of PBL in the conduct of the project (e.g., the problem comes first, students should direct their learning to the greatest extent that is practical, organize learning in teams). Ɣ Keep your eye on the goal of fostering student learning, especially the ability to know and do. We begin by discussing some of the attitudes of the instructor that appear to characterize successful implementation of PBL. Then we explore issues that arise before, during and after the implementation of a PBL unit of instruction (i.e., the learning project). FACULTY ATTITUDES FOR SUCCESS IN A PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT In feedback following a management course that used PBL extensively, students used several metaphors to describe the teacher’s role, including “guide,” “resource,” and “lighthouse.” These metaphors highlight the relative inactivity of the teacher when compared with either a traditional teaching role or with the activities of students during a PBL project. As a lighthouse, “the teacher periodically casts a beam towards the field of activity, illuminating potentially lethal hazards, but leaving discussion of alternatives and decisions to act in the hands of the travelers.” This shift for the teacher requires considerable attention by the instructor to both affective and cognitive dimensions of the role. Prior to discussing what we do in the classroom, we wish to note some attitudes of the instructor that contribute to a healthy problem-based learning environment. These attitudes shape the teacher’s


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behavior and, in a sense, represent prerequisites for successful problem-based instruction. Confidence in the PBL Process While the statement may appear self-evident, we begin by asserting that the instructor must be confident that PBL can result in the desired types of learning. The learning environment experienced by students in PBL is so different from the norm that misgivings on the instructor’s part tend to magnify students’ natural apprehensions. It is predictable that, at some point during a PBL project, students will feel like ships lost at sea. Particularly at these moments, the instructor must maintain confidence that the PBL process can work. A Vanderbilt doctoral student captured this unfolding process after observing the process of a PBL class: [Early in the term] students expressed considerable confusion. . . mixed with nervousness about the ‘hands-off’ approach of the professor, the lack of direction, the ambiguity of the class. . . As the semester continued, however, they not only began experiencing less confusion but they also referred back in a distinctly positive light to the confusion they had formerly expressed in negative terms. . . [W]ith hindsight they saw the value of experiencing the PBL projects through a ‘baptism by fire’ and a ‘you’re on the ice’ method. . . One student noted that as the course progressed she began to look forward to succeeding projects and the process that she understood would unfold. She said that she had come to realize that the ambiguity inherent both in the problems presented in the learning module and in the process of group formation at the beginning of each project would be resolved by the team. This knowledge gave her confidence in herself and her peers. Responding successfully to the challenges that accompany the PBL process resulted in a great deal of personal satisfaction.3

In a sense, the instructor must maintain a vantage point above the affective and cognitive turmoil that students experience during the learning process of PBL. From atop the lighthouse, the teacher needs to preserve the perspective that, for the students, becoming lost at sea is part of the journey; not far off, towards the horizon, are calmer waters that lead towards the desired destination. This attitude not only allows the instructor to convey confidence to students, but it also shapes the subsequent actions that he/she takes to support their learning. As we shall discuss later in the chapter, it also enables the instructor to avoid unnecessary actions in response to the students’ confusion. Experimentation We have already noted that the instructor must be confident in the problem-based learning process. At the same time, however, he/she must also maintain an open mind about how that learning process may unfold. In regards to both what and how students are learning, the teacher must prepare to support students’ self-directed efforts at learning.


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The problem-stimulated version of PBL that we discuss in this book offers students a set of desired learning objectives. The instructor should, however, also encourage students to use PBL projects as vehicles for working towards their own personal learning objectives. At times, this takes individual students in unanticipated directions. This may result in detours from the instructor’s intended learning. We believe, however, that the benefits of supporting students’ experimentation and decision-making outweigh the costs inmost cases. Consequently, a well-designed PBL project rarely turns out the same way twice! Even two groups working on the same project at the same time may emerge with quite different interpretations of the problem as well as with products that incorporate contrasting solutions. Rather than press for uniformity, we encourage students to try alternative approaches to understanding and solving the problem. The same holds true when multiple instructors are teaching the same PBL project to different classes. While the project specifications provide a common structure for a project there remains considerable variation among instructors in how they actually implement the learning process of the project. Some instructors inevitably intervene more than others. Indeed, variations in the implementation of a project spawn the seeds for future innovation in its delivery. For example, in the Organizational Change project (see Chapter Nine), students face the problem of implementing new information technology in a company. Using a computer simulation, they must formulate and implement a change strategy. The problem-based simulation allows them to try out different strategies and see the different effects on people and the organization. It also allows them to see clearly that there are often multiple ways to understand and solve a problem. Patience Hand in hand with experimentation is a need for the instructor to develop patience. As we have noted, PBL involves trial and error, as well as a large dose of studentdirected learning. At times, the process may seem inefficient. However, instructors must cultivate patience in order to let students assume responsibility and ownership for the process and products of their learning. We afford students considerable responsibility and latitude in how they carry out the learning process within a given learning project. Not surprisingly, the manner in which students engage in a project varies widely. This can strain the instructor’s needs for a smooth, predictable journey during the project. For example, we ask our students to learn and use the Interaction Method of meeting management4 as a tool for group work. At Mahidol University, we introduce the Meeting Management project in our Principles of Management course. In this project, students learn a systematic method for managing their group process as well as their meetings. Then students are encouraged to practice this structured method of meeting management over the course of subsequent projects in this and other courses. Typically, however, a time comes during the course of a term when the groups are running smoothly and students no longer feel the need for the structured roles indicated in the Interaction Method. They often decide just to "work as a group.”


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Predictably, when this occurs, the groups also begin to experience the problems that arise in the absence of a means of managing the group’s work process. As an instructor, it is often painful to watch the group at this stage when it seemingly takes several steps backwards. While an admonition or comment from the instructor could seemingly save time and set the group back on the right track by telling them what to do, most groups find their way back onto the track through their own self-assessment and problem solving. In fact, we find that our attempts to shortcut the learning process through such interventions often end up leading students on detours that are less productive than if we let them work through problems on their own. The benefits are far greater when the students make the decision – which has been the case with virtually all groups with whom we have worked – to go back to the structure of the Interaction Method of their own accord. They subsequently work with intimate knowledge of the consequences of working under two different modes of operation. This was observed in one of our PBL classes. [Over the course of the term] as students worked more in teams, the [meeting management] roles became both more clearly defined and valued. The leaders began to provide more detailed agendas and introduced them with phrases such as, ‘I hope this will provide a plan to keep us focused.’ Facilitators took more initiative to. . . provide direction so that other members could concentrate on the content of discussions rather than on the process. Finally, group members began to take it upon themselves to challenge each other, with some groups assigning ‘devil’s advocates’ in order to become more critical in their evaluation of possibilities under 5 discussion.

While it has been a challenge to cultivate the necessary self-discipline after careers of telling and/or leading students to see important issues and concepts, patience does have its rewards for the instructor. First, patience allows the instructor to sit and listen to the thinking that goes on as students struggle to apply concepts to real problems. While this is often frustrating, it is also invigorating to watch the students’ learning unfold. For many teachers it may be the first time that we really hear how students are interpreting the concepts and problems that they are learning. Supportiveness The PBL classroom environment places not only the instructor, but also students in a situation of substantial challenge and risk-taking. The manner in which students experience this change was captured in an integrative essay written by a student at Vanderbilt University following the PBL project Making Change Happen. In this essay, the student draws a salient parallel between the reactions of school people to change in a PBL project on change implementation and the process of personal change that she experienced as she sought to adapt to the PBL classroom environment. Student Response to the PBL Classroom Environment After we had completed the organizational change project, I realized that I had gone through these same stages during this course. At the start of the


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semester, I didn’t know any thing about PBL; experiencing this in class was new and different. . . At first I was turned off by the concept because I didn’t know anything about it. . . . I didn’t see a need to change the way classes were being taught. . . After I was given the materials on PBL, it seemed like an interesting concept, but I was still resistant towards the change, mostly because it was new. I was unfamiliar with the teaching procedure, the grading criteria, the role of the student, and the role of the teacher. Again, like [the people in] the simulated organization in the PBL project, I was intimidated by the change. At this point in the course we started immediately working on a PBL project and it took some of the mystery away about the new curriculum and reduced the intimidation. . . I soon found myself asking my friends and advisor what they thought about the PBL method. I was very much influenced by what the people in my social circle had to say (I know this is not always a good quality, but it’s what happened). We also saw this happen in the organization in the project where certain informal leaders influenced [the opinions and attitudes of] others in their social circles. . . We were able to move people like myself who were slower to change once we talked with and got the support of these informal leaders. . . As the semester progressed, I found that it was increasingly difficult to remain resistant! The class was moving along and we getting more and more involved in our PBL projects. Working in groups and solving real problems was beginning to seem more like a challenge than a chore. Using the PBL method began to get easier and more comfortable. This, in particular, relates to applying the Interaction Method to our group meetings. We saw this change with most of the staff during the PBL project as well. The more they were exposed to the new IT system and supported through practice, the easier it became to use it. Eventually, where we were successful as facilitators of the change process, more of the staff routinely used the new IT system, even when it wasn’t being required or monitored.6

As this student’s insight indicates, the PBL learning environment poses a challenge for students who are accustomed to traditional forms of instruction. One way to build confidence in the method – for both the instructor and students – is through the systematic introduction of PBL to students. We take several steps to support students’ transition to a PBL environment. When PBL is used in conjunction with university courses, we facilitate transition first through the syllabus. The syllabus describes in some detail the expectations of the instructor, the nature of the instructional methodology, and the role of the student in PBL. This alerts students that a change is in the offing. Although it is not always possible to do, we also try to support student success in PBL by using a staged approach in the curriculum. That is, at the earlier stages of student’s exposure to PBL, we select PBL projects that are less complex in terms of the number and swampiness of the problems they present. We seek to sequence projects, gradually increasing the prerequisite skills and knowledge (e.g., meeting management, problem solving, oral and written presentation) that the projects demand of students.


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Given the dramatic shift in the norms within a PBL environment, it is important that the instructor support student efforts whether or not they initially succeed. As we have already noted several times, we do this by letting them work through the problems they encounter with limited intervention on our part. By doing so, we communicate our confidence in their ability to succeed. Of course, we also make ourselves as well as other human resources available during the project as resources. We do not let them feel abandoned. As one of our students student observed of the professor, “He let us do it, and made us think more, and because we had to think more, we learned more in retrospect.” Or another who noted that, the instructor, “wanted us to discover and be comfortable learning on our own. That was very good for me. . . If we were getting off track too far he would guide us, and when we had questions he would answer us, so we knew the support was there from him.” We also provide support for students by building a system of extensive, ongoing formative feedback throughout the course of a PBL project. We cannot overemphasize the role of feedback students in a PBL environment. As Hall7 noted, the instructor, “expected [students] to encounter frustration, but also to learn from it. The constructive nature and detail of [the instructor’s] feedback ‘floored’, ‘baffled’, and ‘astonished’ them. They . . . valued it, especially as they saw the benefits unfolding throughout the year.” This comment is indicative of the contrast that students perceive between the amount and quality received in a PBL environment when compared to their “normal classes.” Feedback on student efforts is conveyed through periodic, oral, peer assessments in each of the groups during the project, an instructor-led oral debriefing with the whole class following completion of a project, written feedback concerning the products – at times individually to students and always to the groups – at the end of a project, and conversations with individual students during the project. We elaborate on issues of feedback in the final section of this chapter and also in Chapter Six on Student Assessment. Here we simply note that nonjudgmental, specific feedback to students on their thinking, behaviors, and work products represents a powerful and essential form of support. High Expectations The last of the attitudes we wish to highlight is high expectations for student success. The emphasis that we place on experimentation, supportiveness, formative assessment and self-directed learning by no means diminishes our expectations concerning student effort or our standards for accomplishment of learning objectives. High expectations for students are critical within a PBL environment since the instructor is, in a sense, seeking to replace traditional classroom control mechanisms with group norms and self-motivation as motivators of student effort. Our experience with PBL in a variety of settings and with a wide range of students bears out the belief that students apply themselves with greater effort and more time to the tasks within problem-based learning than in traditional instruction. Similar reports have emerged in the medical education literature. This has even been


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cited by some as a potential drawback on the grounds that PBL demands too much of students. We find this concern ironic in that professional students often attend graduate programs on “tired time” after work or on weekends. The negative consequences for learning standards and expectations that arise from these conditions of graduate study have been discussed at length.8 If it is true that some students experience PBL as overly intense and taxing, we believe it worthwhile to err on the side of demanding too much rather than too little of our students. In fact, our students report consistently that while they find PBL demanding, the benefits for their learning are worth the effort. We seek to communicate high expectations for student success in a variety of ways. Foremost among these is giving students responsibility for managing their own learning during the course of a PBL project. As noted earlier, this includes planning and managing the steps for project completion, how they will use the time allocated for the project, the process and content of meetings, and the learning resources. Giving control for these aspects of the class over to students has had some unanticipated and surprisingly positive consequences. We find that when given control over how to use their time, students invariably spend more rather than less time on their work. In one of our classes, we queried students as to why they had chosen to work longer when they now had the freedom to come or go as they pleased. A veteran manager replied, “Isn’t that human nature? When you give people the responsibility for their own circumstances they usually exceed what you would expect of them if you maintained the control yourself.” We have observed a similar phenomenon with students who actually set up extra team meetings on dates when class was canceled. Similarly, when students exercise control over how they learn, we also find that they exceed our expectations. When students are provided with a set of resources that are relevant to understanding and solving a problem that is perceived as meaningful, they consistently seek to make use of them. At Vanderbilt, one of our students noted this tendency in a reflective essay. “Most professors here would be satisfied if 70% of their students came to class and had read 70% of the materials. It has been my experience in this class that virtually 100% of the students have come to this class each week, and that to a person they have actually done all of the readings designated by the group. . . your group forces you to pull your own weight.” We also seek to communicate high expectations to students through our feedback. It has been our experience that students appreciate the frequent, specific feedback on their performance provided in PBL projects. The personalized feedback in combination with the integrative essays students complete after each project generally stimulate students to begin to define personal learning objectives in addition to those designated in the project specifications. This often results in their applying themselves with at least equal effort and more focused attention in subsequent projects. Students report that, over time, they begin to work smarter as well as harder. Confidence in the PBL methodology and attitudes of experimentation, patience, supportiveness, and high expectations form an affective foundation for


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implementing PBL in the classroom. These attitudes signal the instructor’s beliefs and intentions to students. While the instructor needs to create a learning environment that invites and supports student risk-taking, the environment must reflect high expectations and standards for student success. As noted, the teacher accomplishes this through attention to students’ transition to PBL as well as through other features of the PBL methodology. In the absence of such a learning environment, PBL does not fully attain its potential for student engagement and learning. In the following sections of this chapter, we discuss the instructional decisionmaking and behaviors of the instructor as he/she implements PBL in the classroom. We organize the discussion in terms of salient considerations and actions of the instructor before, during and after using a PBL project in class. THE INSTRUCTOR’S ROLE IN PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING: BEFORE THE PROJECT As discussed in Chapter Three, PBL involves significant front-loading of time and attention on the part of the instructor. Front-loading includes not only development of new PBL projects, but also preparation of materials and other resources prior to class sessions. Here we review decisions and logistical preparations for the instructor to consider prior to conducting a PBL instructional project with students. Review and Preparation of PBL Project Materials and Logistics We discuss salient issues concerning selection of PBL projects in Chapter Eight in the context of curriculum implementation. For the purposes of this chapter, we assume that the instructor has already decided which PBL projects to use in the curriculum. The next step involves the review of the resources and mechanics of the project. Here the instructor must consider how to conduct the project within the constraints of the particular setting. Each PBL project has multiple components that require similar attention. The tasks commonly involved in preparation for the classroom include: 1) selecting readings and other resources (old and new ones), 2) arranging for the provision of human resources, 3) preparing materials, 4) preparing the physical environment, 5) obtaining equipment. Planning for these well in advance of the class session is critical to the smooth functioning of a PBL project and also to student success. Review the PBL Project As instructors, we find it imperative to do all of the readings before assigning a project. This enables us to understand the content of the project as conceived by the author. Since it is likely that the project will relate to an area of the instructor’s expertise, this process often leads to the selection of additional readings and/or replacement of indicated readings. A key area for consideration in planning concerns the time constraints and task flow of the project. The first time that an instructor uses a project there will be uncertainty as to how much time is needed, regardless of what the teaching notes


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may say. Many factors will impact on the actual learning process of the project: the prior experience of the students, the timing of the class (e.g., one weekend or 5 three-hour sessions over a five week period). The instructor needs to try and anticipate as many of these as possible in advance and plan strategies to address them. If time constraints are particularly severe, the instructor can reduce the reading load by identifying certain readings as optional and others as required. Arrange for Human Resources We typically engage two types of human resources in PBL projects. First, we solicit the assistance of practitioners for role plays associated with the products of various projects. For example, in our Employee Selection project (see Chapter Fourteen), students will interview three candidates for a job vacancy. In this and other projects, we identify willing occupants of the role in question to take on the relevant role in the project performance. We send them a copy of the project specifications ahead of time along with instructions concerning our expectations for their part in the role play. We have found that practitioners are eager to assist in this fashion, but that engaging their effective participation requires clear communication of our expectations and attention to scheduling well ahead of time. A second way in which we engage outside resources in PBL is through the appointment of expert consultants. These may be professors and/or practitioners who have particular expertise with respect to the issues presented in the project. We often recruit one or more expert consultants for a project. We send them a copy of the project specifications and include brief guidelines on how to conduct themselves in response to student questions. Students are given the consultants’ names, contact information, and their areas of expertise. We have also experimented with a variation on the use of consultants through videotape. We have developed videotapes for two projects in which expert consultants share their thinking about the problems in the project. Again, we recruit willing experts and send them a copy of the project specifications. Then, during a videotaped session, we ask them to think aloud from their perspective as a researcher or practitioner. They discuss which problems seem most salient to them and how their point of view would shape their approach to solving the problem. Either we provide these video CD’s to students during the unit as an instructional resource or at the conclusion of a project to supplement the instructor’s debriefing. When providing students with the videotape as a learning resource, the instructor should, however, caution to follow the same guidelines as with other resources. They should explore the nature of the problem(s) as a group before examining the videotape. Prepare Project Materials Once the instructor is familiar with the project’s specifications and mechanics, he/she must prepare the actual learning materials for students. Between the readings, project specifications, and various other handouts, paper management can become complex. Since projects draw from an interdisciplinary set of resources, it is simply not feasible to work from a text. This complicates matters since the instructor is forced


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to draw on materials that require copyright permission. We allot extra time for this process when working with campus or commercial copy centers. Prepare the Physical Environment We cannot overstate the importance of designing a physical learning environment conducive for PBL. The instructor must attend to both room assignment and classroom preparation. The classroom environment must facilitate the conduct of group meetings and problem solving sessions. A room with tables and chairs that can be rearranged for small group work is optimal. We schedule classroom space in advance in order to ensure that the room size and furniture are appropriate for PBL. Plan for Necessary Equipment The equipment needs for PBL projects vary. In most instances, however, students will need flip charts with easels, marking pens, and masking tape. Some projects may also require a camcorder for videotaping or a computer lab. Preparing the Class for a PBL Project The final preparation prior to actual implementation of a PBL project is the assignment of students to PBL groups (also referred to as project teams). The instructor forms teams that work independently for the duration of a single PBL project. Like project task forces in the workplace, the project teams come together for a single PBL project and then disband. New project teams are formed for subsequent projects. There is no single correct way to assign students to teams. There are only tradeoffs. Ɣ Some instructors allow students self-select their teams. This allows students to align schedules and styles. However, it also tends to create a situation in which students stay within their comfort zone. Ɣ Some instructors assign students to their teams. This is perhaps closer to the real workplace situation in which you must work with all types of people. However, it does not take into account student schedules. Since there is not one right answer to this issue, the instructor should consider the relevant tradeoffs and then decide which method of assignment to follow. Students can learn important lessons concerning group functioning from either approach. Though we have worked with groups as small as three and as large as 10, we try to keep the group size to between four and six persons. Our experience suggests that this range allows for optimal levels of student participation in the project. This is partly influenced by the type of group process we seek to create. Larger teams allow for fuller utilization of the resources of the project team and place students in a wider variety of roles. However, we find that students’ opportunities for individual participation in the team’s learning activities begin to fall appreciably when the group size exceeds six. This is an important consideration in PBL since the goals differ from those of a project task force in the workplace.


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A task force is primarily concerned with production of a project. In PBL we intend for the project team to produce a product and to optimize individuals’ learning during the process. Unless properly managed, we find that large teams provide a less conducive learning environment for our students. The composition of the groups is, in and of itself, a potentially useful vehicle for student learning in the area of group dynamics. As our students have commented, the very process of problem-based learning affords future leaders with an opportunity to learn from the dynamics that arise naturally as students tackle a problem. As one of our students observed, “An analysis of group processes is necessary for a real understanding of leadership and group dynamics. I learned the most from my groups’ discussions of how we worked together”9 The instructor may choose to place particular stress on this aspect of the students’ learning. We routinely use the Personal Style Inventory10 as a means of identifying students’ personality types. Subsequently, we ask students to identify their personality type designators within their groups and to attend to these over the duration of a course or program. This can lead to useful learning concerning how different types of people interact in groups. By way of placing these issues in context, we can consider how project teams are formed in the program at Mahidol University. In our PBL program, the majority of our students study part-time. Although they willingly commit time to their studies, arranging suitable times to meet outside of class can be a problem. Moreover, the Thai culture is highly collectivist, meaning in this case that students strongly prefer to work with their friends on PBL project teams. With these factors in mind, most of our instructors allow the students to set their own teams. We organize our PBL curriculum into course sections that operate with a maximum size of 24 students. Depending upon the PBL project, the group size could range from three to six students. Smaller groups make it easier for the instructor to determine the extent of individual student input and learning. Instructors prefer larger teams in projects where the scope of work benefits from more hands to share the project tasks. Summary The successful implementation of PBL requires a considerably more advance attention to materials review, selection and preparation as well as logistical planning than most teachers are accustomed to providing. The teacher’s attention to these instructional design features contribute to a learning environment that supports students’ ability to succeed in PBL. Our version of PBL draws explicitly on the power of cooperative group learning. However, cooperative learning requires a welldesigned learning environment. Inadequate attention to development of the learning environment decreases both efficiency and effectiveness of student learning in PBL. We find that schools vary widely in their ability to provide the logistical support and flexibility that is necessary for successful classroom implementation of PBL. Particularly at the initial stages of classroom implementation, the instructor must expect to budget considerably more time for planning before the course begins. In


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the next section of the chapter, we discuss the types of instructional decision-making that characterize the teacher’s role during a PBL project. THE INSTRUCTOR’S ROLE DURING A PBL PROJECT In considering the role of the instructor during a PBL project, we assume that the instructor has already introduced students to problem-based learning, a project has been selected, materials have been prepared, and the class is ready to proceed. Thus, this discussion focuses on the instructor’s decision-making during the process of a typical PBL project. Introducing the PBL Project The logistical arrangements of a course or program shape how the instructor introduces the project to students. At the outset of a project, the instructor must organize students into their teams. Then we generally provide a brief overview (about 15 minutes) of the project before releasing the teams to begin their work. The overview states why the project problem is important to the work of managers, the desired learning objectives, the nature of the products the students will develop, and the time constraints under which the class will complete the project. We then distribute project materials (i.e., the specifications, readings, videotapes, and consultant contact information) and signal teams to begin their first project meeting. We keep several things in mind as they bear on the logistics of introducing a PBL project. First, we make our introduction brief, simply providing an overview and clarification of expectations. This is not – despite a natural desire – the instructor’s opportunity to make up for lost time on-stage. The goal is to give students the essential information and then let them get started on their own. Second, we do not distribute readings in advance of explaining the project specifications. As we have emphasized throughout this volume, in problem-based learning the problem come first. The problem acts as a stimulus for the subsequent learning of concepts and skills. Instructors need to resist the temptation to have students get a head-start on the readings. The instructor should maintain control over the resources until groups have formed and teams have had time to review the project specifications. Review of the readings and other resources should come after students have examined the problem, individually and hopefully in their groups. A third suggestion is to structure the introduction of a PBL project to facilitate project planning. We have found that student teams function more effectively when the team develops a preliminary plan for the project. Students often do not see the importance of project planning at first. In one essay, a student noted that she, “felt strangled by the very idea of developing a project plan.” However, after several experiences of participating in project teams that had project plans of varying degrees of coherence, she concluded that although planning was not something she enjoyed, it was necessary for group effectiveness. In the Mahidol University program, we require students to use MS Project to create and maintain their project plans.


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If the instructor does want team leaders to develop project plans two steps will facilitate this. First, the instructor should explicitly state the expectation that team leaders will formulate and turn in a copy of their project plan. In the absence of a clearly stated expectation, we find that most students will not take the time to plan the project systematically. Second, the instructor should provide a time structure that facilitates planning at the outset of the project. This may be accomplished in a variety of ways. For example, the instructor can distribute the product specifications to the group leaders before the other group members with the request that they develop a preliminary project plan for the group’s first meeting (i.e., when the rest of the class receives the materials). Or, the instructor can schedule the introduction of a new PBL project for the last hour of a class session so that the teams have a chance to form, to read over the project specifications, to exchange contact information as desired and to assign responsibilities for the next meeting (e.g., readings, review of videotapes). The team leaders then work towards developing and distributing project plans for discussion in the subsequent class session. Developing Classroom Norms that Support Problem-based Learning Earlier we noted that to facilitate effective learning in PBL, the instructor must allow students to make mistakes. However, it is equally important that the teacher create a learning environment in which students develop habits that foster learning from their mistakes. Much of the instructor’s effort in creating the PBL environment is bent towards providing students with the tools they need to function as productive learners in the absence of teacher-directed instruction. The front-loading of time and attention to project development, materials preparation, and logistical support is designed to provide a framework for learning in which students can succeed while working independently in their teams. In addition to these structural components, however, wish to highlight several classroom norms that also support PBL. Using Time Effectively When students work in a PBL environment they become acutely aware of time – how much (or little) is available, alternatives for using it productively, how it is running out. Once they become responsible for their learning, they begin to approach time as a scarce and valuable resource. The instructor can foster development of a positive norm by emphasizing that students’ are responsible for deciding how they will use their time within the duration of the project (i.e., until the date and time when products are due). As noted earlier, the instructor also cues students to the importance of treating other peoples’ time as valuable by issuing guidelines on the use of consultants in the project. Finally, we introduce students to a framework for thinking about the management of one’s time through a PBL project, The Work of the Manager: Creating a Vision and the Time to Achieve it.11 At Mahidol University, we introduce this project in our Principles of Management course taken in the students’ first trimester. Indeed, positive feedback from our working students on the utility of the


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project in helping them use time more effectively has convinced our instructors to place this project early in the course. Developing a Problem-focused Orientation to Learning In PBL it is also the instructor’s task to assist students in becoming problem-focused in their learning. We ask students to examine all learning resources in light of the problems presented in the PBL project. This contrasts sharply with the more typical book-report mentality with which students cover their readings. A problem-focused exploitation of readings, videotapes and consultations raises issues of application in the minds of students during the course of their learning. This begins to sensitize students to the important impact of context on the application of knowledge. It also fosters retention and subsequent access to the knowledge in the workplace. Personalizing Learning Another norm we encourage is for students to personalize their learning by identifying personal learning objectives in relation to PBL projects. This, again, is a habit that the instructor must stimulate and then reinforce; it tends not to develop naturally for most students. The instructor can ask students to focus on this at the beginning of a project. However, in practice, we have found that students’ awareness of their learning needs more often emerge over time. Resourceful Learning Another norm that enhances effective learning in a PBL classroom is student resourcefulness. The emphasis on self-directed learning requires students to become more active seekers of information. Although this feature is admittedly less prominent in the problem-stimulated version of PBL, it is still possible to encourage student resourcefulness as learners. In conventional classes, students often treat knowledge as if it is bounded by the resources provided by the instructor. This places students in a very passive role in relation to the subject matter. Teachers reinforce this perspective by admonishing students against sharing information with each other or seeking information from people outside the classroom who might have the answers. A curriculum is often said to have been covered when the students have been exposed to the readings selected and approved by the instructor. In PBL, we prompt students to seek out useful information wherever it may be found. This begins in their learning teams. One of the characteristics of high performing teams is their capacity for exploiting the knowledge and skills of team members. We, therefore, encourage students to make the identification of the team’s resources as they relate the problem a routine step in the problem solving process they use. We also invite students to use people in the workplace who may have expertise concerning the issues that arise in a PBL project. Thus, this norm and the norm of approaching knowledge in a problem-focused manner both seek to teach students to


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use knowledge as a tool for problem solving. We believe that becoming resourceful learners in the classroom is a critical step to prepare students to become resourceful leaders on-the-job. Self-monitoring Finally, students need to develop the ability to monitor themselves individually and collectively. The integrative essays are designed to assist in individual reflection. We use peer feedback as a vehicle for the groups to monitor their process. Team members both provide formative feedback to each other during the project and assess each other’s contributions to the team at its conclusion. These learning norms are mutually reinforcing. Together they foster students’ capacity for working successfully in a cooperative group learning environment. As Hall observed in her study of a PBL class, these norms begin to exert a powerful influence on students’ engagement in their learning. This self-monitoring element became a habit for them and they saw the value of it in other areas of their lives as well. The various facets of the monitoring process further instilled the recognition that the [teacher’s] desired goal was for them to learn how to learn, not just make a grade or only recall specific outcomes from a project for a test. . . This inspired and required continual reflection by the students individually and also stimulated communication among the group members.12

Instructor Interaction during the Project In a PBL classroom the teacher lives in the background for over 90% of the project’s duration. This represents one of the hardest transitions for instructors. PBL places the instructors in a position whereby they convey their expertise through selection of materials and learning resources, through limited interventions during class, and through their feedback to students. This suggests the need for teachers to develop both a reservoir of self-discipline and a repertoire of new instructional skills that foster students’ learning. Although the instructor lives both physically and metaphorically in the background of a PBL class, the instructor stills fulfills a number of tasks during a PBL project. Provide Content Information The instructor does still act as a resource to groups as they grapple with the problem and the content of the resources. It is, however, interesting to note that although we make ourselves available to students during a project, students are often reluctant to draw on the instructor’s knowledge in relation to the project. We, therefore, explicitly remind them that they may seek our input on the problem. This is a particularly sensitive type of interaction in that students have a finely honed instinct in hunting for right answers. Given years of classroom experience, they assume that there is a right answer hidden in the instructor’s mind. Thus, when the instructor responds in these interactions, it is useful to use a Socratic style,


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asking questions, directing students to other resources, and raising alternative points of view, rather than offering prescriptions. Content information may be provided in an additional manner. The instructor may choose to intersperse scheduled mini-lectures on content knowledge relevant to the problem during the course of the project. At Mahidol University, we do this much as has been done at Harvard Medical School where the students receive relevant lectures concurrent with the PBL project they are studying. We do not view this as a violation of PBL principles as long as the instructor ensures that 1) the problem comes first, and 2) the balance of the student activity remains problemfocused and student-directed. Act as a Process Observer The instructor also acts as a process observer of the project teams. Typically, we rotate among groups, spending some time with each to get a sense of how they are proceeding. Occasionally a group may be bogged down due to problems in the process of the group’s work or in a misunderstanding of their roles or tasks. At these times, an intervention may be appropriate. Before intervening with a group, however, we force ourselves to stop and ask, “Is the content of my intervention critical either to the group’s learning how to deal with this process problem (or their understanding of the problem)? If so, is it likely that they will overcome the current obstacle without my intervention?” As time has passed, we are increasingly likely to take notes and share our thoughts with students concerning the problems they encountered either verbally or in writing after the project has been completed. Consult with Students on Individual Issues Individual students may request time to meet with the instructor individually during the course of a project. We encourage this as much as possible. In some situations, we have even found it useful to require group leaders to schedule meetings with the instructor during the project to review progress and issues that have arisen. Monitor Time During the project, the instructor must monitor and communicate with the teams concerning the time flow. The teacher must assess whether and how to modify the time allocated for the project. This tends to be most important the first time that an instructor uses a project. However, some projects have specific role playing activities that have been scheduled with outside resource persons. In such cases the instructor must monitor group progress to stay on schedule. Debrief the Class The last task is the debriefing that occurs at the conclusion of the project. As with other features of PBL implementation, time constraints may shape when the final debriefing is held. If the project concludes with a public performance, such as a presentation to a client or a supervisory conference held with a staff member, the


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instructor may debrief with the class immediately after the performance. If the product is a written plan or memo that the instructor must first review, this may not be possible. There is a tension here between the instructor’s desire to take time to review and reflect on the students’ products and a need to provide fresh feedback to students. PBL generates a great deal of individual and group investment in their final products. Instructors should capitalize on this by providing feedback as soon as possible following conclusion of the project. This helps students obtain closure and motivates them for the next project. It also allows them to incorporate the instructor’s feedback into their reflections for the integrative essay. As we discuss in the Student Assessment chapter, the instructor should emphasize the positive aspects of the students’ performance and raise possible consequences of the proposed actions. The instructor may focus students’ attention on content issues that still need clarification as well as aspects of the problem and points of view towards the solution that may not have been considered. Project debriefings should also solicit questions and unresolved issues from students. Summary During the course of a PBL project, the instructor must learn to live comfortably in the background. To counter the fairly predictable feelings of anxiety concerning the apparent lack of a role, we recommend two strategies. First we suggest that the instructor remember the amount of work that went into the creation of the PBL environment in which the students are working. Although this strategy is not actionoriented, it may relieve some of the unproductive self-doubt that can emerge during class on the part of the instructor. The instructor can also use the observations of groups as an opportunity to gather data on the team performance. We incorporate these data into the formative feedback that we provide to students following completion of the project (see Chapter Six on Student Assessment). Students frequently express the viewpoint that the instructor’s new role is at least as informative as the old one when they receive concrete, useful feedback on their work during a PBL project. This, in turn, builds the instructor’s confidence in the legitimacy of a way of teaching that changes the public role of the teacher so dramatically. THE INSTRUCTOR’S ROLE AFTER THE PROJECT Two important aspects of the instructor’s role occur following the project: providing written feedback to students and reviewing their feedback to the instructor. All of our PBL projects incorporate integrative essays in addition to the project specific products. The integrative essays serve to stimulate metacognitive processing of the individual student’s experience and refocus their learning from the project. Somewhat surprisingly, students come to value writing the integrative essays, despite their frequency. As Hall found, “They enjoyed having to think about the process of their work and saw [the essays] leading to individual growth and


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recognition of group progress”13 The depth of students’ reflection on these essays is often startling to the instructor. The essays stimulate such considerations quite naturally. In response to these serious efforts by the students, we approach our feedback as part of an extended conversation with students that unfolds over the course of the term or institute. Normally we return the essays to students with comments as well as questions for their further consideration. The feedback on the essay also represents an opportunity for the instructor to reframe issues raised by the student as possible learning objectives for subsequent projects. The project specific products are also reviewed by the instructor and returned to students with comments. We generally provide written feedback to each group on their group product (e.g., a group’s presentation or plan) and to individuals for individual products (e.g., individually written memos). However, when a PBL project calls for an individual product – for example a written memo to the supervisor – we may also write a memo to the whole class discussing issues that arose in the class’ products as a whole. Student Feedback to the Instructor The explicit solicitation and incorporation of feedback from students is part of the process of continuous improvement that we seek to model for students. We solicit feedback from the class regarding the project verbally in the project debriefing as well as through the Talkback Sheets and Reflective Essays. We already noted the function that the two page essays serve for students. In addition, these essays provide the instructor with insight into the students’ personal experience of the project. This is invaluable in understanding how to adjust the project’s use in the future. The Talkback Sheets provide a second source of directed feedback for the instructor concerning the project. We ask students to answer these questions anonymously. These sheets solicit data concerning the extent to which students feel the project achieved its objectives and ways in which to improve it. We often type the students’ comments from the Talkback Sheets in summary form and distribute them to the class so they can see how others responded. We may discuss these comments with the class. In addition to the practical value of these data for the purpose of project revision, the act of soliciting and sharing the information indicates to students that the instructor values their input. After reviewing the content of the Reflective Essays and the Talkback Sheets, the instructor begins to consider modifications to the project. We find it useful to record these notes for future use as soon as possible after the project so they don’t become blurred by the next project’s activities. Why PBL Works: A Student’s Perspective I have always believed that a large part of teaching is in what happens before and after one works with students. That is, I believe that the selection and preparation of materials before teaching is critical to the success of the lesson. I believe that the assessment of students’ learning


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experience must be done thoroughly and thoughtfully. PBL essentially carves out the problem, offers numerous resources and then allows the teacher to step back and out of the way of the subsequent learning. So, in fact, what’s different from other forms of teaching or teaching strategies is that the teacher is not central to the moment of contacts between student and material, but is central to the learning by preparing rich materials and giving feedback to the individual learner, two realms of the teaching learning process we often don’t emphasize.14

CONCLUSION In this chapter we have tried to convey the nature of the instructor’s role in problembased learning and to offer specific suggestions as to how to teach in a PBL classroom. A problem-based learning environment is radically different from traditional teacher-directed and case-based classroom environments. Following her study of a PBL classroom, Hall concluded, “What surprised me was the degree to which each person in the class described the atmosphere of the class as being remarkably different from any other class they had ever experienced.”15 The creation of this type of learning environment is an instructional goal in PBL. As we have sought to convey, however, it takes considerable front-loading of effort and attention to the design of subject matter, planning of logistical details, and the development and support of group learning norms. Reaching the goal of selfdirected learning on the part of students does not occur outside of a structure in which student roles and expectations have been clearly established. While in PBL, the instructor does not appear to be a central figure in the PBL classroom, without his/her explicit attention to the creation of this structure and support of the learning climate, PBL will fail to attain its potential.

NOTES 1

The contents of this chapter have been adapted with permission of the publisher from content presented in Bridges, E., & Hallinger, P. Problem-based learning in leadership development. Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse. 2 Wilkerson, L. & Hundert, E. (1991). Becoming a problem-based tutor: Increasing selfawareness through faculty development. In D. Boud & G. Feletti (Eds.), The challenge of problem-based learning, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 159-172. 3 Hall, M. (1994). Constructivist educational theory in practice: An analysis of problembased learning in the classroom. Unpublished paper. Nashville, TN: Peabody College, 5. 4 Doyle, M., & Strauss, D. (1993). How to make meetings work. New York: Jove Books. 5 Hall, op. cit., p. 6. 6 Bohstedt, J. (1994). Reflective essay submitted to the author. 7 Hall, op. cit., p. 12. 8 Bridges, E. (1977). The nature of leadership. In L. Cunningham, W. Hack, & R. Nystrand (Eds.), Educational administration: The developing decades. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan. 9 Hall, op. cit., p. 7.


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Keirsey, D. & Bates, M. (2004). Please understand me II. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Books. 11  Bridges, E. (1994). The work of the principal: Creating a vision and the time to achieve it. Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse. 12  Hall, op. cit., p. 7. 13 Hall, op. cit., p. 7. 14 Bohstedt, J. (1994). Reflective essay submitted to the author. 15 Hall, op. cit., p. 15.


CHAPTER 5 INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY AND PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING ABSTRACT Problem-based learning (PBL) and learning technology represent two important trends in teaching and learning that emerged over the past two decades. This chapter takes the position that the PBL and learning technology have the potential to enhance to each other’s strengths. The question is one of relationship and fit. The chapter presents a system of classification consisting of four ways by which technology can potentially increase the impact of PBL: Ɣ Enhancing the reality of the problem scenario, Ɣ Providing input of domain-specific knowledge, Ɣ Enabling a more sophisticated modeling of the problem-solution process, Ɣ Offering tools for problem-formulation, analysis, and solving,, Ɣ Providing tools for creating the product of the PBL project.

INTRODUCTION There has been rapid development and introduction of new technologies into schools over the past 20 years. The application of technology to education has been irresistible, and some contend that learning technologies are bringing about a revolution in learning. Others suggest that technology has failed to achieve any significant changes in either learning process or outcomes.1 Thus, it remains an open question how best to enlist the capabilities of technology to facilitate teaching and learning. One of the missing links in the application of technology to the learning process has been a lack of suitable pedagogical models. The goal of this chapter is to discuss how emerging technologies can be used to facilitate student learning using PBL as the pedagogical framework. The chapter explores the range of possible roles technology can play in the enhancement of problem-based learning. A FRAMEWORK FOR USING TECHNOLOGIES TO ENHANCE PBL For the purposes of this chapter, technology is viewed quite broadly. It includes any use of information technology (software and hardware) that are applied to the educational process. These include: Ɣ multi-media technologies such as digitized video clips or videotapes, Ɣ software application programs such as word processors, spreadsheets, database, and statistical programs,

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Ɣ Ɣ

computer simulation programs that have been designed for teaching purposes, video cameras, editing software and video CD technologies.

Table 1 displays a framework for integrating technology into problem-based learning. The underlying assumption is that technology can enhance learning in a PBL context by enabling learners in five ways. Table 1: Framework of Technology Uses in PBL Problem Representation

಴ Use video to provide rich information about the problem

Input of Information

಴ By access to domainspecific knowledge

಴ By system of info retrieval

಴ Use video to foster reflection and evaluation

Simulate a Working Process

಴ To simulate a working process related to the problem

಴ To model a dynamic solution process

Problem Solving Tools

಴ Tool for analyzing info for finding, analyzing, and solving a problem

Product Creation

಴ Technology is used to create and/or convey the product

಴ To provide alternative perspectives on a problem and solution

This framework looks at the role of technology in facilitating learning from five perspectives. The first concerns representation of the problem through multi-media display rather than solely through text narratives. The second refers to ways in which computer technology and multi-media can be used to enhance the power of input to student learning. The third concerns the use of computer simulations that seek to provide an active context for interactive problem solving and knowledge acquisition. The fourth involves the use of software tools (e.g., database programs, statistical software, spreadsheets) to assist in problem-formulation, problem-analysis and problem solving. Finally, the last category refers to the use of software programs to assist in the creation of the product which represents or conveys the solution to the problem.


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Table 2: Technology Usage in PBL Projects Problem Representation

಴ Reorganize

಴ Improving

for Competition

಴ Retail to

Student Success Simulation

಴ Employee

e-Tail

Evaluation

಴ Employee

಴ Corporate

Selection

಴ Organizational Change

಴ Learning Organizations

಴ Cross Cultural Conflict

Input of Information

Culture and Change

Simulate a Working Process

Problem Solving Tools

಴ Organizational ಴ Data to Change

಴ Learning Organizations

಴ Strategies for Success

಴ Markstrat2 ಴ PharmaSim3

Intelligence (advanced spreadsheet)

಴ New Product Positioning (statistics)

಴ Retail to

Product Creation

಴ Data to Intelligence

಴ New Product Positioning

಴ Retail to e-Tail

಴ A Problem at Organization X

e-Tail (e-commerce)

಴ Projects and People (project manage.)

಴ Cross Cultural Conflict

಴ Employee Selection

಴ A Problem at Organization X (video presenting)

಴ Meeting Management

Table 2 displays the PBL projects discussed in this volume and the manner in which they employ technology in the learning process. Note that several projects use multiple methods. In the following sections of the paper we discuss how technology can be employed to enhance PBL in each of these five ways. USING MULTI-MEDIA TECHNOLOGY TO CONVEY THE PROBLEMATIC SITUATION Research on the development of expertise in the professions finds important differences in the problem solving processes used by novices and experts in a variety of professions. These differences, in part, concern their ability to identify key information and patterns in a given problematic situation.4 When entering a management situation, the expert manager is more likely than a novice to “see the cues” necessary to understanding the situation prior to problem solving.5 Expert managers also tend to be more aware of their personal and professional values and to use them as guides when making decisions under conditions of ambiguity.6 Finally, over the past 15 years, researchers have made significant progress in clarifying the unique but complementary contributions that problem solving skills and domainspecific knowledge play in skill-full managerial problem solving.7 PBL uses these findings from cognitive science by presenting students with multiple problematic situations for analysis and solution. In our curriculum, we challenge students to solve both high ground and low ground problems. With PBL,


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we seek to develop both their skills in problem solving as well as their domainspecific knowledge (e.g., knowledge of organizational behaviour, strategic management, finance). It is through the application of domain specific knowledge to the solution of problems similar to those that students are likely to encounter in their future profession that PBL seeks to accelerate the learning of novices. Problem Presentation Typically, instructors present management cases through text-based narratives and resources. Although a skillful case writer is able to embed important problem-related data in a narrative description and supplementary tables, the reader must still “imagine” and “interpret” the context from afar. Inevitably there is a gap between the “reality” of the intended situation and what is presented in any problem scenario. The ability of a student to solve a case problem depends first upon their ability to understand the situation as the case writer intended it. This presents at least three limitations. The first concerns the breadth of the gap between the student’s experience and the problematic situation. We contend that the wider the gap the more difficult it will be for the students to “imagine” the situation as the case writer intended. This problem is accentuated when cases come from contexts that are well outside the learners’ experience. A reliance on text representation of the problematic situation is likely to result in unintended errors of interpretation which will create errors in problem formulation and problem solving. Second, case problems that seem “far away from the students’ experience” are likely to feel less important and meaningful to them. This will affect their motivation to learn. As noted in Chapter Two, the higher effort that students put forth in PBL contexts results, in part, from their motivation to solve a problem that they perceive as relevant and important to their current or future managerial careers. Motivation pays off not only in terms of the level of interest, but also increases retention of information as well as engagement and persistence in the face of challenges.8 Third, reliance on the use of text alone to convey relevant information about the problematic situation places a high premium on the students’ language ability. In our rapidly globalizing society, an increasing number of students are studying management in English, which is a non-native language for many of them. We observe that text cases place an especially high premium on the language ability because the learner lacks access to visual and auditory cues that can be crucial to understanding a situation. While the use of video does not solve the problem of idioms, it does allow students to access multiple learning modalities to support their learning. This is especially important when we expect them to analyze complex problems. Using Multi-media Technology to Enhance Problem Representation We next consider how technology can reduce these limitations of textual representation of case problem scenarios. We will focus especially on how


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multimedia technologies (e.g., videotape or digitized video clips) can increase the immediacy and richness of problem representation. Video technologies offer the learner with a clearer picture of the problem situation as it would appear in reality. Given a video scenario, the learner must identify the relevant information from among a broader range of cues. While this is more challenging, the learner is able to draw upon multiple modalities in processing the presented information. By way of example, a text case may refer to the relationship between a manager and her subordinate as “strained,” or to a staff member as “moderately depressed.” The management student must interpret these text descriptions of emotional states without ever “seeing” what they look like. In a video-based scenario, the student would need to interpret those emotional states based on observation of audio-visual footage of staff interaction. This introduces two significant differences from a text case. First, using the above example, the student would never have been told that the relationship was “strained.” S/he would instead need to observe actual behaviors and figure out what is important and what is not. Then, having observed the situation and “recognized patterns of behavior,” the learner would then have to draw the conclusion that these behaviors represent “a strained relationship” and determine whether this is significant in the case. Research on managerial problem solving has found that experts are better able to distinguish between information that is relevant and that which is not. Experts develop personal decision rules – often tacit in nature – that enable them to “find short-cuts” in the problem solving process.9 Thus, when producing a video scenario of a problematic situation, we embed relevant data about the problem in the “story.” We seek to develop the capacity of learners to “recognize” cues and search for the important information without being told what is relevant. Information can consist of hard data, relationships, relationships, explicit and implicit goals, emotions that are demonstrated or underlying processes that are at work. Finally, we would note that the problem scenario creates “the context” for the students’ interpretation and integration of new knowledge. In Chapter Two we discussed the concept of context dependency.10 This suggests that people are more likely to access stored knowledge needed for solving real problems if they have learned in a context that mirrors the problematic situation.11 Efforts to convey the problem realistically should increase the likelihood of future transfer of learning. A PBL project entitled Cross-cultural Conflict at Senki Denki12 provides a useful example of how technology can enhance presentation of the problem scenario. In this project students view a 25-minute video clip about a management problem that has evolved at a Japanese Company in Thailand. We produced this clip locally using one of our Japanese graduate students and staff at his factory. The problem scenario involves cross-cultural conflict, a problem with widespread salience in multi-national companies operating in Thailand. Senior management at Senki Denki Co. has decided to install a “just-in-time” (JIT) system of production into their Thailand factory. Conflict gradually develops between the Thai factory manager and his Japanese Country Manager over the slow pace of implementation. Dissatisfaction among top managers at the Head Office in Japan


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increases pressure on the Country Manager as he struggles to find the right approach to managing this change. The complexity of the problem unfolds gradually in a video storyline. The initial scenes present information about the company and its operations in Thailand. Then the video clip provides some background on the JIT system and the appointment of the Factory Manager who will oversee the installation. These clips also reveal information about the background of the managers involved in the scenario. Subsequent clips reveal the various points of view different managers hold towards the process of implementing this change. These include multiple clips that include conversations between various managers: the Thai Factory Manager, the Japanese Country Manager, the Thai Human Resources Manager, and the Managing Director in Japan. The video scenario embeds the data needed for analyzing the sources of cross-cultural conflict in a chronological storyline that evolves over a period of nine months. When viewing the video clip, learners must observe and interpret key incidents and draw conclusions about their impact on staff relationships. These incidents include cues conveyed not only through speech, but also through body language (e.g., the cultural meaning of conveying certain types of information in front of subordinates), facial expressions (e.g., different types of “Thai smiles”), and tones of voice (e.g., the different cultural meaning given to particular behaviors such as raising one’s voice). In our judgment, even a skillful case writer would find it difficult to convey these “data” effectively through text alone. For example, a case writer could write, “He listened with a dry smile,” or “Somkid listened silently, staring passively while his boss criticized him for the late production report.” These narrative descriptions are at best filtered approximations of actual behaviors. Moreover, they rely heavily on language alone to convey what actually happened in the situation. In contrast, video representation actually shows the manager losing his temper. The pace, tone and volume of his speech, his distance from his subordinate, and the sound of a book slamming on the table all create the impression in the mind of the viewer. The video also shows the Factory Manager’s response, as well as that of his team. The producer or writer need not point out that the Factory manager was silent or passive, or that his team looked frozen in place while the Japanese boss shouted. As in a real situation, the learners must observe, notice and draw conclusions after recognizing what is significant. Among the projects included in this volume, four incorporate video representation into the presentation of the problem. These include Cross-cultural Conflict at Senki Denki, Reorganizing for Competitiveness, Retail to e-Tail, and Employee Selection. In Cross-cultural Conflict at Senki Denki, the entire problem is conveyed via a single video clip. The other projects use a combination of video, text, quantitative data, and company documents to convey the problem. In some instances, the video consists of a “storyline” such we have described in Cross-cultural Conflict at Senki Denki. In others, the video consists of an introduction to the company (e.g., Employee Selection in Chapter Fourteen). In Reorganizing for Competitiveness and Retail to e-tail, the video clips consist of both


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a video introduction to the company and video interviews with staff. However, these projects do not employ a “storyline” format. We should mention that the use of video is neither overly expensive nor taxing in terms of technical skill. The technologies used for creating multi-media problem scenarios has become less expensive and easier to use in recent years. All of the technology needed for production of multi-media scenarios can be purchased for under $2,500 (USD). These include a digital video camera, CD writer, and computer (PC or Macintosh) with video software and video card. The technical skills are easily acquired for available for editing the video clips. INPUT OF INFORMATION Another means by which technology can facilitate learning is though input of information. We have explored three approaches. The first involves the use of computer technology for providing access to a database of domain-specific knowledge. The second involves the use of videotapes of student performances for evaluation and self-reflection. The third entails the use of videotaped discussions with “experts” reflecting on the problem and/or its solutions. Providing Access to Domain-specific Knowledge We have noted that managerial expertise requires a combination of problem solving skills and relevant domain-specific knowledge. Management education programs have typically focused on the transmission of domain-specific knowledge. Management training programs have typically focused on the development of skills (e.g., problem solving, communication, decision making). PBL seeks to enhance the students’ ability to retain and apply their learning by linking the acquisition of domain-specific knowledge with managerial skills, including problem solving. The past several decades have witnessed the development of an evolving global knowledge base concerning the management of organizations. While the validity of this knowledge base remains uneven, the fact remains that it exists. We assert that the role of university educational programs should be to assist students in: Ɣ Accessing the best available knowledge that is relevant to solving the types of problems they will encounter in professional practice. Ɣ Learning how to apply that knowledge in their local contexts. Ɣ Understanding the limitations of extant knowledge Ɣ Developing an appreciation for learning how to search for, evaluate, and act on the “best available information.” One way of achieving these goals is by using technology to assist students in accessing a database of knowledge that is grounded in theory, craft knowledge and empirical research. Computer technologies can provide learners with access to knowledge relevant to a given problematic situation in ways that are more flexible and powerful than traditional searching through books and journal articles. By way of example, I will discuss how a group of faculty at Vanderbilt University used technology to convey validated information related to education


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management. Faculty members had collaborated in publishing an extensive review of research on factors that had a measurable effect on student learning.13 This review of empirically validated knowledge represented a potentially valuable database of information for education managers. Yet, the faculty members were acutely aware that their published review failed to meet two conditions for achieving the desired impact: Ɣ Widespread reading of the review: Publication of the review, even in a respected academic journal would reach only a small segment of practicing managers for whom the information was highly relevant. Ɣ Application of the content to practice: Most practicing managers who read the research review would only develop a surface understanding of “what research said” about the measurable effects of these interventions. They would have not have developed any real sense of how to apply this information to real problems of practice. Indeed, possessing this information could actually create a false sense of confidence and lead a manager to make poor decisions on the basis of research! Taking these two factors into account, the faculty members asked how they could convey this potentially valuable database of information in an active context. They not only wanted students to learn the contents of the research knowledge base, but also how to apply it in practice. The result was a computer simulation, Improving Student Success. In this simulation, students studying to be education managers confront the problem of how to improve learning and teaching in an underachieving school. The simulation is built around a knowledge base of over 45 research-based practices used in classrooms, homes and schools to improve student achievement. Research synopses of these interventions are incorporated into a database that the learners can read while formulating an improvement strategy. However, the simulation goes beyond simple access to a computerized database. The simulation is interactive. The learner not only formulates but also implements an improvement “strategy” comprised of a selected subset of the research-based improvement interventions. Each time that the user implements an intervention, s/he receives feedback on the results based upon decision rules embedded in the simulation. Sometimes the results are positive for the school and learning improves; sometimes it does not. The software program conveys information about the performance results as well as what happened during implementation. This provides clues to the learner about the interdependence of interventions (e.g., goal-setting, reward, and evaluating staff performance) that are implemented concurrently. Notably, sometimes the implementation results do not conform to the information that the learners accessed in the knowledge database. This alerts them to the fact that the effectiveness of research-based management practices is subject to a variety of contextual factors. These are highlighted in the feedback which incorporates an underlying theory of organizational change. Through the simulation,


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the student becomes not only aware of published research, but also of the limitations of the knowledge base as it applies to problems of practice. This learning process contrasts with a more typical approach in which students would listen to lectures, read articles and perhaps think about how to apply this knowledge to a case. The problem-based computer simulation creates a learning environment in which students actively engage the critical question of how knowledge can be “used as a tool.”14 Moreover, in our experience, it would be impossible to create this type of engagement without the capability of the computer to store and process the knowledge base. Another example of using technology to assist in providing access to domainspecific knowledge lies in the use of instructional videotapes. By way of example, the PBL project on Employee Evaluation incorporates a video clip that describes and models different types of observation techniques and supervisory conferences. Students are provided with the video clips as a learning resource to view on their own. This provides a means of ensuring that students have clear examples of recommended practices. In the Organizational Change project, we include video clips that illustrate different types of resistance that can be expected during the change process. Clips are also shown that show models of managerial; practices which align to Kotter’s eight stages of organizational change.15 The importance of video examples of managerial practices derives from the need for learners to have accurate models of the behaviors and practices that we seek for them to learn. Using Video Feedback to Foster Reflection This aspect of technology usage refers to the videotaping of student performances for later reflection by the students and/or instructor. Of course, this use is in no way unique to a PBL environment. Many instructors use videotapes of student performances to provide feedback on course presentations. In many of our projects, we videotape student presentations and other performances (e.g., performance of the interview in the Employee Selection project, see Chapter Fourteen). We then convert the raw video into Video CD ROMs and distribute these to the students. We then ask students to view and reflect on their performance in one of several ways: Ɣ Write a reflective essay about their personal or team performance; Ɣ Evaluate their performance using an instructor-provided rubric; Ɣ Design a rubric that the instructor or other students could then use to evaluate their performance. In all of the above cases, the use of video technology allows students to gain access to information that facilitates further learning. Capturing Video Feedback from Experts When faced with solving a challenging problem, students often wish to know what the experts would do. Of course, as stated earlier, we seek to develop an


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appreciation among students that relatively few complex management problems have a single solution. Our goal is therefore, to develop flexible thinkers who are able to analyze the conditions that affect the selection of alternative solutions as well as their consequences. One way of doing this is by providing students with alternative perspectives on the problem and its solution from other sources. We have accomplished this by using videotaped interviews with various types of experts. We have used two slightly different approaches. We show the problem to a set of practitioners who have had significant experience with the problem faced in the PBL project. We let them consider the problem as conveyed in the project and ask a series of questions such as: Ɣ What are the key features of the problem as you see it in this case? Ɣ Why are those features so important? Ɣ How would you think about the solution of this problem in practice? Please think aloud. Ɣ What are some of the considerations and contingencies that would be in your mind as you began to work towards a solution? What are some of the tradeoffs you would anticipate? We would then let students view this videotape at the conclusion of the project. A second approach would be to convey the problem to a set of “experts” drawn from disciplines relevant to the problem. For example, in a project focused on organizational change, we developed a videotape from interviews with experts drawn from four knowledge domains: organizational change, managerial problem solving, training and development, corporate culture. When students view this videotape, they can compare their own perspective with that of experts, and see how a diverse range of perspectives can illuminate a single problem. USING TECHNOLOGY TO SIMULATE A WORKING PROCESS This approach to the incorporation of learning technologies in PBL employs different capacities of information technology. Here technology supports the simulation of “work processes that are similar in important respects to those that occur in their profession. The most common way of accomplishing this is through problem-based simulations. Numerous fields of professional education are currently adopting problem-based simulations (e.g., medicine,16 education,17 management,18 health care,19 and international studies20). Within the management domain there are computer simulations covering a wide range of management problems and knowledge domains including finance, organizational change, project management, supply chain and logistics, learning organizations, economics, marketing, strategic management, and knowledge management. In our Master Degree program, we use several simulations addressing problems in the domains of organizational change, systems thinking, marketing, and strategic management. Simulations tend to be well suited for problem-based learning. Whether or not the simulation is problem-based depends upon how the instructor designs the


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learning process. Thus, an instructor could use the same computer simulation in a PBL or non-PBL format. As Resnick has noted: Whereas instructionism focuses on new ways for teachers to instruct, constructionism focuses on new ways for learners ton construct. Both are important. But significant improvements in education are much more likely to come from advances in constructionism, not instructionism. . . The major challenge for educators and educational developers, then, is to create tools and environments that engage learners in construction, invention, and experimentation. This process involves (at least) two levels of design" educators need to design things that allow students to design things.21

We remind the reader of key characteristics of PBL as delineated in Chapter Two: Ɣ The problem comes first in the learning process. Ɣ Learning is usually conducted in teams. Ɣ There is a clear product developed by the learner that demonstrates solution of the problem. Problem-based computer simulations follow the constructivist principles noted above by Resnick. We first present learners with a problematic situation to solve. The simulation could convey the problem situation via video, text, or a combination. Although, the same advantages of video-based scenarios would apply for simulations, most simulations that we have viewed still rely heavily on text. When using simulations in a PBL mode, we place students in learning teams of two to four students. We do this even when the computer facilities are sufficient for students to learn individually. This enables us to take advantage of the cooperative learning aspect of PBL.22 Other features that comprise a PBL project23 are similarly organized to support the learning process. The learning process in a problem-based computer-based simulation draws upon the computer’s ability to model and execute complex relationships and decision rules. The designer of a problem-based, computer simulation can create a scenario, identify theories and best practices salient to the problem, and build those into a highly sophisticated problem solving process. The computer allows a more sophisticated modelling of “reality” (including random events) than an instructor could typically bring into a classroom simulation using only live or text resources. This is especially the case when you wish to give many students the chance to solve the problem, a limitation of live role-plays. Text cases and problems are by nature static. Either they tend to present a situation frozen in time, or they ask students to look back retrospectively at what happened as a problematic situation evolved over time. In either case, the learner is unable to “participate” in the case. In contrast, computer simulations are by nature interactive and dynamic. The computer responds to student input and decisions. The interactivity enables the student to participate in creating an evolving situation that changes over time in response to the learner’s input. Since the user is often able to play multiple times, s/he is actually able to observe the patterns of response under different conditions. We liken this to the role of the flight simulator in training pilots. No professional pilot would begin flying passengers before taking training in a flight simulator.


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The flight simulation provides different contexts and situations for the learner to experience. Moreover, the simulator allows the pilot in training to confront these problematic situations multiple times. This increases their capacity to develop the pattern recognition and attendant decision-making skills that would otherwise take years to evolve through job experience alone. We would emphasize problem-based simulations typically embed a theoretical knowledge base in the decision processes. In the case of the Making Change Happen simulation presented in Chapter Nine, the knowledge base derives from theories and research in the fields of organizational change, psychological change, and knowledge dissemination.24 However, as we elaborate in Chapter Nine, the instructor does not teach theory in advance of the learning. Students construct their understanding of relevant theory through the process of solving the simulated problem. We present information and students access other learning resources even as they engage in the simulation. Student response to the use of problem-based computer simulations in our Master Degree program has been almost uniformly positive. For example our Talkback sheets ask students: “How did you feel at about the project when you first read what it involved?” A typical set of responses drawn from numerous sections that have used the simulation include: challenging, difficult, nervous, interested, complicated, uncertain, eager to learn, lacking confidence, waste of my time, too much data, frustrated, excited, very confusing, useful, not understand what I can learn from it. These responses reflect the combination of ambiguity, uncertainty and incipient interest that typify student attitudes at the start of almost all good PBL projects. Next we ask, “Now that you have completed the project what are your feelings about it?” Students respond with the following: challenging exciting, interesting, practical, fun, so cool, learning like in the real world, interesting, appropriate for students with different experience, applicable to problems I face. When we ask, “What did you learn from the project?” typical responses include: Ɣ Useful for developing my thinking process, Ɣ New way of thinking and analyzing problems, Ɣ Effectiveness of teamwork, Ɣ Learning to think more systematically, Ɣ Learn how and where to look for information before making decisions, Ɣ Makes me realize that getting people to change is not easy, but if I can succeed there is a big return, Ɣ How to develop a strategy using low cost and high effectiveness, Ɣ I can apply the same strategies in my real job, Ɣ Improve myself in facing the changing world, Ɣ If my company implements something new, I feel excited because I understand how to be one of the innovators to make the change happen. Other PBL simulations may provide learners with more direct access to the knowledge base underlying the simulation. The learning process contrasts with a more typical approach in which students would attend lectures, read articles and perhaps think about how to apply this knowledge to a case. In the problem-based


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simulation, students read the synopses while trying to solve the problem. As they proceed in the simulation, learners see the results of their strategy as it is implemented in the simulated school. Thus, from the beginning, their exposure to this knowledge base entails an active engagement of how the knowledge could be “used as a tool.”25 This characteristic of PBL enhances both retention and transfer of learning. This approach to leveraging the capabilities of PBL through the use of learning technologies holds great promise. Although computer simulations lack the live interaction that is a part of real problem contexts, they allow a closer approximation of important aspects than is typically possible. In particular, problem-based simulations provide a useful means of getting students to demonstrate the thinking processes that underlie effective professional practice. Again, we come back to the notion that expertise develops in a process of finding key patterns in problematic situations as well as in the solution of problems. On the technology side, we would note that a wide range of software is available for building simulations. Popular tools include Macromedia Director and Macromedia Flash, as well as simulation builders (e.g., see www.forio.com). USING TECHNOLOGY AS A TOOL FOR PROBLEM SOLVING Perhaps the greatest change in the work of managers in 2006 compared with even 10 years ago lies in the expanded uses of computer hardware and software in organizations. If we think back to 1995 for a moment: Ɣ e-mail, which is ubiquitous today, had been adopted by few organizations internationally. Ɣ The World Wide Web had just launched the previous year. Ɣ E-commerce had yet to come into existence. Ɣ Software used for logistics, customer-relationship management and other key functions remained at a fairly primitive stage of development and had yet to achieve widespread use. Ɣ Basic software programs for word processing, calculation, database management, and presentation were available but had yet to achieve broad use or deep penetration in organizations internationally. Ten years later, familiarity with a broader range of software applications as well as more in-depth knowledge of selected applications is expected of all entry-level to mid-level managers. Given this change in the working process of managers, we believe that management education programs should incorporate the learning and use of software programs into the curriculum. However, instead of teaching the use of these programs as “stand-alone training courses,” we integrate the learning into PBL projects. Students then learn to use the software as tools for solving relevant managerial problems. Thus, a third way in which we can incorporate technology into PBL is by using software tools for problem finding and problem solving. Our approach is to first identify a management problem. Then in examining possible modes of solution, we may identify software tools that are particularly relevant to understanding and/or


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solving the problem. If we deem them suitable, we then delineate skill-related learning of these tools as a learning objective of the project. To date we have incorporated several software programs as problem-finding and problem solving tools into our management curriculum. These include: Ɣ Spreadsheet software for managing and analyzing information, Ɣ Database programs for managing complex information, Ɣ Statistical package for analysis of market data, Ɣ Video-editing software as a means of capturing organizational information through interviews. We expect to expand this dimension of our projects in the future to also include the use of customer relationship management, logistics, business intelligence, and knowledge management software applications. We also plan to develop a project that engages students in technology planning and management, increasingly important domains of management practice. In order to provide a brief illustration of how skill learning is integrated with managerial problem solving, we will refer to one PBL project, Data to Intelligence (see Chapter Ten for an in-depth description). During the D2i project, you will act as a team of consultants to advise an organization on the status of their business environment with a view to provide them with the intelligence on which they can make effective business decisions. You will analyze and make sense of the organization's real-life data to gain meaningful knowledge that will give the organization a clear understanding of the status of their business. Based on this intelligence, you will recommend appropriate actions to the organization. You will then present your recommendations to the organization in a professional consulting presentation and report.

In this project, students use selected features of Microsoft Excel (e.g.., pivot table) to learn how to analyze, interpret and display data related to a significant business problem. In the future we plan to use more powerful business intelligence software for this purpose. Note however, that students use the selected software as a tool for enhancing their decision-making capability. Learning to use the software is secondary to the broader goal of learning how to turn data into business intelligence. We are committed to this approach for two reasons. First, as suggested above, the organizations that employ our graduates today and tomorrow require technological literacy from their managers. To ignore this on the assumption that students will gain these skills “elsewhere” or “on-the-job” is, in our view, incorrect. Professional schools that refuse to incorporate skill development into their educational programs will produce graduates who are unable to put their knowledge into action. As noted in Chapters One and Two, we believe that managers, like other professionals, must accomplish results. This demands a combination of domain specific knowledge, capacity to think and analyze, and a range of skills, including the ability to use technology. Second, we believe that the most effective way for students to learn many types of skills is by learning them in the context of meaningful management problems. With respect to technology, this approach deemphasizes the technical aspects of learning the software program and reduces fear of the technology. Even more


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significantly it helps students see from the outset how the “technical skills” will be employed in the workplace. This should increase retention and foster transfer of knowledge to the workplace. THE USE OF TECHNOLOGIES IN PRODUCT CREATION The last category of technology integration into PBL, involves the creation of the product itself. We have found that after the problem, the product is the most important component of the PBL process. Student motivation increases when the learners see that their solution to the problem will be conveyed in the form of a workplace product. Examples of such products include a memo, a meeting, an employee interview, a staff evaluation conference, a presentation of a plan a strategy or a solution, and a simulated strategy implementation. PBL’s product orientation requires students to place knowledge acquisition in an “active perspective.”26 For example, if at the outset the learner knows that the employee selection decision must be conveyed in a memo to the HR manager, s/he will naturally keep this audience in mind making the decision. Issues of justifying the decision and communicating it in a manner that is likely to gains support from the HR Manager will become more important considerations, even during the decision-making process. This approach creates an environment in which the learner begins to measure their solution against practical as well as theoretical, criteria. Prawat links this feature of PBL to the issue of knowledge transfer. The advantage of such an approach is that students become much more aware of how the knowledge they are acquiring can be put to use. Adopting a problem solving mentality, even when it is marginally appropriate, reinforces the notion that the knowledge is useful for achieving particular goals. Students are not being asked to store information away; they see how it works in certain situations which increases the accessibility.2

The PBL projects discussed in this volume incorporate technology into product creation in several ways: Ɣ Several projects require students to use presentation design software for creating and conducting presentations. Ɣ The Retail to e-Tail project requires students to use website development software to create websites. Ɣ The PBL project A Problem at Organization X requires students to use video editing software to assist in creating their project presentations. For example, the Retail to e-Tail project encompasses the following use of technology for creating a website. The program of lectures and problem solving sessions are designed to acquaint students with an overview of marketing principles as they relate to the implementation of an E-Commerce venture. A large number of SMEs from a variety of industrial sectors are struggling with the challenge of trying to create an online venue for their products. Success in the ECommerce sector often depends upon the integration of sound


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management principles with innovative thinking and skilful use of technology. The problem presented to the students is representative of the current business climate where small and large companies are struggling with how to utilize the Internet to increase sales, decrease costs and increase profitability. The students take the role of the Marketing Consultants specializing in E-Commerce solutions. They are asked to produce an eMarketing Strategy including a prototype website for the client. Students are encouraged to choose effective options that are available to businesses attempting to create an online avenue for their products. The students will gain experience in critical thinking and effective team collaboration skills. Overall students will have the responsibility of learning E-commerce related content, problem solving skills as well as effective team participation.

Actually, this project uses technologies in three of the four ways discussed in this chapter. Students’ first exposure to the problem is through a video scenario. We have designed several variations of this project. One is situated in a shoe factory, a second in a jewellery company, and the third in a company promoting Thai boxing. Second, students also use technology as a tool as they learn to use a software package used to design websites. Finally, two of the products are represented via technology. One product is the team’s website, which is uploaded and posted online. The second is a PowerPoint presentation. Both of these products are actually presented via technology. Another way in which we use video technology in representing PBL products is in a very different type of project. In our Organizational Behavior and Human Resource course, we ask students to do an original project titled A Problem at Organization X. The project has the following specifications: Ɣ Organize in a team of five or six students. Ɣ Identify a real problem in a real company. The problem should concern an issue related to organizational behavior such as high turnover, low job satisfaction, or low productivity. Ɣ Develop a research approach that incorporates video interviews to collect data from the perspectives of different organizational members related to the problem. Ɣ Identify relevant theory to inform your understanding of the problem as well as to design interview questions. Ɣ Plan and execute your data collection strategy to deepen your understanding of the problem. Ɣ Integrate your data along with your theory theoretical framework to analyze what you found and draw conclusions. Ɣ Develop practical recommendations that flow from your analysis and conclusions for addressing the problem. Ɣ Present your project in a 25 minute presentation that includes an overview of all major elements of the project. The presentation should also include excerpts from the video interviews that assist in conveying the problem as it is understood by the organizational members.


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This PBL project follows a student-centered approach in which students must find the problem, identify relevant resources and information for understanding it, and developing a proposed solution. This challenging project requires students to use higher order thinking skills at the analysis, application and synthesis levels of understanding. Incorporation of the video interviews provides both a useful tool to assist in analysis of the problem and an engaging means of communicating their results. CONCLUSION This chapter has presented a rationale for the incorporation of information technologies into problem-based learning. As noted, we build technology into most of our PBL projects for specific reasons. Ɣ We believe that it accelerates our students’ skill in finding problems, recognizing patterns in problematic situations, and designing appropriate solutions.27 Ɣ The technologies that students use in these projects are increasingly common in their places of work. Integration of the technologies into the process of problem solving actually helps the students learn new skills in a meaningful context. This fosters retention and transfer of learning. Ɣ We believe that graduates with this blend of analytical and performance skills will be more competitive. Thus, we have designed our PBL curriculum to incorporate technologies that will enhance our students’ ability to understand problems (e.g., in D2i described earlier) as well as to develop innovative solutions.

NOTES 1

See Cuban, L. (2003). Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Se also Stoll, C. (1995). Silicon snake oil: Second thoughts on the information highway. New York: Doubleday. 2  For more information see http://www.stratxsimulations.com/markstrat_online_home.htm 3 Kinnear, T. PharmaSim. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan. See also http://www.interpretive.com/pharmasim/ 4 Bransford, J., Sherwood, R., Vye, N., & Rieser, J. (1986). Teaching thinking and problem solving. American Psychologist, 41(10), 1078-1089. See also Leithwood, K. & Steinbach, K. (1992). Improving the problem-solving expertise of school administrators: Theory and practice. Education and Urban Society, 24(3), 317-345. 5  Bransford, J., Franks, J., Vye, N., and Sherwood, R. (1989). New approaches to instruction: Because wisdom can't be told. In S. Vosniadou and A. Ortony (Eds.), Similarity and analogical reasoning (470-497). New York: Cambridge University Press. See also Leithwood, K. A., & Stager, M. (1989). Expertise in principals' problem solving Educational Administration Quarterly 25(2), 126-161. 6 Leithwood & Stager, op. cit.


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Harris, T., Bransford, J., & Brophy, S. (2002). Role for learning sciences and learning technologies in biomedical engineering education: A review of recent advances. Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering, 4, 29-48. See also Wagner, R. & Sternberg, R. (1986). Tacit knowledge and intelligence in the everyday world. In R. Sternberg and R. Wagner (Eds.) Practical Intelligence: Nature and origins of competence in the everyday world (pp. 51-83). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 8 Branford et al., 1989, op. cit. 9  Bransford et al., 1989, op. cit., Leithwood & Stager, op. cit., Wagner & Sternberg, op. cit. 10 Bridges, E., & Hallinger, P. (1995). Problem-based leadership development. Eugene, OR: ERIC. 11 Bransford et al., 1986, 1989 op. cit. See also Brown, A., & Campione, J. (1981). Inducing flexible thinking: A problem of access. In M. Friedman, J. Das, & N. O'Connor (Eds.), Intelligence and learning (515-530). New York: Plenum. 12  This PBL project was designed at the College of Management by Dr. Jun Onishi and colleagues. 13 Hallinger, P. & McCary, M. (1990). Developing the strategic thinking of instructional leaders. Elementary School Journal, 91(2), 90-108. 14 Bransford et al., 1986, 1989 op. cit. See also Voss, J. (1987). Learning and transfer in subject matter learning: A problem-solving model. International Journal of Educational Research, 11, 607-622. 15  Kotter, J. (2002). The heart of change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 16 For example see Qayumi, A., & Qayumi, T (1999). Computer-Assisted learning: CyberPatient A step in the future of surgical education. Journal of Investigative Surgery, 12 (6), 307-317. See also Rendas, A., Rosado Pinto, P., & Gamboa, T. (1999). A computer simulation designed for problem-based learning. Medical Education, 33, 47-54. 17  Hallinger & McCary, op. cit. 18 For example see Glass-Husain, W. (2001). Three perspectives on business simulation. http://www.forio.com/article_three perspectives.htm. See also Hallinger, P., Crandall, D., Ng Foo Seong, D. (2000). Systems thinking/Systems changing: A Computer simulation for learning how to maker schools smarter (141-162). In K. Leithwood and K.S. Louis (Eds.) Intelligent learning systems. New York: JAI Press. 19  Westera, W., & Niesink, R. (2001). Coping with Research Evidence: A multimedia approach for further training of professional workers in the field of drugs and addiction. Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy, 8(3), 281-292. 20 See www.forio.com 21 Resnick, M. (1994). Turtles, termites, and traffic jams: Explorations in massively parallel microworlds. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 22  Hallinger et al., 2000, op. cit. 23  Bridges & Hallinger, 1995, op. cit. 24  Hallinger et al., 2000, op. cit. 25 Bransford et al., 1986, 1989, op. cit. 26 Prawat, R. (1989). Promoting access to knowledge, strategies, and disposition in students: A research synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 59(1), 1-41. 27  Bransford et al., 1986, 1989, op. cit., Leithwood & Stager, op. cit., Leithwood & Steinbach, op. cit.


CHAPTER 6 STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT ABSTRACT In this chapter we introduce the reader to the role of student assessment in problem-based learning. This is an issue of considerable concern to instructors as well as to students in the PBL classroom. We discuss the philosophical approach to assessment of student work within a PBL environment, as well as practical tools that we use to increase the quality of assessment. These issues are examined from the perspective of the classroom instructor and 1 program management.

INTRODUCTION Over the past 15 years we have run several international training institutes on the use of problem-based learning in management education. Participants have come from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, South Africa, China, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Prior to these institutes, we have provided participants with a list of possible topics and activities and asked them to indicate their level of interest in these topics. Somewhat to our surprise, participants uniformly expressed an interest in learning more about student assessment in a problem-learning environment. In preparing for our discussion of this issue, we first sought additional information about assessment methods used in conventional management programs. Once again we were surprised. We discovered that scholars in our field rarely discuss student assessment. When they do, the discussions reveal little, if anything, about how professors actually evaluate students. Rather, these abbreviated discussions criticize the lack of rigor and issue a call for higher standards. We then turned our attention to the literature on medical education to learn how future physicians have been evaluated in a problem-based-learning environment. As we anticipated, the literature on student assessment in this field was somewhat richer and more informative. This literature sensitized us to a range of assessment issues. However, it provided few, if any, definitive answers, because student assessment in medical education remains a controversial, hotly debated issue. The current state of evaluation in this field shows little agreement on methodologies for assessment. In the past, there was a widely held, though seldom articulated, attitude among professors that student assessment should be largely based on their own discretion and professional judgment. At most schools and in most classrooms, student assessment was a black box. The methods and criteria were seldom made explicit or public to students or to other colleagues. Furthermore, for many faculty members,

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assessment of student work fell into the domain of academic freedom, meaning that it should not be questioned. In recent years, the issue of student assessment has received increased attention due to several factors. First, expanded participation by M.B.A. and other management programs in program accreditation has created external pressure for accountability in the domain of student assessment. Schools and faculty members are increasingly expected to be able to articulate the basis for student assessments and to justify their results. Second, an increasingly strong student-as-consumer orientation has also contributed to this trend. In many countries and universities, students no longer accept the role as passive receivers of educational services. Instead, they expect to understand how faculty members arrive at their assessments. Finally, a global trend towards the use of student-centered learning methods has refocused attention on assessment in the past 10 years. These learning methods often focus on knowledge as performance, rather than knowledge as memorization of facts and theories. This has led to a search for additional methods of assessment of student knowledge. Moreover, student-centered learning methods, including PBL, also tend to approach assessment as a stimulus for learning as well as a means of measuring knowledge and performance. Taken together, these trends have resulted in advances in thinking about and using assessment methods over the past decade. In this chapter we wish to provide a framework for thinking about student assessment as well as lessons we have learned as we have implemented PBL ourselves. We begin with a discussion of philosophical orientations towards assessment and follow with methods we are using to assess student knowledge and performance in a PBL environment. PHILOSOPHICAL ORIENTATION Our philosophy of student assessment has been shaped in part by the intensity of the problem-based-learning environment and the performance anxiety that this intensity creates. Since we want evaluation to serve learning and recognize that the intensity of the PBL environment is quite high, we have striven to create conditions within the classroom that seek to ease, rather than aggravate, this intensity. We reason that we can enhance performance and learning by creating a learning environment in which it is safe to make mistakes and to fail. Toward this end, we emphasize to students that mistakes and failure represent valuable learning opportunities. Moreover, we stress how our own experience with PBL has shown us that more learning occurs when things work out poorly than when they go well. Paradoxically, current failure can breed later success. Besides striving to create an environment that regards mistakes as learning opportunities, we also attempt to foster a supportive learning environment. Toward this end, we front-load our feedback to students with considerable praise for aspects of their performance that warrant approval or commendation. We have discovered that when one looks for positive aspects of a performance, one can find them no matter how marginal the overall performance is. One indicator of our success in


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creating a supportive learning environment is hearing students say (as they have said), “They make us feel good even when we screw up.” In our effort to produce an optimal level of anxiety and to promote transfer of learning, we think it is important to assess students on the basis of performance tests. Although these performance tests are contrived, they are sufficiently realistic that students do not experience them as contrived. If students are to benefit from these performance tests, we believe that it is essential for them to receive feedback that aims to improve their future performance. Operating from this perspective, we emphasize formative as well as summative, evaluation. We are convinced that a grade may divert students from seriously considering the key issue: how to improve their performance. The grade, not the performance, becomes the students’ overriding concern. Therefore, in order to rivet the students’ attention on performance, we endeavor to highlight characteristics of their performance or products, more than the grade. When we and others provide feedback, everyone attempts to identify where the performance is particularly strong and where it may need improvement. Although we prefer a pass/fail approach to grading students in PBL courses, we recognize that this approach may not suit other professors, or it may be prohibited or discouraged by some institutions. In the Mahidol University Master of Management program, we grade all modules included in the PBL track on a High Pass/Pass/Fail basis. Students who do not achieve a Pass in a module are required to retake it in the subsequent term. In regular courses where PBL is incorporated as a class project, students receive grades for a module. This experience yields several observations and suggestions that may be of interest to those who must use or choose to use grades in a PBL environment. First, this experience reinforces the notion that grading raises the level of student concern. In combination with the intensity of PBL, this heightened concern can, at times, interfere with student learning. Second, it seems that the instructor can reduce this problem by providing timely, focused, formative feedback to students. Thus, for example, in several of the PBL projects described in Part II, the authors note that they offer to students an opportunity to conduct practice presentations on which they can obtain feedback. To the extent that students receive adequate formative feedback and see that the instructor takes this aspect of evaluation seriously, they seem to adapt their expectations as well. Third, when using grades, it becomes particularly important to review and adjust, as needed, the nature of the assessment exercises. For example, this may mean changing the mix of assessment exercises to include individual and group assessment exercises in every project. This approach is used in the Mahidol University program, even in the PBL track. The instructor’s task in grading is eased by ensuring that there are individual as well as group assessments incorporated into projects. We will return to this point later in the chapter. Upon completion of their formal preparation, students for the most part will not receive frequent, detailed feedback about the quality of their performance in the workplace. To assist students in developing their skills in making these informal


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assessments, we deem it important to cultivate habits of self-evaluation and reflection. Finally, since we embrace the notion that evaluation should serve learning, we regularly involve students in assessing the quality of learning experiences that we provide. When students participate in evaluating their program, they can provide instructors with the information needed to determine how the learning experiences may be improved and made more worthwhile and meaningful. Evaluation that aims to improve learning should include assessment of the program, as well as students. TYPES OF PERFORMANCE TESTS In line with our formulation of PBL, we design performance tests that mirror the realities of the workplace insofar as possible. Since the basic unit of instruction in PBL is a project and students use class time predominantly to meet in their project teams, each class session constitutes a performance test. As students work on a project, the activity affords an opportunity to observe how they perform in various roles, set agendas, deal with conflict, solve problems, organize and plan, and communicate. In short, the process of instruction that we use represents an ongoing series of performance tests. These tests permit students and faculty alike to gauge each student’s progress in learning the management skills emphasized by the program. Consistent with this approach, we design each project to culminate in a product or a performance that resembles what students will actually be doing in their future roles. The design decision of whether the project outcome is a product (e.g., memo, website), a performance (e.g., a presentation), or a combination of the two is based upon the manner in which the problem’s solution would typically be expressed in the workplace. Thus far, we have included a reasonably wide array of products and performances in the curriculum, given the constraints of the classroom environment. We have designed the following kinds of performance tests: Ɣ Making a formal presentation to a client (e.g., see Chapters, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fifteen), Ɣ Designing and implementing a set of procedures for choosing among three candidates for a staff position (e.g., see Chapter Fourteen), Ɣ Designing an e-marketing strategy and associated website for an organization (e.g., see Chapter Twelve), Ɣ Preparing and presenting a plan for reorganization of a medium-sized traditional business that is struggling to meet marketplace competition (e.g., see Chapter Thirteen), Ɣ Developing and implementing – through a simulation – a change strategy for implementing a new IT system at an organization (e.g., see Chapter Nine), Ɣ Designing a strategy for the positioning of a new product (e.g., see Chapter Eleven),


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Communicating through a written memo to the HR Director a recommended decision for handling a low-performing employee, Developing a personal plan for improving one’s time management, Managing a meeting and making a group decision.

Each of these performance tests is highly contextualized. Students are provided with detailed information about the particular situation in which the focal problem for the project occurs. FOCUS OF STUDENT ASSESSMENT To date we have targeted assessment to the goals identified in Chapter Two, namely: 1. Familiarity with problems inherent in the future professional role; 2. Possession of knowledge relevant to these problems; 3. Competence in applying this knowledge; 4. Proficiency in problem-solving; 5. Skill in implementing solutions to these problems; 6. Capacity to lead and facilitate collaboration; 7. Ability to manage emotional aspects of leadership; 8. Proficiency in self-directed learning. Student assessment has not been perfectly aligned with these eight goals. Given the experiential nature of problem-based learning, students often obtain insights into their own previously unrecognized attitudes, beliefs, predispositions, and shortcomings. These insights can become occasions for profound personal and professional growth. We sensitize students to this possibility and encourage them to use their experiences in PBL as a way to achieve greater understanding of themselves. TYPES OF STUDENT ASSESSMENT In considering how the students’ performance on these tests should be evaluated, we have found it useful to think of evaluation in terms of who structures the assessment and who judges the performance. Student evaluation can be structured by either the instructor or the student; similarly, the quality of the performance may be judge by either the instructor or the student. The persons who structure the evaluation make decisions about what aspects of a performance should be evaluated and what means should be used to evaluate these various aspects. Individuals who judge the performance make decisions about the strengths and weaknesses of the performance and how it may be improved. By conceptualizing evaluation in this way, we arrive at four types of evaluation, as depicted in Figure 1. Thus far, we have relied substantially more on Type 1 evaluations (instructorstructured and instructor-judged) and Type 3 evaluations (instructor-structured and student-judged) than Type 2 (student-structured and instructor-judged) and Type 4 (student-structured and student judged) evaluations. Since the first two types of evaluation have figured prominently in most projects, we later discuss the various forms that these types of evaluation have taken and provide numerous examples of


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what we have used to assess student performance. Consistent with our sparing use of Type 2 and Type 4 evaluations, we devote less attention to these two types.

Judged by the Structured by the Instructor

Student

Instructor

TYPE 1

TYPE 2

Student

TYPE 3

TYPE 4

Figure 1. Four Types of Student Assessment

When discussing the various ways in which students have been (or will be) assessed, we have organized the discussion around the four types of evaluation that we described earlier. Since we have already discussed how students evaluate each PBL project by means of “Talk Back” sheets, we will not repeat our discussion of that form of instructor-structured and student-judged evaluation. Type 1: Instructor-Structured and Instructor-Judged Evaluation In most projects, we use Type 1 (Instructor-Structured and Instructor-Judged), as well as Type 2 (Instructor-Structured and Student-Judged) evaluations. Our Type 1 evaluations center on the process events that occur during project team meetings and activities (e.g., interview of job candidates), the products or performances that cap each project (e.g., a presentation), and knowledge tests taken during or at the conclusion of the project. For the most part, these evaluations are guided by the goals described earlier in the section “Focus of the Evaluation.” Process Activity In line with the major goals of the program, we attach considerable emphasis to evaluating students’ performance during team meetings. These evaluations tend to focus on one or more of the following topics: the skills of team participants in carrying out their various roles (leader, facilitator, recorder, or group member); the skills of the team in framing and solving problems; and the ability of team members to use the knowledge appropriately in dealing with the focal problem. To illustrate the forms that these evaluations take, we discuss several examples from our own classroom experiences with PBL. In one of the initial PBL projects in our curriculum – Meeting Management – we introduce students to the Interaction Method for conducting meetings.2 Students


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read about this method and are expected to use it in subsequent projects. During the numerous meetings of each project team, we evaluate the students’ skills in performing the various meeting roles (leader, facilitator, and so forth). For example, we look at various indicators of their skill in performing the facilitator’s role, such as: Ɣ Clarifying the process for dealing with each topic on the agenda, Ɣ Managing the meeting time efficiently, Ɣ Maintaining a neutral stance during the meeting, Ɣ Promoting the participation of all team members, Ɣ Resolving conflict, Ɣ Focusing the group on the purpose of the meeting, Ɣ Protecting group members from attack. When monitoring the team’s problem-solving process, we use a number of indicators of its effectiveness. Is there evidence within the problematic situation to support the team’s definition of the problem? To what extent has the team identified the constraints and the resources that are relevant to dealing with the problem? Whose interests (narrow vs. broad) are being addressed by the way in which the problem has been defined and resolved? Has the team anticipated potentially negative consequences for the various alternatives and estimated the seriousness of these consequences? How reasonable are the definition of the problem and the proposed course of action in light of the facts included in the description of the problematic situation? Has the team made any unwarranted assumptions (for example, about the underlying causes of the problem)? We generally organize our feedback to students around two main themes. First, we identify those aspects of their performance that are especially praiseworthy. Our list of positives generally is a long one. Second, we raise a small number of “things to think about.” Since we do not wish to overload students with facets of their performance requiring improvement, we intentionally limit our feedback to two or three major items. This approach is feasible since we have the opportunity to provide feedback on a regular basis over an extended time. Culminating Products and Performances As we have noted, each project culminates in a major product or performance. When providing critical feedback, we strive to frame it as follows: Ɣ Here’s what we see… Ɣ Here’s why it concerns us… Ɣ Do you see it that way or some other way? If the student agrees with our assessment, we explore how the performance might be improved. If the student disagrees with our assessment, we probe why the student feels that way. Our subsequent actions depend on the views expressed by the student and whether we consider them valid. By way of example, during one of the projects and the culminating performance, we noticed that the leader displayed two radically different patterns of behavior. When things were going well, the leader exhibited a functional pattern of behavior –


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listened attentively, reacted positively to challenges from others, elicited suggestions about how to improve the product, and was considerate and gracious. However, when things were not going well, the leader displayed a dysfunctional pattern of behavior – became defensive, interrupted others, argued for his own point of view, and adopted a testy manner. Following the project, we met with the leader and described the two patterns of behavior we had observed. We further explained why the discrepant behavior patterns concerned us by pointing out how various patterns of behavior breed similar responses. If the leader adopts a dysfunctional pattern, the followers are likely to manifest a similar pattern. This potentially destructive cycle of leader behavior and follower response undermines a group’s ability to reach high-quality, acceptable decisions. We then provided the student with a copy of the videotape that showed how he was behaving under different conditions and invited him to view the tape with the purpose of determining whether he agreed with our perceptions. He later met with us and expressed full agreement with our feedback. We, in turn, explored various ways in which he might deal with the problem that we had identified and he had owned. In our experience, when students “own” a problem or shortcoming, they can make significant progress in overcoming it, just as the student in this situation did. However, if students blame the problem on someone else or circumstances beyond their control, their performance rarely improves. By inviting students to discuss whether they view the situation the way we do, we facilitate their owning the problem. In the process, we sometimes discover that we have misperceived the situation. Our openness to this possibility further contributes to students’ owning the problem on those occasions where we have perceived the situation accurately. Knowledge Tests As we discuss later in this chapter, the use of Knowledge Tests, as opposed to Knowledge Reviews, is salient when the instructor wishes to determine the extent to which individual students have mastered knowledge objectives associated with the PBL project. Since most PBL projects emphasize team-developed solution products, performance assessments may not focus on revealing what individual members have learned. At best, we may have a sense of what they contributed through to the team’s effort through observation, Reflective Essays and Team Participation Assessments. Moreover, most good assessments of performance products tend to focus on higher order understanding of the problem and the application of relevant domain specific knowledge. While this approach to assessment is appropriate to the actionoriented learning goals of PBL, it has one a limitation. If the team’s solution to the problem is faulty in some respect, the instructor may not be able to determine whether the fault derives from an incorrect understanding of theory or facts, or from their attempt to translate theory into a practical solution. Finally, as we noted in Chapter Two, PBL is grounded in the belief that effective learning takes place when students learn to solve problems that are similar to those they will encounter in their workplace. This assumption proposes that knowledge


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gained in a PBL environment is more likely to transfer when students face other problems of a similar kind in the workplace. We use Knowledge Tests to supplement performance assessments as a means of determining the extent to which students appear able to transfer knowledge gained from a PBL project to a related, but different organizational problem. In sum, Knowledge Tests, therefore, serve several purposes: Ɣ To reveal what individual students have learned concerning the problem and relevant domain specific knowledge, Ɣ To assess students’ mastery of basic knowledge underlying solution of the project problem, Ɣ To assess students’ ability to transfer knowledge learned with respect to one particular problem to related problems. These purposes of Knowledge Tests can serve the instructor for the purposes of both formative evaluation of the PBL project (i.e., what are students learning and how can the project be adapted to foster better understanding?), as well as for summative evaluation of individual students. Understanding what individual students have learned becomes important, for example, in contexts where grading beyond Pass/Fail is necessary or desired. In the Mahidol University program, for example, we incorporate Knowledge Tests into most of our PBL modules for this purpose. In constructing Knowledge Tests we encourage instructors to keep several issues in mind. First, draw their attention to Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Objectives.3 Bloom defined five levels of cognition that can form the basis for setting learning objectives and assessing their achievement. These include:

Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ

Knowledge (recall of information including theories or facts); Comprehension (ability to explain, grasp or define meaning); Application (use of learned material to solve a similar type of problem in a new situation); Analysis (ability to organize the whole in terms of parts or compare and contrast in terms of selected characteristics); Synthesis (integrate related information to create something new as in a solution product or performance); Evaluation (use criteria to form a judgment about the value of something).

For example, in the Leading Organizational Change project (see Chapter Nine), our assessment focuses first on the students’ ability to analyze a problem of organizational change. Then we seek to understand their ability to apply and synthesize change theories in a solution to the problem. The instructor can look at the results for a team and assess “how well the team solved the problem.” However, the instructor will still have only limited insight into the thinking strategies used by the team in solving it. Therefore, we complement the simulation’s built-in product assessment with two additional assessments. The first is a team reflective paper that asks the team to analyze their change strategy in light of several questions. For example, we might ask:


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Ɣ

Ɣ Ɣ

As you proceeded over the three-year period of implementation, people moved through different stages in the change process. Describe your goals for each of the three years in terms of both the extent of change in the IT use by staff as well as productivity improvement. For each year, define and discuss the strategies that you used to achieve your goals. Please note whether or not your strategy was successful and why. For each year, identify corrections you would make in your strategy to improve both the process of implementation and the achievement of your productivity results.

The second assessment is conducted through a 90 minute final exam. This Knowledge Exam consists of multiple choice questions built around a short case. In contrast to the organization they face in the computer simulation we might present a short scenario such as: You have been hired as a consultant to a Thai bank that wishes to implement Business Process Reengineering. Business Process Reengineering is an approach designed to analyze and adjust key business processes as a means of improving service and product quality and efficiency. Staff will join cross-department teams to assess current business processes, compare processes and results with industry benchmarks and assist in redesign. Staff at all levels will be included in the Business Process Reengineering effort. You are a consultant working with Ms. Patcharee, Manager of the Silom Branch. Patcharee is not yet familiar with how Business Process Reengineering operates or what it can do. She is not opposed to examining current approaches or adopting new practices, but she doesn’t understand what will be involved in this project yet.

The scenario would be followed by 15 multiple choice questions and several short essay questions. These are designed to test the individual student’s basic understanding of concepts and also their ability to analyze and apply concepts and principles to the change context. Our questions do not directly test recall or comprehension of a theory. Rather they ask students to apply principles they learned through the simulation, but in a different context. Also, recall that a key purpose of this exam is to see where basic knowledge might have been misunderstood or misinterpreted. The Knowledge Test should, therefore, be viewed as a supplement to the core of the assessment which is focused on the performance products. Self-Directed Learning Skills This particular focus of evaluation is one whose potential we have yet to fully explore. In the PBL project, A Problem at Organization X (see Chapter Fifteen), we plan to use a modified version of the “triple jump exercise” to assess the students’ self-directed learning skills.4 In this type of exercise, the students identify an organizational problem. Then the students meet with the instructor to discuss the


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potential learning issues inherent in it. Following this discussion, the students identify and review the relevant resource materials. After students complete this phase, they meet again with the instructor to discuss the conclusions they have reached about the problem, the resources they have consulted, and the knowledge they have acquired that has proved useful in understanding with the problem. This “triple jump exercise” affords an opportunity to assess the students’ problem-solving skills and knowledge of the problem area, as well as their self-directed learning skills. Type 2: Instructor-Structured and Student-Judged Evaluation During the past 15 years we have experimented with several different forms of this type of evaluation: reflective essays, protocols, models or examples, knowledgereview exercises, and probing questions. Reflective Essays As we noted in Chapter Three, students prepare a Reflective Essay following most PBL projects. We provide varying amounts of structure to students regarding the issues to be addressed in these essays. In some cases, we ask students to discuss what they have learned during the project and how they might use the knowledge and skills in the future. In other cases, we provide students with an extended list of questions and invite them to choose one or more of these questions to discuss. The chapters in Part II of this book contain excerpts from a number of reflective essays. Protocols and Rubrics Studies in the field of medical education have demonstrated the value of protocols or rubrics in promoting behavioral change among physicians. Rubrics consist of instructions, guidelines, or checklists that professionals may use to guide or monitor their performance. Given their proven effectiveness in effecting behavioral change, we have developed a limited number of rubrics that our students have found useful in evaluating their own performance.5 For example, early in the curriculum we introduce students to a set of standards that can be use to judge their memos. We have incorporated these standards into a rubric that students and faculty members are expected to use when memos are included in projects throughout the program. The standards embedded in the protocol are described in the reading material that we supply students. We will expand upon the use of protocols and rubrics later in the chapter. Models or Examples Since projects culminate in a product or performance, we sometimes provide students with examples of completed products at the end of a project. We ask students to study this model, contrast it with their own product, and then comment on the strengths and weaknesses of their products. By way of illustration, in the project Dealing with Problem Teachers Bridges asks students to prepare a remediation plan and a notice of unsatisfactory


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performance based on a tenured teacher’s personnel file. This file contains several classroom observations, reports of conferences between the principal and the teacher, two annual evaluations, and summaries of the assistance provided to the teacher in the past. When students have completed their remediation plan and their notice of unsatisfactory performance, we provide them with a plan and a notice provided by an experienced administrator. Students read the example and comment on their own products in light of this example. Knowledge-Review Exercises Some projects contain technical information. To ensure that students understand this material and can apply it in their future professional roles, we have prepared knowledge-review exercises that we distribute at the beginning of the project. Students may elect to use these exercises as pretests or posttests or both. Students use this key to review their understanding of the material. Note that instructors may vary these of these knowledge review exercises and incorporate them instead as Type 3 assessments (Instructor-Structured and Instructor-Judged). Probing Questions At the conclusion of some projects, we provide students with a set of key questions to consider in relation to their final products or performances. These questions stimulate students to think about concepts that they many have failed to use in dealing with the focal problem and to consider important constraints or resources that they may have overlooked. For example, in the Leading Organizational Change project described in Chapter Nine, students must design and implement a simulated plan for bringing a new IT system into an organization. When students complete this project, we provide them with several questions to ponder about their implementation plan and results. Sample questions we have used include the following: 1. How would factors such as complexity of the innovation or organizational size and corporate culture impact the design and time frame of your change implementation strategy? 2. How was change introduced – through formal structures, informal processes, or both? Why? What might be the consequences of introducing change through other means? 3. Was your change strategy incremental or radical? What does research say about the merits of these different approaches? When might one approach be favored over the other? 4. Consider the uses of different types of power in fostering organizational power. How did the cultural context of implementing change in a Thai organization impact the use of different types of power? 5. Can you identify features of the change strategy that worked in the simulation but would not work in your own organization? Why wouldn’t they work?


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Students then discuss their approach to leading change in light of the issues that we raised. This discussion can take place within teams, but more often would occur in the context of a large group debriefing. Student Preferences As we accumulate a body of PBL projects, we provide students with some choices about the projects they will study. Having choices about what they will study assists students in developing their self-directed learning skills. We would further suggest that choice increases student interest, motivation and commitment to study the project. In the Mahidol University curriculum, students in the PBL track choose to study four projects from among those being offered (currently seven in total). In order to facilitate their making informed decisions, we prepare descriptions of the projects. We plan to develop a short video description in which the PBL project instructors offer brief synopses of what the students will learn in each of the projects. In this way, students can judge prospectively how projects meet their needs and interests and maximize their opportunities to learn in a PBL curriculum. Type 3: Student-Structured and Instructor-Judged Evaluation On a few occasions students have submitted work and invited us to comment on their performance. These students signal particular aspects of their performance on which they desire feedback. Their performances take a variety of forms (for example, videotaped conferences or presentations, memos, written plans). Type 4: Student-Structured and Student-Judged Evaluation We also have experimented a few times with this type of evaluation. Generally, these evaluations have taken but one form. In several projects we have required students to construct a protocol for judging their own performance and to include in this protocol indicators that should be used when judging their own performance. In some instances, students have also asked their peers to provide feedback using this protocol. The reactions of students to these opportunities are typified by this student’s comments: The video taping session was a valuable experience. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not taped myself making a presentation or teaching before. The fact that it was the first time for me made it intimidating. The creation of our own feedback sheet made it a more valuable experience as it forced us to concentrate on specific areas for evaluation and improvement.

DESIGNING AN ASSESSMENT SYSTEM FOR A PBL PROGRAM In the previous section we outlined and provided examples of a variety of assessment methods that we have used in a PBL environment. In this section, we wish to expand on some of the practical issues of implementing these assessment


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methods in a PBL program. This discussion draws primarily upon the experience of implementing a PBL track in Mahidol University program. The design of an overall approach and system of student assessment will depend upon the philosophy of the instructor(s) as well college policies. The Prospective Principals Program at Stanford University and the Master of Management program at Mahidol University provide a useful contrast in this regard. Consistent with the stated philosophy of PBL, the Prospective Principals Program at Stanford University program has emphasized formative assessment of student products and performances. Moreover, individual products, when required, tend either to be explicitly formative in nature (e.g., Reflective Essays) or are used in a formative mode (e.g., Knowledge Reviews). The program has deemphasized summative assessment and grading of individual students. In the Master of Management program at Mahidol University, however, contextual factors impelled designers of the PBL track to focus on summative as well as formative assessments. At the College, the PBL track is treated as a Capstone Project. Student performance in the Capstone represents a criterion, along with overall GPA, for Distinction in the Master degree program. Thus, we had to design a system of summative assessment for the PBL track that we could justify as at least the equivalent of assessment for an Independent Study or Thesis Project. Consequently, program designers require instructors to include additional assessments of individual students and an additional grading option, High Pass, for the PBL projects. We formulated a policy stating that every project included in the PBL track must base a minimum of 50% of the assessment points on individual products. In practical terms, this means that instructors tend to include Knowledge Tests, graded Reflective Essays and Team Participation Assessments. This system differentiates individual performance from team performance to a larger extent than occurs, for example, in the program at Stanford. On the downside, this requirement works against our goal of reducing the intensity and pressure of the PBL projects. The reality is that students do worry more about their grade in this PBL context. They experience more anxiety though based on student response, we do not believe that it impedes the development of a positive learning culture. On the positive side, when students know that they will be assessed for what they learned as individuals, it increases accountability and reduces the incidence of free-riders. Moreover, although we acknowledge these potentially deleterious effects, our instructors uniformly comment on the extent to which student do focus on making the most of their learning in the PBL environment. WHAT IS QUALITY ASSESSMENT? Characteristics of Quality Assessment Earlier in this chapter, we affirmed our commitment to student assessment that serves student learning. While this commitment remains strong, it is also the case that both program quality review and accreditation processes are changing the


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environment in which education takes place. There is an increasing demand for educational programs, at all levels, to use assessment methodologies that are explicit, transparent, accountable, and reliable. Explicit and Transparent Assessments This changing environment has had several types of impact on our approach to assessment with respect to PBL. First, it has meant that instructors must develop new skills that enable them to assess the quality of performance products. Most of us would be familiar with performance-based assessments from watching sporting events, such as Olympic diving, figure skating, or gymnastics. These assessments focus on identifying in advance the criteria for a superior performance. This ensures that the assessment method is both transparent and explicit. The judges then assess the participants against those standards. Reliable, Accountable Assessments Additional criteria for judging the quality of assessment that are relevant, though not unique to the PBL environment, include reliability and accountability. Inquiring into the reliability of a judge’s assessment of a diver’s performance or an instructor’s assessment of a presentation, plan or website leads to the question: “Would other judges who are knowledgeable in this domain likely arrive at a similar assessment using the same standard of performance?” While reliability of assessment is enhanced by defining the criteria for assessment in advance and making those criteria explicit, this does not by itself ensure that assessments will be reliable. When instructors teach a course or a project in isolation, the issue of reliability is hidden. In these circumstances, it is quite normal for student assessment to be conducted via the instructor’s black box. In most universities, it would be the exception where an instructor’s assessment of a student’s work – be it an exam or a performance – would be “checked” against the perception of another instructor. Thus, reliability of the instructor’s assessment remains untested and assumed. As suggested earlier, this norm is being questioned, both as a result of quality assurance and consumer demands. We have had to respond to these pressures during implementation of our PBL track at Mahidol University. In a typical term, we typically have between 200 and 400 students studying a variety of PBL projects at the same time. This means that a single PBL project may be offered simultaneously to several classes of students taught by two or three different instructors. Students compare notes with friends in different class sections or who took the PBL project in a prior term. Our students are demanding consumers who expect consistency. Nowhere is this more apparent or critical than in the domain of assessment. They must view our assessment of their performance not only as useful and credible, but also as transparent and reliable across classes. As noted earlier, at Mahidol University, our PBL track uses a High Pass/Pass/Retake approach to grading in order to reduce student focus on grades and increase their focus on learning. While we are reasonably successful at this, student concern for the nature and quality of feedback remains high, in part because of the


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amount of work they put into conducting their PBL projects. They really do want to know what they did well and where they need to improve. Attaining a high quality standard in assessment has both technical and normative dimensions. The technical dimension involves developing new skills in assessment. The normative dimension concerns our response to the consequences of higher instructor interdependence. Performance-based Assessment Concerns for reliability, transparency, and accountability in assessments of student performance have impelled us towards finding new tools for performance-based assessments. Fortunately, educators have made substantial progress over the past decade in developing assessment methodologies for performance products.6 While it is not the purpose of this chapter to provide an in-depth examination of assessment methodology, we wish to share our experience of how performance-based assessment can be used to improve the quality of assessment and learning in a PBL context. We alluded to the crux of performance-based assessment earlier in our discussion of Type 2 assessment methods; the use of rubrics or protocols for assessing a performance. Assessment rubrics define in advance the criteria on which a performance will be judged. There are two general types of rubrics: holistic and analytical. Holistic Rubrics Use of a holistic rubric requires the instructor(s) to define what the final product or performance should look like. This process would not be unfamiliar to instructors who brainstorm the characteristics of an excellent response to a question on a comprehensive exam. For example, consider a holistic rubric for evaluating team participation in a PBL project. The rubric might define excellent performance according to the following criteria: Ɣ Collaborates with colleagues Ɣ Always comes to meetings well-prepared Ɣ Displays positive, supportive attitudes. Ɣ Contributes to the team's goals Ɣ Came to meetings on time Ɣ Displayed initiative and leadership Ɣ Collaborated in solving problems Ɣ Was a good listener Ɣ Contributed useful ideas Much like a judge at the Olympics, the rater will use the rubric as a means of assigning levels of performance from poor to excellent. Holistic rubrics are useful in that they require the assessor to set down the criteria that will be used for assessment. Yet, holistic rubrics still represent a relatively weak approach to performance assessment. Their limitation lies in the


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absence of clear performance standards or levels for the criteria. Analytical rubrics were developed in order to address this limitation. Analytical Rubrics Analytical rubrics are more powerful tools in that they not only define the criteria for assessment, but also a range of performance levels for each criterion. In the Mahidol University program, we use 4-level rubrics that define a progressive scale of performance standards. At the low end, the range would start with Novice, and proceed through Emerging, Proficient, and Superior standards or levels of performance. Considering the same type of performance discussed above, Team Participation, we provide a sample of an analytical rubric in Figure 2. We designed the rubric ourselves after viewing many team participation rubrics on the internet. We continuously refine it to incorporate those performance dimensions that we want our students to develop. The criteria for the performance are specified in the first column in Figure 2. The performance standards are defined in columns two through five. In using this rubric, team members would rate each of their teammates using the 0 to 4 scale on each of the criteria. The instructor can then tabulate the scores averaging an individual’s scores for each criterion. The instructor can then provide summary feedback to each of the team members on their individual performance. If the rubric concerned a different product, such as a Reflective Essay, the instructor would complete the rubric and use it as one means of communicating performance feedback to each student. Note also that the point total can be used to arrive at a grade, if desired by the instructor. This type of rubric has several advantages in relation to improving the quality of assessment. In contrast to the holistic rubric, the analytical rubric’s specificity makes it possible to assess the relevant criteria separately. Even more important, the definition of performance levels reduces ambiguity concerning the standard of student performance. Armed with the analytical rubric, different raters are more likely to use the same basis for judging a performance or product to be good or excellent. This should increase the reliability of assessment of performance. However, perhaps the greatest strength of the analytical rubric is that it provides a roadmap to aid students in directing their learning towards the desired outcomes. Since an overriding goal of assessment is to further student learning, we wish to emphasize this last characteristic. With the exception of examinations, we always provide the rubric to learners at the outset of a project. By doing so, the instructor lets students know in advance the basis on which their performance will be judged.


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Figure 2. Sample Analytical Rubric for Team Participation

USING PERFORMANCE-BASED ASSESSMENT TO IMPROVE LEARNING Uses of Rubrics in a PBL Program In the Mahidol University program, we provided training to our instructors in the design and use of assessment rubrics. All instructors teaching PBL units have designed and use assessment rubrics for major products and performances. These include rubrics for: Ɣ Presentations, Ɣ Project Reports, Ɣ Team Participation, Ɣ Websites, Ɣ Reflective Essays, Ɣ Other Written Reports, Ɣ Memo Writing,


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Staff Interviews.

We provide access to the rubrics that we use for performance assessments via our website at www.cmmu.net/pbl. Where the performance concerns an explicit skill that we wish for students to develop over the course of their Master degree program, our faculty have collaborated on the design of college-wide rubrics (e.g., Presentation, Team Participation). We share and discuss any new college-wide rubrics at our term faculty meetings and encourage their use by all instructors when they are assessing a relevant performance. However, even in these instances, faculty members may adapt the rubric based upon the objectives of their own project or course. For example, although we have designed a college-wide rubric for Presentation Skills, the designers of the Data to Intelligence project (see Chapter Ten) designed an advanced Presentation Skills rubric to reflect additional skills that they include in their project (see the website to compare the two rubrics). Note finally that assessment rubrics are also used to assess exam questions. The difference is that we do not provide these rubrics to students in advance of the exam. Overcoming Norms of Privacy and Competition We have found that meeting the demand for transparent, reliable assessments is especially difficult in an environment in which instructors collaborate to deliver the curriculum and in which instructor performance is evaluated directly by students. Normative obstacles of classroom privacy and latent competition among instructors for high evaluations have at times impeded our efforts to achieve quality student assessment. Our implementation of PBL in an environment where projects are delivered by multiple instructors was challenged by these obstacles (see Chapter Eight). Initially, we defined the obstacle as primarily a lack of technical skills. This led us to identify the use of rubrics as a potential solution. The use of rubrics helped address the problem. The requirement to have rubrics for major products and performances meant that instructors teaching the same project had to sit down and discuss the desired outcomes not only in terms of learning objectives, but also assessment criteria. As our skills in the design of analytical rubrics improved, this sharpened out collective competence at assessing the outcomes of the projects. However, we soon encountered another less obvious or openly admitted obstacle. This concerned the instructors’ use of the rubrics and their attempts to translate assessment results into grades. This approach to assessment is based on what is called a mastery approach to learning and assessment.7 That is, the instructor defines in advance a set of performance standards against which student products will be judged. The instructor(s) then rates the work according to the rubric. Advocates of mastery learning assert that if the student teams work hard and to their capacity, all groups should be able to reach proficiency standards that are challenging but reasonable and well defined. Thus, in a given class, it could happen that all teams meet the


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Proficiency standard, or that majority of the teams reach the Superior standard, equivalent in our College to a High Pass or an A. However, we found that most instructors in the College were accustomed, implicitly or explicitly, to grading by a curve. Some would assess student work and then work out a distribution. Others would identify the team with the “best product” and then use that team’s result against which to assess (and grade) the other teams. The result was that instructors in different class sections teaching the same PBL project in a very similar fashion came into conflict when it was time to assign grades. This was the case even when the grades were limited to High Pass, Pass, and Fail. Instructors tended to hold several implicit expectations. First, they expected to make the grade determination for their particular class section on their own. Second, they expected to assign grades based on an undefined curve that would ensure “equal treatment” in the number of High Pass grades across different class sections. Finally, they expected to be able to over-ride the undefined curve in cases where they felt that a large number of teams had achieved at a Superior level. Although this undoubtedly sounds like a confused state of affairs, we believe that it reflects the norm of privacy in teaching that carries over to student assessment and grading in higher education. Moreover, our attempts to turn this disorganized anarchy in student assessment into an organized anarchy simply raised the level of conflict and instructor dissatisfaction without achieving our desired goal. This is captured in the following exchange between Hallinger and two of his teaching colleagues who were all involved in teaching the same PBL project. Hallinger:

“I noticed that you have given four out of the six teams in your class High Pass for the project presentation, and the other two groups both got Pass.”

Colleague 1: “Well they all deserved it. I used the rubric for assessment.” Colleague 2: “But in my class, only one out of the six groups got a High Pass the project presentation and another team was below the Pass level. I simply don’t believe that my class was that much weaker than yours.” Colleague 1: “It was just a very strong group of students this term in my section. I would feel terrible not to be able to give them the grade I think they deserved.” Hallinger:

“In my own section, the students also worked very hard and had some outstanding presentations. I was comfortable with the High Pass that I assigned to two of the teams, but I don’t have enough information about the quality standard achieved by students in your sections to form any judgment as to what they should have gotten for the overall assessment of their presentations.”

Variations on this “composite’ exchange took place any number of times between numerous groups of highly committed instructors. Inevitably, they led to unhealthy compromises, ill feeling, conflict, and distrust. Faculty members at other


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institutions could easily imagine the off-hand comments about colleagues’ lack of standards and references to popularity contests. While this discussion has, thus far, focused on the instructors’ expectations and practices, we do not wish a central fact to pass without mention. It is the students who ultimately suffer from the compromises that result from the “black box” of instructor assessment practices. Whether we are speaking of the performance assessment or the grades, they were not benefiting from the best that we could offer. Our inability to solve the problem of student assessment ultimately threatened the success of our PBL implementation effort. Rubrics, while helpful in sharpening our collective competence, could not overcome these normative aspects of university teaching. Again we reemphasize that these attempts at collaboration took place in an environment where student evaluations of teachers are taken seriously by teachers and College administrators. Instructors have felt a continuing tension between the desire to maintain high standards and fears of lower evaluations from students. There were two obvious policy solutions to the presented problem. The first would have been to eliminate the High Pass option and use only Pass/Fail in the PBL track. For reasons noted earlier in this chapter, this option was not practical because of its role as a Capstone option. A second option would have been to take steps to reduce the impact of instructor evaluations. This was also impractical. Moreover, neither of these policy options would have resulted in ensuring higher quality student assessment. They would only have addressed the instructor side of the problem. After many discussions among our colleagues, we redefined the problem. In doing so, we identified two salient features of the problem that we faced. First, there was a conflict in assumptions between our approaches to assessment and grading. We firmly believed that student assessment should foster learning. Our decision to employ rubrics was consistent with a mastery learning philosophy. This asserts that all students can achieve proficiency given the proper motivation, time, effort and input. The use of rubrics is consistent with this philosophy since they focus the instructor (and students) on proficiency standards and on identifying areas of strength and weakness. However, our approach to grading was still implicitly guided by the belief that student performance should result in something approaching a normal curve. This approach is designed to sort students into groups. The sorting is based on a predetermined notion of how they should be distributed rather than on their ability to demonstrate a performance standard. There was a clear conflict in the assumptions of our approaches to assessment and grading. The second source of the problem was a lack of shared information among instructors on the application of the rubrics in practice. While rubrics have the potential to increase the reliability of assessments, it depends upon how they are used in practice. The instructors did not know how their colleagues were using the rubrics to gauge student performance in different classes. Therefore, they tended to distrust the results. Having redefined the problem in this manner, we discussed possible solutions at length. The instructors were adamant that they wanted grade results to reflect actual


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student performance. We agreed that it should be possible for a majority of groups in one class to achieve a High pass, or for multiple groups in a class to receive a Fail. Based on this agreement, we concluded that instructors teaching the same PBL project must not only come to a common understanding of the assessment criteria, but they must also collaborate in the assessment process. This has taken the following forms: Ć” Major products in a project such as group presentations are assessed by a minimum of two instructors. This is mandatory in the early days of a project, but may even continue as a standard practice in projects that have more than two instructors. Ć” Instructors may jointly apply their rubrics and check their results with each other for several rounds of assessment. Although this may take several terms, once they develop a reasonable level of trust, instructors may choose to simply compare their assessments through spot checks of selected products. This approach has been easier to apply in projects with only two instructors and where the instructor team is stable. These solutions demand even more time and commitment from the instructors. Nonetheless, they seem to be working; tension and conflict among instructors over assessment has been reduced. We conclude, therefore, that only through collaborative assessment are we able to tap the true potential of the assessment rubrics. Notably, we find relatively small differences among instructors in their ratings of the performance products and have achieved a higher quality of student assessment. CONCLUSION In this chapter we have discussed one of the major challenges facing those who elect to use problem-based learning, namely, student assessment. Our discussion has centered on the philosophy behind our approach and the formal types of assessment that we have used. We have slighted the informal assessments that naturally occur in a PBL environment. Once students become familiar with one another and the philosophy that we have adopted, these assessments frequently take place. In our experience, students can be quite candid with one another, and this informal feedback promotes self-awareness and behavioral change. In the Master of Management program at Mahidol University, the need to improve assessment in the PBL track became the stimulus for broader instructional improvement in our program. It was clear from the start that the performances and products generated in a PBL environment and the shared curriculum delivery required a different approach to assessment. However, as our knowledge of assessment methods developed, it inadvertently highlighted a general weakness in assessment that had been masked by the privacy of the classrooms. It is no exaggeration to state that the effort to improve assessment in our PBL implementation has had a positive effect on assessment throughout the College.


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NOTES 1

2 3

This chapter has been adapted from material included in Chapter Four in Bridges, E., & Hallinger, P. (1995). Problem-based leadership development. Eugene, OR: ERIC. Doyle, M., & Strauss, D. (1993). How to make meetings work. New York: Jove Books, The Berkeley Publishing Group. Bloom, B. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook 1: Cognitive

domain. Boston: Addison Wesley. 4 5

6

7

Swanson, D., Case, S., & van der Vleuten, C. (1991). In D. Boud & G. Feletti (Eds.), The challenge of problem-based learning. New York: St. Martin’s Press. See Costa, A., & Kallick, B. (2004). Assessment strategies for self-directed learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Also Arter, J., & McTighe, J. (2001). Scoring rubrics in the classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. See for example, Costa & Kallick, op. cit., Arter & McTighe, op.cit. Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. (2004). Assessing students in groups. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. And Guskey, T., & Bailey, J. (2001). Developing grading and reporting systems for student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. See Arter & McTighe, op.cit.


CHAPTER 7 PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING AS A CURRICULUM APPROACH ABSTRACT In this chapter we introduce the reader to a perspective on PBL as a curricular approach. While PBL can be used by an individual instructor as a method of learning and teaching, its real power is gained when implemented as an approach to curriculum or programmatic design. We will discuss why this is the case as well as delineating some of the options and issues program teachers and program designers may consider in preparing to implement PBL in their universities or other instructional programs.

INTRODUCTION Several years ago at the conclusion of a leadership training program for school principals, the participants were raising questions and unresolved issues. One participant, a veteran high school principal from Texas, summed up his impressions in the following manner. This was definitely a useful and interesting program. I learned a lot about leadership, a subject that is quite new to me. I’ve gotten a lot of good information about this role during the program. The only trouble is that now I feel kind of like one of my juniors at the end of the first semester of chemistry. I think I know just about enough to blow up my organization.

Is this experience unusual in professional development programs? We think not. Moreover, this same problem whereby participants lack confidence in their ability to apply the curriculum content also characterizes university preparation programs for managers. Traditional university-based preparation programs often posit their goal as teaching prospective managers about the subject matter. Both the organization of curriculum and the predominant instructional methodologies reflect this proscribed goal. Professional norms generally assume that the university classroom is illequipped to teach for the application of knowledge. Moreover, those components of university-based preparation programs that attempt to move students towards application, such as the internship or practicum, generally get short shrift in terms of resources, status and faculty attention . As noted in Chapter Two, a major goal of PBL is to teach the application of knowledge. In this chapter we examine conditions under which learning how to apply knowledge is likely to occur. We do this by focusing on curricular issues including specific features of PBL that promote retention and transfer of learning, various alternatives for implementing PBL and their potential for effecting transfer

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and application, and selecting projects in line with alternatives chosen for implementing PBL in order to maximize subsequent use of the content. CURRICULUM DESIGN IN PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING In an earlier paper, Bridges1 noted the potentially dysfunctional consequences that arise from the discontinuities between graduate preparation in educational administration and the role characteristics of educational administrators. Experience in both medical and management education suggests that a problem-based curriculum has the potential to reduce the occurrence of at least some of these dysfunctional discontinuities that arise in graduate preparation. This is due to the goals inherent in problem-based curricula as well as to specific design features. In Chapter Two we discussed how the goals of PBL address these discontinuities. In this chapter, we will consider explicit features in the design of PBL curriculum that foster the attainment of those goals. Design Features of a Problem-based Curriculum Over the past decade, management programs have come under heavy criticism on a variety of counts.2 Among the general areas targeted for criticism are inadequate connections forged by these programs between the content of the curriculum and the world of practice, lack of rigor, irrelevant course content, lack of cohesion and sequencing of knowledge, inattention to skill and affective development of students, and lack of quality feedback on practice-related assignments and tasks. Specific features of a problem-based curriculum are designed to address these concerns as well as to assist students in retaining and transferring the content of university-based coursework to practice. Engel has identified several of these features as integrated learning, progression in learning and consistency in learning.3 Integrated Learning Integrated learning refers to the characteristic whereby problem-based learning projects break down the artificial barriers between disciplines. PBL projects require students to integrate and synthesize knowledge from multiple disciplines as they seek to solve problems. Traditional management curricula divide the management knowledge into slices synonymous with the academic disciplines. In practice, administrators seldom find workplace problems presented in either the form or the language of an academic discipline. Moreover, most complex problems require managers to recall or apply knowledge drawn from multiple disciplines and to use a variety of types of knowledge (e.g., practical experience, theory, research). For example, take the situation in which a manager confronts a problem of poor performance by a staff member. An understanding of the problem as well as an approach to its solution may require the consideration of knowledge from several academic disciplines and sub-fields of administration. These might include leadership and staff supervision (psychology and sociology), legal issues (law), human resource management (psychology), organizational theory


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(psychology, sociology), and organizational culture (sociology, anthropology). Moreover, while an academically defensible solution might be based on a combination of theoretical and empirically justified sources, a viable solution to the problem might also entail the application of craft knowledge derived form the experience of practitioners. In problem-based learning, curriculum content is organized around problems rather than the disciplines. Consequently, problem-based curricula are fundamentally interdisciplinary in nature. The organization of the curricula seeks for students to think about and apply knowledge gained during their coursework using multiple lenses, drawn from different disciplines and types of knowledge sources simultaneously. Progression in Learning A second feature of problem-based curricula concerns the attention that is paid to building a scaffold for student learning. Traditional curricula tend to treat each course as a unit distinct from other courses. As professors we too seldom base instructional decisions on assumptions about students’ progress in developing knowledge and skills as they move through other courses in our programs. We tend to be concerned first and foremost with our own subject, not with the student’s experience of the entire program. It is, therefore, entirely possible for us to craft a set of excellently fashioned parts that simply do not fit together as a whole! In PBL, we pay explicit attention to the sequence of projects in order to build on the capacities that student develop as they move through the curriculum. For example, ideally in PBL, the instructor begins with laying a foundation of management knowledge and skills for students. These skills are not only essential to effective management but also to students learning effectively with PBL. These skills include oral communication, written communication, time management, meeting management, group decision-making, and problem-framing. We would present projects that develop these foundation skills early in the students’ course experience. Subsequent projects assume this prior learning and provide additional opportunities for practice. This affords students the opportunity to apply domain specific knowledge to different contexts and to problems of increasing complexity. Consistency in Learning The third feature we consider is consistency in learning. As we have sought to convey in other chapters, the successful implementation of problem-based learning requires attention to multiple aspects of the learning environment. The goal is to develop consistency among the various elements of the curriculum in order to promote effective learning. These elements include emphasizing cooperative group learning, relying primarily on formative methods of student assessment, providing responsibility to students for project completion, including performance related work product in projects, and introducing problems before the subject matter. The use of programwide rubrics for student assessment further strengthens the cumulative effects of learning as students both understand and seek to achieve standards on which their


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performances will be assessed across different courses. These and other facets of a problem-based curriculum provide a consistent message to students. When consistency is achieved, the outcome is a more powerful learning experience for students. Sample Curriculum We would like to elaborate on the above design features in relation to the Master of Management curriculum at Mahidol University. PBL projects are integrated into the curriculum so as to contribute to the progression of student skill and knowledge development over the course of their program. Note that although this example is specific to students in our General Management Program, the general overall approach would apply to other program specializations as well (e.g., Human Resource Management, Entrepreneurship Management etc.). Ć” Term One: Students complete formal PBL projects on Meeting Management and Time Management as part of the requirements for our introductory Principles of Management course. They also complete a problem-based marketing simulation in the core course, Strategic Marketing Management. During these projects they are also introduced to skills in group problem-solving, group, decision-making, presentation and memo writing that they will need to use throughout the program. Ć” Terms Two and Three: Students complete three PBL projects focused on problems that concern Project Management, Decision-making, Staff Leadership and Managing Organizational Behavior. These projects are included as part of the requirements for courses in Project Management, Organizational Behavior and Human Resources, Decision Skills, and Leadership and Team Development. These projects not only introduce students to new management knowledge, but also afford opportunities to practice management skills introduced in the prior projects (e.g., oral presentation, memo writing, meeting management). Moreover, new skills are introduced such as advanced oral presentation with video, advanced problem-solving and decisionmaking approaches, use of MS Project). Ć” Terms Four and Five: Students who elect the PBL Capstone Project option study four additional PBL projects that together comprise the equivalent of two full courses. Students select these four projects from between six to eight modules that the College offers. Several of these are discussed in Part II of this volume. These projects offer opportunities for students to apply previously learned as well as new skills and knowledge. Project Selection in a PBL Curriculum There are several curriculum alternatives through which PBL may be implemented. Although we consider some of these later in this chapter, we do not undertake to


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describe how to construct a PBL curriculum for an entire program. Instead, we limit our discussion here to specific issues concerning the selection of PBL materials for a curriculum from the perspective of the individual instructor. The organization and selection of materials represent critical tasks in the design of a PBL curriculum. As we indicated Chapter Three, the PBL materials act as a substitute for much of the input traditionally provided by the instructor during the course sessions. The materials not only convey the content of the course, but also provide a structure for the students’ learning activities. Thus, professors must select PBL materials with care. Whether the instructor intends to use PBL projects developed elsewhere or selfauthored projects, he/she must first consider the content for the course or program. The instructor, therefore, reviews a range of projects in light of the relevant curricular goals. When reviewing projects for course selection it is useful to pay attention to six features. These include: 1. Learning objectives, 2. Prerequisite skills and knowledge, 3. Relevance of the problem to the intended audience, 4. Role of the primary actor in the project, 5. Problem context, 6. Time constraints. Learning Objectives First, though not alone, among the instructor’s considerations is whether the learning objectives of the project are appropriate to the course goals. A review of the learning objectives stated in the PBL project specifications can clarify this. This tends, however, not to be quite as straightforward as it sounds since PBL projects are interdisciplinary in nature. If the instructor is still teaching within a traditional curricular format (i.e., courses organized in terms of management disciplines), the instructor may need to adopt a more flexible attitude towards the goals of the course. Therefore, we recommend that instructors look beyond the learning objectives during this phase of project review. At times, the stated learning objectives for a project may not fit exactly into a conventional course. However, the problems and associated content knowledge presented in the project may be highly salient to students’ in the particular program. In this instance, the instructor might choose to adapt the project by reframing the learning objectives, by reshaping the learning resources, or by reframing the course goals. Prerequisite Skills and Knowledge It is also useful to consider whether students lack any of the prerequisite skills explicitly indicated by the project author, or are implicit in the project specifications. If so, the teacher must identify ways of supporting students in their completion of the project. This issue is particular applicable in settings where a PBL project may be used in a stand-alone fashion. For example, in designing the Reorganizing for Competitiveness project used in the PBL track at Mahidol University (see Chapter Thirteen), the instructors knew


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that all students who might choose to study this PBL project would be doing so in their fourth or fifth term of study. Moreover, with knowledge of our curriculum structure, they were able to assume that all students studying the project would already have developed necessary prerequisite skills (e.g., presentation, meeting management) as well as prerequisite knowledge drawn from prior courses. This allowed the instructors to target higher levels of content knowledge in the design of the project. Similarly, a PBL project may require students to write a memo, role play a supervisory conference, or make an oral presentation. If they have not already learned these skills in the program, we designate these as supplementary learning objectives and add suitable learning resources to the project. Relevance of the Problem to the Intended Audience Since the problem is such an essential part of PBL, students must perceive the situations represented in the selected projects as highly salient. The nature of the problem, the role of the primary actor, and the context in which the problem is presented shape the students’ perceptions of the project’s salience. For example, the salience of the Retail-to-eTail project (see Chapter Twelve) will vary among students depending upon the perceived importance of e-commerce issues in their work. The importance of problem relevance has led us to organize our PBL track at Mahidol University in terms of elective projects that students select based upon their interest. Knowledge of what constitutes salient problems for students may at times require prospective evaluation of students’ needs by the instructor. Organizing the curriculum in terms of the problems rather than disciplinary content may at times lead instructor’s to change their view of what ought to be included in a course. When this occurs, it should be viewed as a positive development. Such curricular adaptation indicates that the instructor is viewing the disciplines as being placed in service to the profession, rather than the opposite. Role of the Primary Actor in the Project Who is the primary actor in the project? To the extent that the nature of the course or program varies, the instructor may vary projects in order to incorporate a range of managerial roles. Mahidol University’s Master of Management program encompasses a wide range of majors from Finance to HR to Entrepreneurship. Thus, we have designed PBL projects around problems that reflect the full range of roles and interests of students from different majors. In Stanford University’s New Pathways to the Principalship program, the students occupy a variety of educator roles. They do, however, share a common goal of aspiring to school level leadership positions. In this case, all PBL projects focus on the principalship. In considering this issue in project selection, our experience with mixed groups has been that it is of primary importance that the students view the problems presented in the project as salient. If the problems presented are highly salient and the forms of managerial resolution of the problem are comparable, students do not


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tend to be overly distracted by the role of the actor in the context. Of course, there may also be limits in terms of applicability of the project when the managerial position differs too dramatically from the current or future position of the students. Problem Context The context in which the problem is presented also impacts perceptions of salience to the audience. If the problem presented in a project is too narrow, part of the audience may feel shut out and disengage. Consideration of the problem context includes several aspects, all of which involve reviewing projects based on the needs and interests of the students. We must emphasize that when the problems presented are sufficiently broad in impact and common in occurrence, managers at a variety of levels and in different industries generally feel equally engaged. That is public sector managers do not appear to be overly distracted by projects that involve a private sector context. Time Constraints Finally, the instructor must consider time constraints relevant to curriculum implementation. These constraints commonly take two forms. First, there is a recommended duration for each project. The instructor must coordinate the time allotted for the selected projects into a course or institute a schedule. Particularly at the beginning, we have found it good policy to err on the side of giving too much, rather than too little time to a project. The second type of time constraint concerns the format of the course or training program. We have implemented PBL in university courses meeting in several time formats: weekend classes, classes meeting twice a week for three hour sessions, and classes meeting twice a week for one hour and 15 minute sessions. We have also used PBL in one and two week executive development programs. This suggests that it is possible to adapt PBL to a wide variety of time formats. Our experience suggests, however, that certain time formats are more effective than others. We find that students work most productively when a project is scheduled for substantial blocks of time (e.g., two to three hours per session) over a period of one to several weeks. Shorter time blocks limit or complicate efforts to conduct the extended simulations that are at the core of certain projects. Longer sessions over a very short period of time (e.g., a weekend) offer time for extended activities, but limit students’ capacities to integrate concepts from readings into their understanding of the problem in a coherent fashion. Few of these constraints are insurmountable. Successful implementation does, however, require the instructor to plan for the specific constraints that are associated with the different time formats. These represent some of the salient considerations for the individual instructor when generating materials for use in a PBL curriculum. In the following section of this chapter, we turn our attention to some of the curricular structures available that have been used for implementing PBL in leadership education.


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CURRICULAR ALTERNATIVES FOR IMPLEMENTING PBL Problem-based learning is both an instructional and curricular approach to education. While we have been impressed with the degree and types of learning demonstrated by our students when using PBL, it is not necessarily the case that PBL should necessarily represent the only educational approach used in a management preparation or development program. Feedback from our own students confirms the appropriateness of combining PBL with other instructional strategies as part of a preparation program. Thus, when training faculty members in the use of PBL we are adamant in conveying our belief that the skillful teacher uses a variety of teaching and learning methods in the classroom. In this section of the chapter we provide an overview of curriculum alternatives for using PBL with prospective and practicing leaders. Curricular Implementation in University Settings A variety of approaches have been taken to integrating PBL into preparation programs. These approaches represent a wide range and include the following: Ɣ Individual professors using PBL in a single class; Ɣ Several professors using PBL either separately or in some coordinated but non-programmatic fashion; Ɣ Incorporation of PBL projects as a Capstone option in a program; Ɣ Design of PBL projects as a form of Thesis; Ɣ A PBL program track that students may elect in place of the traditional program; Ɣ An entire program built around problem-based learning. We will primarily focus on those alternatives that we have personally used to date. These include using PBL in a single course, in a sequence of courses, as a major component in a preparation program, and as the object of a graduate Thesis. Implementing PBL as Part of a Course or as a Full Course The most limited form of curriculum implementation of PBL occurs when an individual professor uses PBL as the instructional method for either part of a course or for an entire course. For example, an instructor might substitute a PBL project for a case that she has used in the past. Or an instructor might design a course around a series of PBL projects. While this approach requires the least resources to implement, it will not yield the maximum benefits of PBL. Implementation of PBL in a single course circumscribes the ability to achieve significant integration, progression, or accumulation in learning. At the same time, however, it is a reasonable approach to experimenting with a radically different approach to curriculum and instruction. It is, in fact, the approach that both of us started within our own programs. A common response of management faculty when first confronted with the idea of PBL is, “PBL might work for Organizational Behavior content, but not for Finance or Business Statistics.” This response is similar to that of medical school


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professors in the basic sciences. Yet, the experience in such programs has been that most of these same professors become convinced of the method’s efficacy once they adjust to the approach. Adjustment involves training in the method, seeing models of how the content in their discipline can be taught in a PBL curriculum, gaining personal experience in implementation, and receiving feedback from students and perhaps colleagues. Thus, we conclude that PBL is not inherently better suited to any specific type of content. Within the curricula offered in our programs at Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Mahidol Universities we have constructed a wide variety of management subjects around problem-based learning. These have been offered to students studying at the undergraduate, master, and doctoral levels. When implementing PBL as part of a single course, there are additional limitations of which the instructor should be aware that related directly to our discussion in Chapter Four. This approach does not .generally allow the instructor to create the type of learning environment necessary to support student success in a problem-based setting. Second, the curriculum structure does not optimize students’ learning. When implemented as a single unit, none of the characteristic features of a PBL curriculum – integrated learning, progression in learning, consistency in learning – can be achieved. For the reasons stated above, the use of PBL as a single unit within a course may provide both the instructor and students with a faulty impression as to the potential of PBL. That is, they may judge the efficacy of the approach based on a poor representation of the model. As noted earlier in this chapter under the characteristic, consistency in learning, PBL requires multiple, mutually reinforcing components to work together in order to achieve desired results. This is quite difficult to achieve when a single PBL project is used in the context of a conventional curriculum. Despite these admonitions, it is possible to use PBL as a single unit within a course. We do so, for example, in the context of staff development institutes. It is, however, necessary to attend and adapt to a number of salient issues that tend to arise under these circumstances. Mostly these concern adapting the scope of the project and providing somewhat more structure to compensate for the learners’ lack of pre-requisite knowledge and/or skills. Sequence of Courses Some instructors whom we have trained chose to revise a basic sequence of academic courses around PBL. Implementation of this type is of interest because it has not involved adjustment of other parts of the Masters program. That is, implementation has been limited to the courses taught by a few professors who became interested in PBL. This mode of implementation is practical and yet, it also allows the users to achieve some of the curricular benefits that we associate with PBL. This form of implementation illustrates additional issues relevant to professors who work in situations where full program adaptation is not a realistic possibility in the short-term for whatever reasons (e.g., politics, resources, program goals).


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Part of a Program This option has been used at management programs in a number of universities. For example, at Stanford, where Bridges has constructed a Masters program for prospective principals, PBL plays a prominent role. PBL represents 40% of the Masters curriculum. In this venue, PBL is used as the practicum portion of the program and is implemented over the course of three summers. The content of the traditional courses that parallel the practicum is aligned with the types of problems students will encounter in the PBL projects. This approach is quite similar to the Harvard Graduate School of Medicine where students study in a lecture format in the mornings and work on PBL projects in the afternoon. In the Master of Management program at Mahidol University, PBL is integrated into the curriculum in several ways: Ɣ Formal integration into courses: PBL projects are interspersed through the curriculum through formal adoption of carefully selected PBL projects into specific Core or Foundation courses (e.g., Meeting Management and Time Management projects are taught to all students in the Principles of Management course taken in the first term). Ɣ Ad hoc use: Instructors select or create PBL projects for use on an ad hoc basis in their specialization courses (e.g., we use a Leadership project in our specialization course, Leadership and Team Development). Note that even though use is ad hoc, the instructor is able to make assumptions about students’ prior management knowledge and skills, as well as their ability to learn in a PBL context. Ɣ PBL Capstone track: PBL is offered as a Capstone to students. In the fourth term of their five-term program, students must select a Capstone option from among four alternatives: PBL Track, Consulting Internship, Thesis, and Independent Study. Students who select the PBL track will study four six-week long PBL projects over the period of two terms. They select the four modules from a total of six to eight modules offered at any point in time. The students must achieve a minimum of Pass in each of the four projects in order to satisfy their Capstone requirement. Note that these PBL projects, several of which are included in Part II of this volume, were designed with the format of the PBL capstone track in mind. This feature has the following implications of which the reader should be aware: Ɣ The time duration of the projects used in the PBL Capstone is arbitrarily set at six weeks simply because the length of our trimester is 12 weeks and we wish to fit two projects into a single term. There is nothing magical about six weeks. Ɣ These projects were designed with the knowledge that students taking them would have completed certain coursework and prior PBL projects in other courses. This reflects a spiral approach to curriculum design whereby students are exposed recurrently to themes, concepts and skills to enhance understanding, retention and transfer. It also increases


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the efficiency of time use for the project since the instructor can make firm assumptions about what students should already know. These approaches allow the synergistic features of PBL to yield more robust effects. Progression in learning, integrated learning, and consistency in learning are all possible when PBL is implemented in this fashion. Consequently, this alternative provides a greater likelihood of achieving the goals of PBL. Designing a PBL Project as a Master or Doctoral Thesis A challenge that faces many graduate programs concerns the design and conduct of projects that meet the requirements for a Master or Doctoral thesis or dissertation. Professors conceive of this project as an opportunity for students to synthesize and apply domain relevant knowledge as well as research and problem-solving skills they have acquired during their graduate studies. Yet, existing models for conducting a Master or Doctoral Thesis in a professional school (e.g., management, education, architecture, engineering), borrowed from the academic disciplines, may not always suit the needs of students seeking to enhance their professional knowledge and skills. We assert that the design of PBL projects represents a potentially exciting project for students completing theses in professional schools. In this chapter, we will simply note that several options exist for integrating the development of PBL projects into Masters and professional thesis requirements. PBL project development is, in essence, itself an extended form of student-centered learning. As such it seems uniquely suited to the types of knowledge synthesis and application that is desired of students at this stage in their graduate studies. The development of a PBL project involves the synthesis and application of many of the cognitive capacities that professional programs in educational administration seek to develop in their students. The formulation of a focal problem for the PBL project requires the student to engage in extensive problem-finding. Not only does the student have to identify the problem, but he/she must also apply similar types of problem-solving as project participants, except in a more openended fashion. The author of a PBL project must investigate the full range of options for solving the problem. The identification of appropriate human, print and video resources for understanding the problems presented in the project also lead to increased knowledge in salient domains. Moreover, the nature of the student’s investigation of resources requires the student to use higher order thinking. This enhances the student’s capacity for application and synthesis of ideas. The steps of developing techniques for assessment of the PBL project require the student to use many of the same skills needed for planning independent research. The field test and revision of the project correspond to the normal procedures used in data collection, analysis, and presentation of results. The criteria that might distinguish the format of a M.A. thesis from a professional doctoral or Ph.D. thesis as concerns the development of a PBL project include: 1. The extent to which the project is focused on development and testing of a PBL project versus answering research questions that relate to


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2.

3.

theories of instruction and/or instructional design. The more advanced the degree, the greater the expectation that the project will contribute to theoretical knowledge as well as the practical world of management. The sophistication and extensiveness of summative evaluation measures and procedures included in the field test of the project. More sophisticated research and evaluation techniques would typically be required in more advanced degrees. The extent of reporting that is included in the final thesis. This relates to the depth and scope of coverage in the project report concerning procedures, literature and findings as in a typical dissertation.

While these criteria frame some of the options for thinking about the format of a thesis that incorporates PBL, in the end individual institutional norms will hold sway. Three essential differences set this approach to a thesis apart from most master and doctoral dissertations. First, the process results in a product – the PBL project – that represents a usable contribution to the field. The notion that professional students might make a useful contribution to the field as a consequence of their study is only surprising because of the rarity with which it occurs under our current models. Second, the creation of the PBL project stands as a valid form of authentic assessment that is consistent with the goals of a professional graduate education. The PBL project represents a true demonstration of the student’s capacity to use research and theory towards the illumination and potential solution of problems of practice. This seems like a worthwhile goal for the capstone experience of professional graduate study, especially for the Master degree and professional Doctorate degrees (e.g., D.B.A., Ed.D., etc.).4 Third, the project connects the graduate work of the student in the university to the world of practice in schools. It forces the student to reengage the world of practice in its complexity while at the same time making use of inquiry tools and formal knowledge drawn from the university. Thus, it serves as an opportunity for the student to use the currency of the university – knowledge and systematic inquiry – towards the goals of illuminating and solving problems faced by people in the management of organizations. This seems like a useful role for the capstone experience to play as a transition ritual for students as they leave graduate study and continue in their careers. Field Experience We have not experimented extensively with this curricular option. However, it is possible to integrate PBL into a field-based practicum as a means of structuring student’s reflection on their internship experience. This option represents a form of student-centered learning. Field experience may be structured along the following lines. During the course of the field-based practicum or internship, the student can be asked to identify and investigate a significant problem that he/she encounters in the work setting. The same steps outlined under PBL project development can be offered to the student as a structure for thinking through the problem and identifying


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approaches that might be used for solution. This experience engages the student in drawing explicitly on a range of available human and print resources as a means of understanding the problem in the work setting. Alternatively the student-centered project, A Problem at Organization X presented in Chapter Fifteen, could be used as a template for this type of project. Using either approach, the student would write up the introduction, description of the problem and problem setting, identify resources used, and questions that guided their thinking about the problem as they consulted resources. Instead of developing product specifications, if possible, the student would actually seek to implement a solution and report on the results. If implementation is not possible, the student would write up the suggested solution implementation. In either case, the student would supplement the above materials with an integrative essay. This process incorporates features of PBL project development and a variation of classroom implementation of PBL. As we have indicated, to date we have not implemented this curricular alternative. However, the model does appear to offer students a structure for leveraging the practical experience gained in a field experience through the selective application of PBL.

CONCLUSION In the 1940s, Charles Gragg, a pioneer of the case teaching method at the Harvard Business School, asserted that “education in the professions should prepare students for action.”5 In this chapter we have examined how a problem-based curriculum addresses the challenge of preparing students for action. More specifically, we have sought to distinguish the use of PBL as a “standalone approach to teaching and learning” from the use of PBL as an approach to curriculum. Empirical research has yet to assess the relative effects of PBL when used in different curriculum configurations. However, our experience suggests the importance of approaching PBL as a curricular method and leveraging its potential programmatically. In this chapter, we have outlined the elements of problem-based curricula and identified a variety of curriculum alternatives for implementing problem-based learning in higher education settings. We have been eclectic in our own implementation of PBL. At various times we have used most of the alternative approaches described in this chapter. Drawing from our own experience, we have sought to provide clues as to the strengths and weaknesses of different alternatives and to identify ways of compensating when implementing PBL under less than ideal circumstances (i.e., most of the time!). Our experience with PBL has been consistent with that of medical educators. When implemented in a systematic holistic fashion, a problem-based curriculum can foster the development of cognitive and affective capacities important in the work of future professionals. A problem-based curriculum is explicitly designed to encourage open-minded, reflective, critical and active learning. Though perhaps a secondary consideration for some, this approach is also morally defensible. In PBL the student and teacher are viewed as persons with knowledge, understanding, feelings and interests who come together in a shared educational process.


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Finally, a problem-based curriculum reflects the nature of knowledge as complex and changing as a result of responses by communities of persons to problems they perceive in their world.6 We believe that these features of the educational process are especially salient to the development of leaders – professionals who must accomplish results with and through the efforts of other people – who are operating in a rapidly changing environment.

NOTES 1

2

 Bridges, E. (1977). The nature of leadership. In L. Cunningham, W. Hack, & R. Nystrand, Educational administration: The developing decades. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan, 202-230.

See Mintzberg, H. (2004). Managers not MBAs: A hard look at the soft practice of managing and management development. San Francisco: Berrett Kohler. 3 Engel, C. (1991). Not just a method, but a way of learning. In D. Boud & G. Feletti (Eds.), The challenge of problem-based learning. New York: St. Martin’s Press, pp. 2333. 4  See Bridges, E., & Hallinger, P. (1995). Problem-based leadership development. Eugene, OR: ERIC, Chapter Five. 5  Gragg, C. (1941, October 19). Because wisdom can’t be told. Harvard Alumni Bulletin, 12-15. Reprinted by Harvard Business School, HBS Case #451-005. 6 Margetson, D. (1991). Why is problem-based learning a challenge? In D. Boud & G. Feletti (Eds.), The challenge of problem-based learning. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 45.


CHAPTER 8 IMPLEMENTING PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS ABSTRACT In prior chapters we have emphasized that the power of PBL is best attained by employing a programmatic and curricular approach. In this chapter we extend our discussion of this issue by providing a case study of implementing PBL in a graduate management program. The case study highlights obstacles, strategies, and success factors to consider when implementing PBL in a programmatic fashion that seeks to take advantage of PBL as an approach to curriculum.

INTRODUCTION In Chapter Seven, we differentiated among a variety of ways in which PBL can be integrated into a higher education program. On one end of the continuum, PBL can be approached as an instructional method used by one or more teachers. When used in this manner, the instructor may simply substitute a PBL unit in place of a case, a class project, or a series of lectures on a topic. As noted earlier, although this manner of initiating PBL bears the lowest costs, it may also yield the least satisfactory results. Over time, the individual instructor will become acutely aware of many limitations that result from an isolated use of PBL. On the other end of the continuum, we may choose to employ PBL as a curriculum approach. Here the use of PBL shapes the curriculum as well as the manner in which student engage the content. We believe the potential aims of PBL are most fully achieved when it is implemented as an approach to shaping the management curriculum. When PBL is approached from a curriculum perspective, we are able to sequence the introduction of problems and build students’ analytical skills more systematically. The implementation of a “spiral curriculum” also makes it possible for students to develop important management skills in concert with a deeper understanding of management knowledge. Finally, this approach provides a context in which students refine their capacities for reflection and self-understanding that are essential for addressing the emotional side of managerial work. Nonetheless, in the real world, one’s decision to employ a particular approach to PBL will be based on many factors: the vision and philosophy of the school, interests of faculty, needs of students, financial and physical constraints of the institution, and competitive pressures in the environment. Indeed, the editors’ personal experiences

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implementing PBL at Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Mahidol Universities mirror the full range of curriculum options. In this chapter, we present a case study of PBL implementation at the College of Management, Mahidol University (CMMU) in Thailand. The case study of curriculum implementation at CMMU will ground the abstract discussions offered in prior chapters. It will provide the reader with insight into what is involved in broadscale implementation of PBL as well as why “integrated” approaches to the use of PBL should yield greater benefits. Several additional factors may make this case potentially interesting. Ɣ First, our case involves PBL implementation in an Asian institution of higher education. The change to PBL in Asia is even more radical than in Europe and North America due to norms of the social culture.1 These social norms reinforce a persisting tradition of lecture-based, teacher-directed instruction. Thus, implementation of PBL in an Asian context is likely to face typical as well as unique challenges. Ɣ Second, PBL implementation at CMMU is relatively large in scale. About 750 students and as many as 40 faculty members are engaged in using PBL each year. Over the past five years, more than 2,000 of our students have studied in a PBL environment for at least a portion of their Master degree program. Ɣ Third, CMMU’s implementation of PBL is reasonably large in scope. In the initial phase, PBL was incorporated into about 15% of the Master degree curriculum. Over time, it has expanded to comprise about 20% of the curriculum. While this represents a significant degree of curriculum integration and impact, the reader will note that PBL remains but one of a number of instructional approaches in use at the College. As such, the case does not describe the “maximum” degree to which PBL could shape a management curriculum; it describes what has made sense in our context.2 Ɣ Fourth, implementation of PBL as a fundamental feature of the management program at Mahidol University has proceeded for more than five years (i.e., 16 trimesters of instruction). This allows us to place the scale and scope of implementation in a longitudinal perspective. We will highlight a variety of implementation issues that impact on longer-term results, including sustainability of effort. Ɣ Finally, because PBL is an integral part of the CMMU curriculum, we have collected a significant amount of formative and summative data on its implementation during this five-year period. These data provide insight into trends in the perceived effectiveness of the PBL-oriented courses over time. Research on organizational change highlights the need to base assessments of interventions such as new curriculum and instructional methods upon valid implementation of the model. Thus, this case is also able to provide a perspective on PBL implementation after instructors have gained proficiency and the intervention has been integrated into the College program.


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We organize our presentation of the case study in terms of three phases of change implementation: adoption, implementation and institutionalization. The case study places many of the conceptual issues and recommendations presented in earlier chapters into a practical perspective. PBL ADOPTION AT CMMU This section of the chapter presents the contextual issues and problems facing administrators and faculty at CMMU that led to their interest in PBL. Although CMMU is located in Bangkok, Thailand, some of these issues would be found, in different degrees, at other universities elsewhere in the world. Nonetheless, the particular context of the College provided a unique set of strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities that influenced our decision to adopt problem-based learning and the form that this has taken. The Implementation Context CMMU was started in 1997 as Mahidol University’s graduate college of management. It offers the Master of Management (M.M.) degree in a variety of management specializations. We employ an “international curriculum” taught in English in a two year program. Most of the students are attending classes on a parttime basis in the evenings and on weekends. The College admits about 375 students per year into its entering class. Since its inception, the College philosophy has centered on student-centered learning in a personalized environment. Class size is small, with an average of 25 students and a maximum of 30 students per class. A key feature of CMMU’s stated mission is to develop students who are able to apply knowledge effectively and ethically in their work and in their lives. While these features are by no means unique, they differentiated CMMU from management programs at other local universities. These tended to offer, almost exclusively, the MBA degree delivered to large classes (i.e., 60 to 150 students) organized in cohort groups. This approach dictated the predominant use of teacherdirected instruction, supplemented by cases and student projects. The MBA curriculum would tend to be broad rather than in-depth with respect to functional areas of management. CMMU’s philosophy and mission were reflected in its physical facilities. All classrooms were equipped, from its inception, with movable tables and chairs, stateof-the-art multi-media projectors, teacher computer workstations, and stereo sound systems.3 Numerous small “syndicate rooms” were provided in order to facilitate student work on projects outside of class. Over time, the College has added other technological refinements including campus-wide wireless access, e-learning support for all courses, and courseware and multimedia content servers connected to each of our 21 classrooms. These have enhanced instructors’ ability to implement the multi-media applications of PBL described in Chapter Five and in Part II of this volume. The classroom walls are


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constructed of alternating panels of writable opaque glass and soft fabric on which learners can pin up poster paper. These features facilitate the use of team-based learning. In sum, the classroom environment is purpose-built for student-centered learning (see www.cmmu.net/pbl to view pictures of the classrooms). Quality Audit Despite this seemingly receptive context for innovation in teaching and learning, by the end of its third year of operation it seems that actual practice had deviated from the philosophy and mission. In the year 2000, concerns expressed by CMMU’s Board of Trustees led to a quality audit. A three month audit of management, curricular, and instructional systems of the College revealed a disturbing picture of teaching and learning at CMMU. Ɣ The College was organized into “programs” (e.g., General Management, Entrepreneurship Management, Human Resource Management etc.). Each program operated as a semi-independent unit, employing its own faculty members and implementing its own version of the College’s Master of Management curriculum. There was no central quality control in the form of standards, systems, reporting or inspection. Ɣ There were no full-time faculty members. Instructors came from other business schools in the area, supplemented by local managers and professionals. Passive management of the part-time instructors reflected the decentralized, loosely-coupled structure of the College. Ɣ There was a lack of coordination among instructors in delivery of the curriculum. In most courses the curriculum seemed to consist of the textbook. In many subjects, the instructors used different texts for the same course. The same course offered in different programs could consist of very different content and the content largely depended on who was teaching in the particular term. Ɣ Although the campus facilities were state-of-the-art in appearance, maintenance of the classroom technology was inadequate, resulting in highly unreliable performance. Consequently, instructors usually chose to use overhead projectors and transparencies rather than the unreliable “hi-tech” equipment. Ɣ On those occasions when instructors did employ the classroom technology, usage was generally limited to showing PowerPoint slides. There was little or no use of the more sophisticated capabilities of the hi-tech equipment for multi-media presentations, internet/intranet access, simulations, or video cases. Ɣ Although every classroom was equipped with movable tables and chairs to facilitate team-based learning, the default classroom set-up consisted of neatly aligned rows. Despite the espoused philosophy and small class size, the campus consisted of 21 mini-lecture rooms. Ɣ An analysis of classroom instruction revealed that very little instructional time was intentionally allocated to student-centered


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learning. The vast majority of in-class time was used in teacherdirected instruction with occasional, sporadic cases. After deliberating on the results of the quality audit, CMMU’s managers drew several conclusions: Ɣ Curriculum and instructional practice in the College was not aligned with the College’s stated vision and philosophy. Ɣ Despite numerous potential strengths (i.e., vision, facilities, technology, class size), the College was not organizing its curriculum and instruction to take advantage of them. Ɣ If the College’s future success would depend upon its ability to demonstrate its capacity to “develop knowledgeable students for Thai society, changes were needed. Moreover, the quality audit predicted ominous consequences for the College if it continued down the same path. Indeed, the opening paragraph of the audit report forecast “closure of the College within three years if it did not undertake dramatic changes.”4 With these conclusions in mind, the College’s managers and faculty members deliberated upon the question of where to start in terms of instructional and curriculum strategies that could assist in achieving its mission. The debates over the most suitable educational approaches that ensued among the faculty would no doubt sound similar to university lecturers and administrators in other fields and other universities. Each point of view made the rounds during these debates: research vs. practice, cases vs. lecture, coordinated approach vs. individual freedom. Some degree of urgency was lent to these discussions, however, due both to the quality audit and unequivocal pressures from the Board of Trustees. Mahidol University is a respected research university with a traditionally strong focus on academic quality. Prior to the audit, the Board had already delivered the message that the status quo was unacceptable. Given the results of the audit, change was now being demanded, or else. . . The changes that ensued go beyond the topic of this chapter. They entailed a raft of systemic changes in management processes as well as curriculum and instruction. However, for the purposes of this chapter, we wish to highlight the urgently perceived need to align curriculum and instruction with the College’s espoused vision and philosophy. One of the first steps taken following acceptance of the Quality Audit was to hire a core group of full-time faculty and administrators. Their deliberations focused on a variety of possible approaches to curriculum and instructional change. Among these was problem-based learning. The author, who had just joined the College in the role of Executive Director, had considerable experience in implementing problem-based learning elsewhere. He was, therefore, able to present a clear picture of what PBL was and how it worked. Some of the faculty members, though lacking prior knowledge of PBL, were intrigued by its possibilities to address the core issue: aligning educational practice with the College’s vision of student-centered, personalized learning that would enable graduates to apply their knowledge in the


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workplace. Therefore, at the behest of this core team of faculty members, we began to explore the possibility of incorporating PBL into the College’s curriculum. Adoption and Implementation Planning During this phase, the author shared basic information about PBL in the form of readings. Sample PBL projects were distributed to interested faculty members (fulltime and part-time) for examination. We held numerous discussion sessions and a weekend retreat during which the author elaborated on what would be involved in the implementation of PBL as well as on various curriculum options. As expected, there were almost as many points of view as faculty members. One specific problem provided impetus for a rapid decision on the curriculum format that we ultimately chose. At that time, like most Master degree programs in Asia, CMMU required all students to conduct either an Independent Study (IS) project or a Master Thesis in the Capstone phase prior to graduation. Both of these options involved systematic research, with the IS project essentially taking the form of a mini-Thesis.5 During these deliberations, we began to question whether conducting a research study was the best or only approach to facilitate the synthesis of knowledge at the conclusion of the Master degree program. In fact, the College’s stated mission focused on the application, not generation, of knowledge. Moreover, our students came to the program expecting to gain a deeper understanding of management practice. Yet the available capstone experiences, IS or Thesis, both focused on developing academically-oriented, research skills. Moreover, other practical concerns surfaced that were directly related to resources. The quality audit had identified insufficient faculty capacity to advise capstone research projects as an especially significant issue. To place this issue in perspective, during the coming two terms 465 students would reach the Capstone stage of the program. This would require resources of faculty time and expertise that would be impossible to provide at a high level of quality. With this problem looming just two months ahead, the faculty did not have the luxury of unlimited time for continued deliberation; there was an urgent need to make decisions. Fortunately, the core group of faculty already accepted the findings of the quality audit as a valid description of the College. They further accepted the need for curriculum and instructional change and were strongly supportive of seeing the College achieve its vision of graduating students with the capacity of apply their learning in practice. While collective understanding of PBL was still rather thin, the faculty group decided to adopt a PBL project option (i.e., in addition to Thesis and IS) in the Capstone phase of the Master degree curriculum. The PBL Capstone Option In late March, a curriculum development team was charged with implementation of this project. The goal was to begin implementation within three months, in the June term. This team decided that the PBL Capstone would consist of a six-credit, twoterm course already approved, but never used, entitled Consultant Internship.


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Following additional consideration of alternative models, the team proposed that the PBL Capstone consist of four distinct, six-week projects (i.e., projects) studied over the period of two trimesters. These would be delivered in a serial fashion, with students taking projects A and B in the first and second half of their fourth term, and projects C and D in the fifth term. Each project would represent a single PBL project focusing on a significant management problem; the projects would not link directly to one another. While the two month implementation time-line was ambitious, we believed it was achievable. Several contextual factors were working in our favor. Ɣ There was strong interest among influential managers and faculty in the implementation of PBL. If interest alone was not enough, the alternative of advising several hundred research projects generated addition support. With strong faculty interest and support, we were confident that we could generate sufficient momentum for the June date. Ɣ Students would be entering their fourth term of study in their five-term program during June. Given our conception of the PBL course as a “two-term project” it was important to start in June if we were going to begin a substantial trial implementation in the current year. Again, the timeline lent urgency to an effort that could otherwise have meandered along indefinitely. Ɣ We also had a “head start” in terms of PBL project development. This took the form of a completed PBL project, Leading Organizational Change (see Chapter Nine), that could be used in the first half of the June term. Moreover, the author of this chapter had in his possession a “bank” of existing PBL projects that faculty members could either adapt or use as design models for new projects. Ɣ With these project materials in hand, it would be possible to phase-in implementation of additional, newly-designed projects starting in the second half of the June term. This would allow PBL project design to take place concurrent with implementation. Ɣ The facilities, if properly configured and maintained, were already more than adequate to support the use of PBL. Looking back, one would conclude that this timeline was fraught with risk. Entering the June term with a single project in hand would only give six weeks to complete the PBL project to be used in the second half of the term! We could end up with hundreds of students waiting to study a Capstone project that did not exist. However, the sense of risk also provided a high degree of motivation – positive pressure – on our project design teams to move quickly. Despite these risks, our decision to implement a PBL track within the Capstone Program was taking place in a fertile environment. As noted, the faculty members involved in initial implementation were strongly committed to moving towards more student-centered approaches to learning. Thus, we did not face some of the usual obstacles to implementation of new teaching methods: faculty resistance, lack of


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administrative support, inadequate resources, inappropriate teaching facilities, large classes. Nonetheless, we did face a number of obstacles. This would be the first formal PBL curriculum development for most of the instructors. The same applied to the lack of experience in teaching with PBL or student-centered learning. Quickly developing new skills in both curriculum design and teaching was a challenge, even for those instructors eager to try this out. It is interesting to note that prior familiarity with case teaching was a doubleedged sword when it came to PBL implementation. Prior use of the case method was useful in thinking about problems and the process of developing problem analysis skills among students. However, it also bred an attitude among several of the case teachers that “I already use this in my teaching; PBL is like teaching cases.” As we elaborated in Chapters Two and Three, PBL is substantially different from case teaching. Thus, it took some time to clarify just what PBL was and was not. We were also aware that the implementation of PBL in the Thai cultural context would bring challenges. Reports of the implementation of problem-based leadership development in Asia suggested a variety of problems related to instructor attitudes and skills as well as student norms and classroom behaviors.6 Awareness of some of these factors shaped specific choices that we made in terms of project design (see Chapter Three) and classroom implementation (see Chapter Four). Finally, the pace and scope of implementation presented the greatest challenges. We anticipated implementing several class sections of the new PBL curriculum in the first term, which was only two months away. PBL would require a degree of interdependence in both curriculum design and instructional delivery among faculty members that was altogether new at a College in which part-time instructors had previously come and gone with the wind. CMMU’s Implementation Strategy Based upon these factors, we decided on the following strategy for implementation. We set a goal to implement the PBL Capstone option with as many students in our second-year cohort as desired to take it. The size of the group who would be ready to start the Capstone phase of study in the June term was about 300 students. Another 165 would make Capstone choices for the October term. This meant that 465 students would be choosing between the IS, Thesis and PBL options in the subsequent two terms. With no idea how many would choose the PBL option, it is an understatement to say that we were navigating by the seat of our pants. We appointed one faculty member as the “subject leader” for the PBL Capstone. His responsibilities were to organize, support, and monitor project design and curriculum implementation. He and other senior faculty undertook an assessment of potentially viable “problem domains” for inclusion in the PBL program. The primary goal, initially, was to identify potential problem domains that would be of interest to students studying the various specializations in our Master of Management programs. After identifying several possible problem domains, we identified team leaders to coordinate the design of specific PBL projects. The team leaders then recruited


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faculty members to form the design teams for their projects. The teams were comprised of between two and five full-time and part-time faculty members. At the outset of project design, all faculty members involved in PBL curriculum design came together for a half-day workshop. At this workshop, the trainer, the author of this chapter, outlined key dimensions of PBL, shared a PBL project design template (see Chapter Three), and discussed various design options and issues. Over the next six months, the full group of instructors involved in the implementation effort (about 15 instructors) met twice a month to review the progress of the various design teams and to share their products. These meetings fostered collective learning as well as enhancing faculty motivation. The individual project design teams met much more frequently. An initial decision taken by the group was to implement the problem-stimulated mode of PBL (see Chapters Two and Three). In the short to medium term (i.e., the first one to three years), we believed that the use of problem-stimulated projects would represent an easier transition for both instructors and students. Each project would be conceived as a problem that required knowledge resources from multiple disciplines. This multi-disciplinary feature of the problems and resources responded to the need for projects that would be relevant to students from all seven of CMMU’s Master of Management majors (e.g., Entrepreneurship Management, Human Resource Management, E-commerce Management, Management of Technology, Marketing and Management, Innovation in Management). Over the next year we designed and implemented five new PBL projects in addition to the existing project on organizational change. The projects were each 18 hours in length (i.e., six three-hour class sessions). To the greatest extent possible, grading of the Consulting Internship option was designed to mirror the grading for IS and Thesis in the College. Students would have to complete and successfully pass all four of the PBL project projects in order to gain a Pass on the PBL Capstone. Grading on the overall Capstone would be on a High Pass, Pass, or Fail basis. A failure on any single project would require students to retake and Pass that project prior to receiving a Pass for the Capstone. Assessment turned out to be one of the most significant implementation challenges. The PBL Capstone option would be the equivalent to a 6-credit IS project. This meant that we would need to hold students to at least as high a standard for passage of each PBL project as students faced in the defense of a IS project. The fact that students would be studying in teams further implied that we would need ways of reliably differentiating individual as well as team performance (see Chapters Six and Seven). Moreover, since the PBL projects each resulted in the delivery of products, faculty would need to use unfamiliar methods of performancebased assessment. Thus, assessment would need to take account of a combination of individual and team performance on both performance-based and traditional knowledge-based assessments. The reader should note that even with foreknowledge of some of these issues ahead of time, it was only during implementation that many of them were resolved. The implementation effort eventually involved 20 different instructors during the first year alone, as some instructors dropped out along the way. This meant that the common knowledge base concerning both PBL and the content of various projects


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among members of the design teams had to be periodically refreshed. These observations reinforce the true impact that the broad scope and rapid pace of implementation had on our effort. We will elaborate on actual implementation of this strategy in the next section of the chapter. IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PBL CURRICULUM Concurrent with initiation of the design teams during April and May, it was necessary to inform students of the new option being offered in the June term. A series of “public information” presentations were scheduled at which we outlined the differences between the new PBL option and the traditional choices of IS and Thesis. Student concerns revolved around three main issues: Ɣ Clarification of what problems and disciplines the projects would focus upon, what they would have to do, and how they would be assessed; Ɣ The relative amount of work compared with IS, which was also a sixoption; Ɣ Who would be teaching the PBL projects; Ɣ Whether they could choose the members of their project teams. These concerns reflected the students’ lack of familiarity with PBL or any similar approach to learning. The outcome of this phase was that 105 students (35%) of the 300 eligible students registered for the PBL Capstone option in the June term. We opened five “sections” to accommodate them (average class size of 21). We planned to implement two six-week projects during the June term: Leading Organizational Change (see Chapter Nine) and a second project, still under construction, entitled Retail to e-Tail (see Chapter Twelve). Implementation in the First Year As indicated above, we were both designing and implementing “on the fly.” Even during the first half of the June term, we had not yet completed the project that would be used in the second half of the term, never mind projects that would be used in the subsequent term. It was an exciting and challenging period for all concerned. The words faith and hope were used frequently. Implementation in the First Term There was a widely varying response from students to the two PBL projects used in the first term. The ratings on the Leading Organizational Change project were very high across almost all items in our summative course evaluation. The Talk-back sheets confirmed these results with rich detail concerning student responses. While the student response was encouraging, this PBL project had been used previously in a variety of setting and the two instructors teaching the project were experienced PBL instructors.


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The Retail to e-Tail project provided a stark contrast. Student and instructor feedback revealed virtually the full range of problems that can occur during PBL implementation. These included: Ɣ Lack of clarity of instructor roles; Ɣ Lack of clarity in student roles; Ɣ Uncertainty about product expectations among students; Ɣ Poor timing of project activities and duration; Ɣ Overly ambitious product requirements; Ɣ Imbalance between group and individual assessment; Ɣ Inadequate feedback and assessment of student products. These problems stemmed from two main sources. First, despite the training and consultation provided in advance, the Retail to e-Tail instructors remained unclear about how best to organize the project’s activities as well as how to actually teach in this style. Their deliberations were characterized by a collective lack of understanding that led to compromises on design decisions that were based upon opinion rather than fidelity to the methodology. These uncertainties were compounded by instructor conflicts arising from the need for increased interdependency and an overly large instructor team. Although the five instructors were organized to teach as a team, they were unable to work together effectively. People missed meetings and could not agree on how to implement the project. This resulted in confusion among the students, a lack of accountability, and disappointing results. At the end of the term, two instructors dropped off of the Retail to e-Tail teaching team. In some instances, the instructors felt uncomfortable with the ambiguity of the PBL process. In others, they felt too constrained by the degree of interdependence demanded by the common implementation of the PBL project. Over the course of the year, we collected and reviewed copious amounts of information. This information came from individual student Talk-back Sheets completed for each project, our standard course evaluations, verbal debriefings by instructors with their classes, and discussions held among the instructors themselves. Meanwhile the other design teams watched and waited expectantly and anxiously. They made countless changes to the design of the PBL projects in terms of the content, learning resources, instructional process and assessment techniques. Refinement of the projects was continuous. Implementation in the Second Term Even with these problems encountered in the Retail to e-Tail project, student response to the PBL experience was, on the whole, highly positive. The formative feedback offered insights into what students wanted and expected, what seemed to work and what did not. They gave us the benefit of the doubt and tended to focus on the possibilities offered by the PBL approach. This positive response was reflected in student Capstone choices for the second term. Of the 165 newly eligible students, 65% selected the PBL option; this was the reverse of the trend of the prior term. Moreover, 55 students who had chosen


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Independent Study during the June term switched over to the PBL Capstone in October. Note that students who exercised this choice had to pay for the additional credits, forego the work done to date on their IS projects, and start the Capstone anew. They were hearing something positive from their classmates. This meant that in the second term 275 of our 465 second year students were studying in the PBL track of the Capstone. This was quite unexpected and exceeded our expectations as well as our contingency plans. First and foremost it placed a strain on our instructors. Several had to teach overload and, for the first time in the College, we were forced to increase class size in some projects to as much as 36 students. In October, the initial cohort of students continued into their second term of study the PBL Capstone with two new PBL projects (Projects and People, Managing Conflict Across Cultures). Concurrently the second cohort of students started out with the first two projects, Leading Organizational Change and Retail to e-Tail. Managing implementation of the new PBL curriculum with such a large number of students and faculty, most of whom were novice instructors in PBL, at the desired standard of quality was a challenge. Most of the problems were, however, predictable. Several of the new instructors who started to teach in this term were not adequately prepared for their responsibilities. Again, conflict arising from higher instructor interdependence emerged. Regular team meetings were necessary in order to maintain consistency across multiple sections of the same project. However, more meetings often led to higher conflict as instructors found it difficult to arrive at a common approach to teaching the projects. The reader might query as to why a “common approach” was warranted. At most universities, individual faculty are given substantial autonomy in their approach to teaching. We eschewed this approach in our PBL implementation in the name of quality. Several reasons underpinned our decision in this regard. Ɣ PBL was a Capstone option. It would be difficult to justify to an individual student why s/he did not pass without clear, transparent, consistently applied standards and criteria (see Chapter Six). Ɣ PBL encourages divergent thinking, not one right answer. Therefore, instructors would need to arrive at common agreement on the principles underlying “better responses” as well as methods of assessing them. This would never happen in a “free-for-all” environment. Ɣ As suggested in the earlier description, there was a degree of “fluid participation” in the PBL Capstone option among both full-time and part-time instructors. We felt that fidelity of project delivery was critical to achieving some degree of quality and reliability in the student experience. We were dealing with novice implementers of widely varying backgrounds, not Nobel laureates with deep experience in PBL. Ɣ Finally, in contrast with university instructors, one criteria by which our students judge educational quality is consistency in delivery. They view consistency of delivery as one – though not the only – criterion of


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quality in education just as in hotel service, a space shuttle launch, or software design. While we have never viewed a PBL project as some type of “teacher proof” material, we do accept that students should receive the same project specifications from one class section and instructor to another. We should note at this point that this was a critical decision imposed both by our earlier decision to implement PBL as a Capstone option as well as by the scale of implementation (i.e., number of projects, class sections, and instructors). Bridges’ implementation at Stanford, for example, did not operate under these constraints. In the context of his smaller program, each PBL project was implemented by a single instructor. This was often, but not always, the person who had actually designed the project. These features made it possible to maintain greater freedom of implementation on the part of the instructor. We would also mention that this approach to implementation was made easier by systemic changes taking place in the College. Foremost among these was increased coordination of the curriculum in required core and foundation subjects. There was strong consensus among the College’s managers that all students in the College across all management majors should receive a reasonably similar experience when studying these “common” subjects. Thus we were already beginning to implement a “curriculum-driven” approach that contrasted sharply with the “program-driven” approach described earlier in the chapter. This fact made adoption of this approach in the PBL Capstone less of a departure from a norm that we were seeking to establish in some other, but not all, parts of the Master degree curriculum. This curriculum-driven approach was especially critical when it came time to assess student performance. Indeed, our implementation of PBL quickly revealed our collective weakness in the domains of performance assessment and feedback. By way of example, in the Retail to e-Tail project, during the first half of the October term, the student teams produced extensive reports, websites, and presentations. The project instructors, unfamiliar with how to assess these products, simply gave back summary grades. Having expended effort that was literally the equivalent of a full course for a single project, the students revolted. They approached the Executive Director, politely demanding feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of their products. While this event was somewhat disturbing, it was a watershed in our PBL implementation. Students were actually asking for feedback because they wanted to learn from the effort they had made to solve the problem. The manager in charge of implementation politely demanded in turn that the instructors go back and meet with the teams providing both oral and written feedback. From that point forward, all of our instructors in the PBL Capstone began to approach assessment with greater awareness of its importance to students. Despite the many problems that we encountered, student response continued to be highly positive. Students clearly appreciated the opportunity to work on significant business problems in a PBL environment. Despite the lack of preparation for PBL on the part of students and instructors, evaluation results indicated a high degree of student satisfaction both in absolute terms and in comparison with other


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courses offered in the College.7 A lasting memory was the comment of one student who characterized the approach to learning in the PBL projects as follows: “What we are learning today in class, we can use tomorrow at work—the problems and what we need to know are so similar.” At the conclusion of the October term, grades were calculated for the students who had successfully completed the four PBL projects that comprised the PBL Capstone option. Students had to achieve at least a Pass on all four projects in order to pass the PBL Capstone requirement. Students who failed a project could retake the failed project module in the subsequent term. Students needed to achieve three High Passes from among the four PBL modules they completed in order to gain a Distinction in the PBL Capstone. The results were as follows for the initial cohort. Ɣ Most students achieved a Pass on the Capstone. Ɣ However, approximately 10% of the students had failed at least one of the PBL projects the first time they took it. Several had to repeat more than one module. Ɣ Only 7.5% of the first 105 students achieved the standard of Distinction (i.e., three High Passes) on the PBL Capstone. In interpreting these results, we would add the following comments. The failure rate for individual modules was higher and the Distinction rate lower than in the PBL Capstone than for IS or Thesis options. While this did not provide satisfaction, it did suggest that the instructors in the PBL Capstone had taken the issue of standards seriously. In fact, the failure rate in the PBL modules could have been higher had we not encouraged faculty members to give students the benefit of the doubt in borderline cases. The projects and the assessments associated with them were still in transition. We did not wish for students to fail due to our own weaknesses. Nonetheless, the grades did shape student perceptions; the PBL Capstone was not an easy way out of doing research! Implementation in the Third Term In the February term, students who had begun the two-term PBL sequence in October proceeded to the second set of PBL projects. Students who had to repeat selected projects were also included in these class sections. Our collective learning continued as well. During this term, we replaced one project, Projects and People, with the Data to Intelligence project (see Chapter Ten). This was due to the salience of the new project to our overall curriculum rather than to the quality of Projects and People. Features of the Projects and People project were later incorporated into our regular course in Project Management. There was another round of faculty turnover in the Retail to e-Tail project as we continued to search for the right combination of instructor expertise and personalities. We added an instructor with more in-depth knowledge about internet marketing. We also continued to fine-tune our assessments. Specific issues that continued to trouble us included the following. Ɣ We felt that too much weight being given to group “products” in the assessment scheme. Although we also placed a high value on the


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“team learning” aspect of the projects, we continued to search for the right combination of individual and group assessments. Since this course represented a key “exit requirement” of the College, we wished to ensure that each student who passed truly demonstrated an understanding of the project content. This concern surfaced in comparing the weighting allocated to assessments that were performance-based (i.e., focused on the ability to do the task) vs. assessments that revealed individual students’ understanding of content. A third issue concerned the assessment of student work across different sections of the modules. As the hectic pace of implementation slowed somewhat, we finally had the time to look more closely at the grading pattern of instructors teaching the same project. We found a surprising degree of variation from one instructor to another. This led us to assign one instructor for each module to submit the grades for all sections, and for one manager to monitor grade reports of all PBL modules.

Implementation in Year Two By the start of the second year of implementation, the instructor teams were mostly set, although there was, and continues to be, a low level of natural turnover due to instructor interests and availability. We continued to adapt all of the projects based upon a continuing flow of student feedback and instructor experience. The positive response to the use of PBL in the first year was reflected in student choices for Capstone options. In the second year, 75% of the students selected the PBL option. This was despite word carried on the student grapevine of numerous students repeating projects and the heavy workload. These considerations were clearly outweighed by the predominant feedback that the projects provided useful intellectually stimulating challenges that were both hard and enjoyable. We added two new projects, one focusing on strategic management and the other on corporate reorganization. As the number of PBL projects now exceeded the number that students needed to take (i.e., four), we changed the manner in which students selected the projects. We moved to a system whereby students would study two mandatory projects, based upon their Program specialization, and two elective projects. This gave students more choice, while facilitating our scheduling task. Thus, for example, students in the Entrepreneurship Management Program were required to study the Retail to e-Tail project focusing on e-commerce as well as the Strategies for Success a computer simulation-based project focusing on the use of competitive strategies for small business. During this year, as suggested above, assessment procedures continued to cause the greatest concern among students and faculty. This stimulated us to explore alternative approaches to assessment and led us towards the use of assessment rubrics (see Chapter Six) as a means for improving assessment quality. We held training in the design and use of rubrics for all instructors. The instructors involved in PBL implementation subsequently designed rubrics for all products and performances encompassed in the PBL Capstone option. These are in use today and


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continue to be refined as the instructors use them term by term. Many are described in Chapter Six as well as in the chapters in Part II. At this time, we also saw a need to more systematically prepare our students for the use of PBL. Our instructors had observed that some students lacked the skills needed to skillfully manage their team learning. An earlier introduction to PBL could prove useful in generating more value from the PBL Capstone projects, especially since more and more students were selecting this option. Moreover, the general success of PBL in the Capstone begged the question, “Why wait until the end of the program to use this approach if it works well? After all PBL is intended for new learning, not simply the application of prior learning.” We, therefore, decided to introduce students to PBL in their first term of study. We did this by adapting two PBL projects originally designed by Bridges for use in the Stanford program and incorporating them into our Principles of Management course. One of the PBL projects focused on a problem that required the use of meeting management, group problem solving and decision making skills; the other problem focused on the development of skills in time management. These projects were used both as an introduction to PBL and to develop foundation skills needed for learning in a PBL environment. This, however, represented PBL’s first foray into the “regular curriculum” and involved additional instructors in the implementation of PBL. Fortunately, this group took up the challenge quite enthusiastically. The integration of these PBL projects into the introductory management course quickly provided a significant point of differentiation for the course. Indeed, students entering the College immediately saw that studying at CMMU would not be like what they experienced in their undergraduate programs. This success led to a broader consideration by the faculty of how we might use PBL to introduce other important management skills into the program. Through faculty discussions, we identified oral presentation, meeting management, time management, group problem-solving and decision-making, project management, and memo writing as management skills that students should develop and refine periodically over the course of their Master degree program. Over time, we have incorporated experiences that reinforce the development of these skills into various PBL projects as well as into other portions of the curriculum. Thus, for example, we introduce students to a particular approach to memo writing in the Principles of Management course. This skill is then reinforced when students are asked to write memos later in the program in other projects. Specifically, they will be asked to produce a memo for problem solution in a PBL project studied in the Leadership and Team Development course as well as in the Employee Selection project in the PBL Capstone. It would, however, be wrong to suggest that this curriculum implementation was formally planned. In fact, it tended to be quite organic and often spontaneous as we learned from our experience. Surprisingly, even as our skill in implementing PBL improved, we noticed a drop-off in student evaluations, an implementation dip. Actually, it is not uncommon for this type of dip to occur in the second year of implementation after the initial


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glow and enthusiasm has waned a bit. Moreover, the load on the PBL instructors had been quite heavy over the first year and this continued into the second year. The amount of assessment incorporated into each seven-week PBL project is at least equal to that of most 12-week courses in the College. Moreover, the attention given to assessment in terms of quality of assessment and feedback to students was also stressed in the PBL courses. Consequently, instructors were carrying a heavy load, which may have caught up to them in this term. INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF THE PBL CURRICULUM In the ensuing three years, PBL not only became a routine facet of life at CMMU, but also a key approach differentiating the College from programs at other local universities. Indeed, by the end of the third year of implementation, a quality audit concluded that CMMU’s vision of student-centered learning was well aligned with practice. This was reflected in student response. The number of student applications was rising steadily; more significantly, so was the quality of applicants. We attributed this in no small measure to our implementation of PBL. By the third year, it was so well accepted by our students that 90% were choosing to take the PBL Capstone instead of Independent Study. The fact that students were voting for PBL with their feet was notable for several reasons. Ɣ First, due to our concerns about comparability of the different Capstone options, we had set both the workload requirements and assessment standards in the PBL track very high. We did not want create any possibility that students would perceive the PBL track as the easy way out. Indeed, if the reader examines any of the chapters in Part II of this book, it becomes apparent that both workload and assessment for any single PBL project is at least the equivalent of most full courses. Taken together the requirements of four projects would easily exceed the workload and assessment required of most IS projects. Ɣ Second, the failure rate of individual PBL projects was routinely higher than that of IS projects. Almost every term, each PBL Capstone project yielded several students who would need to retake it in a subsequent term. Yet, despite the higher rate of individual module failures, students in the PBL track still completed their Capstone requirement faster than their counterparts who did IS projects and at a overall higher rate. This is consistent with findings cited in Chapter Two from the medical education literature. Ɣ Finally, the reader should remain cognizant that this PBL curriculum implementation was taking place in Thailand where traditional lecturebased teaching represents not only the norm, but the very definition of what instructors and students consider to be teaching and learning in schools at all levels. The fact that our students were opting for a rigorous, standards-based, student-centered curriculum choice was somewhat surprising and unexpected.


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These observations are complemented by inherently positive features that emerged from the implementation of the PBL Capstone. By the third year of implementation, our continuing analysis of student evaluation results indicated the following: Ɣ The projects had achieved an overall high level of effectiveness in terms of student perceptions of the course content, instructor rating and learning for understanding. Ɣ The PBL Capstone projects had achieved a higher level of consistency from project to project as well as from term to term (e.g., lower standard deviations from the mean). Ɣ Evaluations of the individual projects reflected similar consistency in results at a high level. Ɣ Finally, despite the higher work requirements, the projects compared favorably with any other set of courses offered by the College. Taking a broader view of the PBL implementation, we can affirm that as time passed the PBL Capstone both enabled the alignment of our vision and practice and exceeded our expectations. Although our students had become demanding consumers, their response was generally very positive. We asked students, “Should the workload of this project be reduced, and if so, where?” Students routinely responded: “Yes, it’s so much work! But every aspect of what you’re asking us to do is so important. Don’t take any of it out.” Gradually and informally, PBL projects out began to migrate out into the regular curriculum outside of the PBL Capstone. As noted, Projects and People had migrated to Project Management. Another project could not hold a team of instructors due to interpersonal conflicts, so the key designer integrated the project into one of his classes. Problems were not the only source of PBL projects moving into the regular curriculum. Instructors who were teaching in the PBL Capstone began to design new projects or reconfigure cases and simulations into a PBL format for integration into their regular courses. This resulted in the gradual integration of least eight other PBL projects into the curriculum in the context of regular courses (e.g., Principles of Management, Marketing, Leadership and Team Development, Organizational Behavior, Project Management, International Business Management, Knowledge Management). The nature of PBL project implementation varies depending upon the portion of the curriculum in which it is being used. Projects used in core course subjects, for example, would still be implemented using a “common approach” across the multiple instructors. However, in specialization subjects taught by a single instructor, the lecturer would have freedom to adapt the project as suitable to the course. The migration of PBL into other courses also allowed instructors to move away from the constraints of a six week delivery mode. Projects could be shorter or longer; they could be more structured or less structured. We continue to be “planful” in our approach in the sense of focusing attention upon the development of the identified management skills across the curriculum.


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Thus when a new project is introduced by an instructor in any part of the curriculum, we will tend to discuss the types of management skill that might be incorporated into the process or products of the project. At the same time, however, many of the positive changes that have resulted from the main PBL implementation continue to be unplanned, organic ones which result from experimentation and sharing among our instructors. Thus we conclude that the benefits of PBL have been widespread, reaching into many unexpected corners of the College. The norms emanating from the PBL implementation have reshaped attitudes and behaviors of our staff rather more than policies designed by our managers. We note several of these: Ɣ The development and use of common rubrics for assessment has spread from the PBL portion of the curriculum to other subjects. This has occurred without directive from above. Instructors of the PBL projects naturally begin to use what they have learned when teaching “non-PBL” courses. They tend to share their rubrics with instructors with whom they share these other courses. We centrally facilitate this sharing by storing and making the rubrics available to instructors on our e-learning platform. Five years later, our instructors even design rubrics for grading our comprehensive exams, thereby leading to higher quality in assessment. Ɣ The use of PBL has changed the perspective many of our instructors hold towards our students. Following their experience with students learning in a PBL environment, our instructors tend to develop higher expectations of what is our students are capable of accomplishing. This carries over into their other courses. Ɣ The degree of collaboration required in our PBL Capstone has been something new for most, if not all, instructors. While not all instructors make this adjustment, the majority have adapted well. Perhaps the most unexpected outcome has been the extent to which the PBL Capstone provides a focal channel for shared learning among our faculty. The benefits that continue to result from collegial interaction around specific learning issues that arise during the PBL implementation are difficult to quantify but nonetheless substantial and significant. Ɣ Finally, as suggested above, important norms that shape student attitudes and behaviors have undergone dramatic changes, at least in part, due to the implementation of PBL in our College. Thai students have traditionally viewed the purpose of graduate study as receipt of a diploma. Admonitions for faculty members to engage them as active participants in their own education are typically met with comments about student passivity and lack of interest in learning. This picture is belied not only by observations of students in our PBL subjects, but also in other courses as the norm of active participation in learning has spread throughout the College.


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CONCLUSION Faculty conflicts, curriculum development on-the-fly, achieving reliability across multiple instructors’ assessments of student work, managing student grades, developing fair policies for problems unique to PBL, constraints on faculty resources, and inability to predict student demand for the PBL Capstone option all made implementation a harrowing, but energizing experience. In this final section of the paper we reflect on the challenges faced in this large-scale implementation of PBL at CMMU and the implications of the case for others. Implementation in Action: Faculty Issues It is no secret that there is a tradition of low faculty interdependence at most universities. At the point of initial implementation CMMU had taken this to an extreme. Even with the hiring of a group of full-time faculty members, over 80% of all courses in the College were taught by part-time instructors who came to the College only when it was time to teach. Experience with and expectations for collaboration in teaching were, therefore, low. Quite predictably, problems arose due to differences in personal goals, academic perspectives, working styles and personalities. These quite normal sources of potential conflict were exacerbated by the unusual demands on time required to develop the PBL projects, mesh schedules, and coordinate the approach to teaching and assessment. Finally, faculty inexperience with PBL further added to confusion and potential conflict. It should be noted, however, that no faculty members were forced to participate in the project. Participation was entirely voluntary. As suggested in our chronology, there was quite a bit of shuffling of team composition until faculty members figured out who was comfortable working with whom. Only two of the 12 PBL project instruction teams have remained constant in terms of composition over the past five years. It took three full terms before the sorting and self-selecting resulted in stable teams of faculty in the PBL Capstone. As described earlier, we found that faculty needed considerable support in the area of student assessment. Especially during the first two terms, we had many complaints from students concerning assessment of their products. Through conversations with faculty, students as well as from formal feedback, we identified a number of problems related to assessment including: Ɣ Lack of feedback (i.e., only giving a simple grade) from instructors on student products; Ɣ Poorly framed feedback (i.e., feedback that does not stimulate correct learning); Ɣ Lack of reliable grading from instructors across sections of the same project module; Ɣ Incorrect balance between the contribution of group products and individual products in arriving at a student’s grade for the project.


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These problems stimulated us to make a number of changes in our methods of teaching and assessment during the term. Based upon our evolving experience, we came to the following conclusions with respect to the role instructors: Ɣ

Instructor teams should be smaller rather than larger. Given the size of our student population and the number of sections to be offered of a given project, instructor teams comprised of two to three persons seems to work best. Larger teams are harder to coordinate in terms of meeting times, as well as on achieving consensus on grading and other issues. Ɣ Each class section should have one instructor who is responsible for the students and assigning the final grade for each class. The use of teams works well in terms of design and overall delivery, but we found that it was necessary for each instructor to feel responsible for specific section(s) and for students to know who was accountable. Ɣ Instructors need training and monitoring in order to achieve a reliable standard of grading. Training and advice included how to use and construct rubrics for assessing student performance, how to structure and weight assessments in order to ensure individual accountability in the context of team-based learning. Monitoring came primarily in the form of close checking of grades submitted in order to ensure fairness, agreement and transparency in assessment among each group of instructors. In sum, with respect to the role of instructors, this was anything but a not “plug and play” implementation. It required (and continues to require) monitoring and ongoing support for the continued development of teaching skills every term. Instructors teaching in the PBL Capstone portion of the curriculum work harder than their peers, in part because of the greater emphasis placed on reliability and thoroughness of assessment. Indeed, due to the local factors we have described in this chapter, each PBL project actually incorporates the equivalent of a full term’s worth of assessment exercises found in a typical graduate course. While this is clearly a burden for the instructors, none of the instructors have dropped out of the PBL Capstone due to the workload. Based on ongoing discussions with many faculty members in many forums, we conclude that this is due to the intrinsic satisfaction they derive from the experience of teaching with PBL. Faculty satisfaction appears to come from several sources: Ɣ

The insights they gain from seeing and hearing how students are thinking about and engaging the academic content. Ɣ Student engagement of the material is so active and positive, and their work products so clearly based upon productive work that faculty members can only be pleased. Ɣ Finally, student feedback on the PBL experience reflects this positive engagement. While they refer to PBL projects as “exhausting” even this is said with a sense of pride and accomplishment as if they would not have it any other way. It has not been mentioned to this point that the senior academic managers in the College have all been involved in implementation of the PBL Capstone as project


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team leaders. Our location “on the ground” has been critical to maintaining the proper focus, providing necessary support, modeling expected behaviors, as well as in marshalling resources. Our approach to addressing the assessment burden of faculty reflects this. Since several of us were actually teaching in the PBL Capstone, we became, over time, acutely aware of the importance of feedback and assessment to its long-term success. Our viewpoint from the perspective of implementers led us to accept this as an important problem more readily; our positions enabled us to take quick, responsive actions. We addressed the assessment issue in two ways: assignment of Teaching Assistants (TAs) and reducing class size. In contrast with other courses in the College, instructors teaching the PBL Capstone projects have each been assigned a TA. The TAs assist with planning, logistics, and in some cases with assessment and feedback (i.e., where their experience and capability meets the levels required). In addition, we have reduced class size further in the PBL Capstone courses. While the maximum class size for other courses in the College is 30 students, in the PBL Capstone we set the maximum at 24 students; in practice the class size average is closer to 20 students per PBL section. Implementation in Action: Student Issues Despite the usual warnings about Asian students wanting to be spoon-fed, our students have adapted surprisingly well to the PBL curriculum. The introduction of PBL in the first term and periodic experiences with PBL during the program prior to the Capstone experience has had a demonstrably positive effect. Our students are able to manage themselves more productively and efficiently than in the early years when the Capstone was their first introduction to PBL. This enables them to gain greater benefits from the PBL Capstone projects. Similarly, the gradual, semi-planned introduction of the spiral curriculum has resulted in significantly greater uptake of management skills. The multiple opportunities that students have for practice, feedback and reflection enable a firmer synthesis of management knowledge and skills. It has increased our confidence that our students are not only well prepared to analyze problems, but also, in the words of Charles Gragg, “prepared for action.”8 From the very beginning at our initial presentation of the PBL Capstone option to our students, the first issue on their minds concerned whether they could study in teams of their own choosing. This issue reflects the negative experiences some have had with project teams in other courses. It also reflects Asian culture which tends to be “collectivist” with strong orientation to groups. Our instructors have taken different approaches to this issue. Some have insisted on assigning students to teams. Others let students form their own teams. Both approaches have tradeoffs and we continue to be eclectic rather than policy-driven on this matter. Student feedback has been consistently positive on the practice-orientation of the use of PBL both in the Capstone and in the other courses. Students are able to see the direct connection between the content knowledge that they are learning and the


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problems of practice they are facing every day at work. For the students who lack working experience, a small minority in our own College, the PBL is even more challenging but also just as useful. Indeed, based on considerable experience with both experienced and “fresh” management students, we conclude that PBL appears equally relevant, feasible and beneficial for both. One issue that instructors face fairly frequently is student anxiety in the face of uncertainty. Although from our point of view, the problem-stimulated projects included in this volume and in our program are quite structured, from the students’ point of view they are highly ambiguous. Moreover, completion of the products requires a much higher level of planning and collaboration skills than is typical of most classes. Consequently, the instructors have to provide ongoing assurance and guidance to students as they struggle through the predictable challenges of solving difficult problems. As suggested above, we conceive of the PBL modules as “projects.” As such each project takes place within a specific, highly compressed time period. While this creates pressure and even increases anxiety levels among students, we believe that this has several benefits when properly managed: Ɣ Students must practice the skills in time management and other management skills that they have learned (e.g., prioritizing, delegation). Ɣ Under the pressure created by the time constraint, students experience the “emotional side” of group leadership and membership. Ɣ Student experience and reflect upon the constraints and imperfect conditions under they will need to put knowledge into use in real organizations. Implications for Implementing PBL in Higher Education Programs Our case study of PBL implementation yields a picture that is both encouraging and sobering. We have been encouraged by the warm reception that our students have given to this student-centered approach to learning. Despite the challenges imposed by the pace, scope and scale of implementation, faculty and students together have made this work. Evaluation results continue to affirm student perceptions that the PBL courses deliver a high level of value with great consistency across projects and instructors. Indeed, as noted earlier, our students now view the PBL Capstone as the primary option of choice with more than 90% selecting it. While some might assert that this is the result of students seeking an escape from the rigors of conducting independent research, we would disagree for several reasons. First, many of our top students have gravitated towards the PBL option. They tell us the reason is not because they think it will be easier but because they perceive it to be more meaningful and relevant to their current and future work roles. The traditional Independent Study project is useful for studying a single problem in depth, and potentially for contributing new knowledge. However, neither the format


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of a typical IS project, nor the work process undertaken in such projects are well connected to the work tasks performed by management professionals. Second, it is interesting to note that quite a few of our IS students are now choosing to do study one term of the PBL coursework (i.e., two projects) as a free elective. What is particularly surprising about this is that the workload for the PBL projects goes well beyond that of typical elective choices. Indeed, there is a shared attitude among the PBL instructors that this option should act as a final screen for students before they can graduate. Accordingly, the workload is heavy and the standard high. Indeed the percentage of students who do not achieve a passing grade in this option is higher than the rate at which students receive “C” in any other course in the college. Therefore, we are inclined to cast this as a positive choice by students for high quality instruction geared towards their professional work. A more sobering implication of our effort lies in the resource-heavy nature of high quality PBL implementation. Factors that clearly contributed to our successful effort included: Ɣ The degree of urgency and level of acceptance among our core faculty members that a problem existed for which PBL was a potentially viable solution; Ɣ Highly competent, strongly motivated faculty members eager to take on this challenge and to put in extra effort to achieve success; Ɣ Relatively small class sizes that enabled the necessary instructorstudent interaction (class size never exceeded 36 at any point in time); Ɣ Facilities that supported the team-based learning that is central to PBL; Ɣ A college culture that valued and supported innovation; Ɣ Internal staff resources deeply steeped in the use of PBL; Ɣ Support from the top of the organization for the implementation of learning methods that would achieve our goals of developing knowledgeable students. Even with these supportive conditions at CMMU, it took an immense effort to implement the PBL courses at a high level of quality in the time frame that we have described. While an urgent deadline can be a useful stimulus for action, we would not suggest that other potential implementers of PBL be quite so ambitious. Based upon our experience, we would identify several key factors that should shape one’s implementation strategy: Ɣ Time frame, Ɣ Scope of implementation (e.g., extent of the curriculum, number of projects to be signed and implemented); Ɣ Scale of implementation (e.g., number of students, classes, faculty members); Ɣ Management support (e.g., Senior Managers, Board of Trustees); Ɣ Resource availability (e.g., facility, knowledge, PBL materials, class size, funding).


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Our recommendation to other institutions would be, “Don’t follow our example blindly.” Adapt the implementation of PBL at your institution based upon your own supportive and constraining conditions. We would wish to close on a positive note with the following observation. The impetus for adopting PBL was the existence of a serious quality problem that threatened the future of the College. The lack of alignment between the College’s espoused philosophy and actual practice in teaching and learning was observable and undeniable. Notably the seriousness of this problem was accepted by all stakeholders despite the absence of any financial difficulties whatsoever. This suggests that the context was ripe for change. Today, almost six years after our first meetings to discuss possible solutions to our problem, PBL is thriving at CMMU. Despite the fact that it is only one of many instructional approaches in use by our faculty, PBL provides a key differentiating factor for our College. Both faculty and students would affirm the contribution makes to the quality of the educational experience that we offer.

NOTES 1 2

3

4 5 6

7

8

Walker, A., Bridges, E., & Chan, B. (1996). Wisdom gained, wisdom given: Instituting PBL in a Chinese culture. Journal of Educational Administration, 34(5), 12-31. At Stanford’s Prospective Principals Program, PBL represented 40% of the curriculum and was also implemented in an integrated fashion. Selection and sequencing of projects was coordinated to maximize linkages to coursework as well as to develop management skills, knowledge and affective competencies. Note that while this technology is increasingly common today, in 1997 it was highly unusual for a campus of 18 classrooms to be outfitted in this fashion. Quality audit report. College of Management, Mahidol University, January 2001. The Thesis is taken for 15 credits and IS for 6 credits. Hallinger, P., Chantarapanya, P., Sriboonma, U. (1995, July). Implementing problembased leadership development in Thailand. Paper presented at the International Conference in Teacher Education, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok Thailand. See also Walker et al. op cit. Hallinger, P. & Tannathai, P. (2004, May). Implementing problem-based learning in higher education: A case study of challenges and strategies. Paper prepared for Presentation at The International Conference on Post-Graduate Education Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Gragg, C. (1941, October 19). Because wisdom can’t be told. Harvard Alumni Bulletin, 12-15. Reprinted by Harvard Business School, HBS Case #451-005, p. 12.


INTRODUCTION TO PART II In Part I of this volume, we provided readers with background on the use of PBL in management education. In Part II we offer examples of different types of PBL projects. The inclusion of these PBL projects will enable the reader to gain an indepth view into how instructors actually employ a range of specific PBL projects in the classroom. In these chapters, the authors explicate the content and use of their PBL projects through the following structure: Ɣ Introduction of the project topic and its relevance to the work of managers; Ɣ The Problem Scenario around which the PBL project has been constructed; Ɣ The Learning Objectives that the project seeks to achieve in terms of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of the learners; Ɣ The Learning Process that the instructor employs during the course of the project on a week-by-week basis, including roles and tasks of the instructor, students, and teaching assistants; Ɣ Theoretical Perspectives that the instructor has incorporated into the project and which students will draw upon to gain deeper insight into the problem and its potential solution(s); Ɣ Learning Resources that are included in the project to support student learning; Ɣ Project Products and Assessments including the specific deliverables through which the project solutions will be expressed as well as the means by which the instructor(s) will determine the efficacy of those solutions and the knowledge that students have gained in the project; Ɣ Adaptations that were built into the design of the project to heighten its relevance for the local context, specifically focusing on issues concerning the problem scenario, learning resources and theoretical perspectives; Ɣ Student Responses to the project including quantitative results from student evaluations, as well as anecdotal responses. We anticipate that some readers may wish to use one or more of these projects in their own teaching, either in the current or more likely in an adapted format. In order to facilitate these goals, we have constructed a website that includes materials that we have developed to support these as well as other PBL projects. The website includes course syllabi, problem scenarios, sample video clips, and assessment rubrics. This may be found at www.cmmu.net/pbl. Since the development of high quality PBL materials is quite time consuming, we need to gain maximum benefit from our investment of time, resources, and effort. Towards that end, the authors in this section illustrate how they have been

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able to extend the utility of their projects by developing multiple versions of the same PBL project. By this we mean that the author changes the problem scenario, but continues to use all of the other PBL project components (e.g., reading resources, project process, project products, and assessment rubrics). This increases the efficiency of the materials development process and can extend the life of the PBL materials. Moreover, a central premise of this book concerns the need to localize management education so that learners are exposed to both global and local incidences of important business problems. Therefore, we recommend that readers approach the projects included in Part II of the book as project materials that they can adapt easily for use in their own local context. In several instances, all one needs to do is change the problem scenario to fit their own local context and adjust the learning resources accordingly. We wish to emphasize from the outset that the PBL projects included in this section are not intended in any way to represent a complete PBL curriculum for management education. They are simply a set of PBL projects that we selected to illustrate different approaches to PBL project design. Therefore, the reader should not draw conclusions about the nature of a PBL curriculum by viewing these projects as a group. OVERVIEW OF THE PROJECTS Chapter Nine presents a project organized around a problem of Leading Organizational Change. This project offers a useful illustration of a PBL project around an existing computer simulation. In this case, the simulation challenges students to implement new information technology in a company. Students work in teams to plan and implement simulated change strategies that build on specific corporate strengths and which also meet the constraints of the corporate context. Notably, this simulation represents a potent example of a project that was adapted for the local Thai context. The computer simulation was initially developed using a knowledge base drawn largely from research and practice in North America. We subsequently adapted the simulation for the Thai context in which we use it. The chapter describes the method we followed to adapt the simulation for this cultural context, as well as its classroom use and outcomes. Chapter Ten examines a PBL project entitled Data to Intelligence. This project challenges students to consider the uses of information in organizational problemsolving and decision-making. The problem presented to students is embedded in a set of corporate data. The data set and the focal problem(s) used by the instructors vary from term to term. In this project students learn to use software for managing and analyzing data so that they can see patterns suggestive of specific problems. They learn to approach the use of organizational data for the purposes of in-depth analysis and intelligent decision-making. The students also learn an advanced methodology for formulating and delivering presentations that is designed to communicate their analysis and conclusions for powerful impact and results.


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Chapter Eleven presents a PBL project on New Product Positioning. This project introduces students to the use of market research techniques that can be used to understand how to position new products. The specific product incorporated into the project varies from time to time since students are given the opportunity to select the product of their own choice. The design makes it quite suitable for use in any market context around the world. During the project, the student teams each select their product, brainstorm possible consumer motivations for buying the product, design and implement a consumer survey, and analyze the results using factor analysis. The teams use these results to formulate and communicate a positioning strategy for their particular product. The project illustrated in Chapter Twelve, Retail to e-Tail, addresses an important problem faced by small and medium sized companies around the globe: how to take advantage of e-commerce to expand their market reach and increase sales. In this PBL project, the students confront a problem brought to them by the owner of a small or medium sized company that has relied exclusively on traditional marketing and sales channels. The owner of this traditional family business wishes to make use of the internet, but has no idea how to do so. The student teams analyze information about particular company presented in a problem scenario. Using this information, they must formulate an e-marketing strategy, incorporate this into a marketing plan, and then design a proto-type website that implements the strategy. They present the strategy, plan and website to the business owner. The project, as in the case of the previous two projects, is easily adapted to different business types and contexts. The author and associated instructors have designed six different versions of the project around different Thai SMEs including a shoe factory, a jewelry factory, a school, a Thai Boxing company, a spa, and a resort. Instructors at universities in other countries could adapt the same project based upon a similar type of problem at corporate settings in their own locales. Chapter Thirteen focuses on a PBL project concerned with Reorganizing for Competitiveness. This project, as in Chapter Twelve, concerns competitiveness problems at an Asian SME. In this case, however, the problems appear related more centrally to internal structural problems that are impeding the company’s ability to adapt to a rapidly changing business environment. This project has been designed around a variety of problem scenarios drawn from different corporate contexts including a ceramics factory, a hospital, and a university research institute. In the project, students must identify the major problems facing the firm and relate these to internal structural problems that are impeding its competitiveness. The problem solution will require students to consider revisions to the company’s vision, corporate structure and business strategy. They present their recommendations as part of a new strategic plan for reorganization. Chapter Fourteen, A Problem at Organization X, offers a project that exemplifies the student-centered variety of problem-based learning (see Chapter Three for a definition of this approach). Although the authors use this project as part of a course in Organizational Behavior, the project is designed in a manner that would allow instructors to use it in a wide variety of courses with minimal adaptation. In the project, each student teams identifies a business problem at a particular firm.


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The team analyzes the problem incorporating subject matter from relevant disciplines and then collects data at the company to gain additional insight into causes of the problem. The team then reinterprets the problem in light of the relevant data they have collected in order to formulate conclusions and action recommendations. This project culminates in a consulting presentation. The teams each present their project problems, summaries of relevant theoretical content, their approach to problemsolving, data analysis and interpretation, conclusions and recommendations.


CHAPTER 9 LEADING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE ABSTRACT This chapter presents the design and use of a problem-based learning project, Leading Organizational Change. The PBL project is organized around an interactive computer simulation, “Making Change Happen,” which is used to help students learn how to implement complex innovations in organizations. The chapter describes the use of this problem-based simulation as well as its adaptation for the Thai context. The chapter shows how learning technology can be blended with PBL to provide a learning process that could not be accomplished in a either a typical PBL or traditional teaching environment.1

INTRODUCTION Every few hundred years throughout Western history, a sharp transformation has occurred. In a matter of decades, society altogether rearranges itself – its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later a new world exists. And the people born into that world cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born.2

Globalization is reshaping the work lives of people in organizations throughout the world. Emerging technologies, the growth of new knowledge, a rapidly evolving global economy, as well as political and cultural changes are creating a new context for organizations.3 In just a short span of time, the capacity to change has become a core competency for organizations throughout the world. Organizations that are unable to adapt to these changes will not survive, regardless of their sector, industry or geographic locale in which they operate.4 Yet scholars and practitioners have long acknowledged that change does not come easily, either to people or the organizations they inhabit. There is a natural inclination among people to avoid the discomfort of the unfamiliar, to seek stability, and to resist change.5 The same tendency holds true for organizations whose structure and culture have a built-in bias to maintain policies, processes, and traditions of the past. New managers quickly learn that they will have to “overcome resistance” from individuals, groups, and business units if they seek to initiate organizational change.6 Resistance to change is often portrayed in the management literature as the largest obstacle to making change happen in organizations. More recently, however, a different paradigm suggests that a certain degree of resistance to change is both natural and healthy for people and organizations. Change that is too rapid or comprehensive can overwhelm people individually or collectively thereby reducing their sense of security and their effectiveness. This implies that rather than viewing people as the problem to be solved or overcome; 177


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successful change leaders should take the time to understand the reasons why people resist change. From this perspective, successful organizational change results from managing the tension that results from the organization’s simultaneous needs for both stability and change. This task falls to people holding leadership roles in organizations. However, the organization’s capacity to make change happen cannot depend only on leaders at the apex of the hierarchy. The rapid pace of change in the 21st century makes it essential that the capacity to lead change is distributed throughout the organization. Change leadership must, therefore, be developed among a broad base of people in a wide variety of staff, supervisory, and formal leadership roles.7 In this PBL project students use a problem-based computer simulation, Making Change Happen,8 as a tool for learning how to lead changes and innovations to achieve results. The simulation was originally designed as a board game with game cards and game pieces to be moved on the game board. It was subsequently converted into a software program9 that simulates the process of change in an organizational environment. The computer simulation provides learners with a common and important problem to solve: implementation of a new enterprise resource management (ERM) system in an organization. Although the simulation focuses on implementation of an IT innovation, the simulation has been designed so that the lessons learned by students are broadly applicable to many other types of organizational change efforts such as reengineering, TQM, reorganization, or mergers. The broad instructional goal of this PBL project is to develop the ability of students to think strategically and flexibly about the change process. The ERM change implementation problem is used as the stimulus for learning how to analyse an organization as a context for change. Students learn how to apply a variety of theoretical frameworks to the problem of change. However, following the tenets of the PBL process, students only learn these frameworks as a consequence of trying to meet the challenges of leading organizational change, rather than in advance. During the simulation students learn in teams consisting of three members. Each “project implementation team” is responsible for developing and applying a strategy for implementing the ERM system (fictitiously named IT 2020) over a three-year period of time. At the outset, the project team must develop an implementation strategy to raise staff awareness of the change, create a broad base of interest, enable the staff to develop new IT skills, and generate commitment to use IT 2020 in their daily work. However, unlike in a case learning environment, through the PBL simulation learners not only plan a change strategy, but also implement it. During the implementation process, the project team is confronted with widespread resistance to the mandated use of IT 2020. The nature, intensity and form of the resistance varies based upon a variety of personal factors including staff personalities, job positions, prior experience with IT, and personal and job priorities. The project team must also deal with obstacles arising from resource constraints, politics, organizational structure, communication networks, corporate culture, and even “acts of god.”


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The team quickly finds out that they must revise their strategy to meet the needs of the real situation. Over the course of the three-year simulation the change team is able to “see” the results of their change strategy both in terms of staff usage of the new IT system and productivity gains arising from its use. The interactive nature of the simulation creates an active learning environment in which students learn to use change theories as tools for solving real problems. THE PROBLEM In the initial class session, students are introduced to the problem they must address in this project. The problem is presented as follows from the simulation: The Thai Banking industry has almost reached the stage where it needs to expand electronic services to cut costs. It cannot afford to keep opening fully-manned branch offices according to leading industry analysts...Technology will become more important than ever in achieving economies of scale, enabling banks to operate at lower costs... Most industries in the United States and Britain are halving their number of full-service branch offices to cut costs and promote efficiency. Banks are instead increasing their outlets by using electronic services such as computer banking, tele-banking, ATM’s, Internet, and Point-ofService sales. All these changes will take time to implement because we are dealing with people...We may have to wait five to ten years before people become comfortable with this change.10

The Head Office of your company, Best Inc., is implementing a new information technology (IT) system. Under pressure from domestic as well as rapidly advancing foreign competition, the company’s traditional methods of managing information are clearly inadequate to the needs of the global age. Processing time for orders, tracking of customer service complaints, maintenance of customer and staff profiles, and inter-department coordination are just a few of the areas in which corporate performance is lagging due to information management problems. Best Inc. has continued to rely heavily on traditions, policies and practices that may have worked in the past, but that are not working well today. Today’s customers expect better and faster service. If Best Inc. doesn’t provide it, your competitors will. The corporate culture at Best Inc. is strong but stagnant. Many employees have been with the company for a long time; some families have worked in the corporation for more than one generation. Thus, they have a deep sense of loyalty to the company. However, the culture has not readily embraced the rapid changes that have come in the years following the economic crisis of 1997. Senior management has been uncomfortable with the pace at which uncomfortable decisions have been forced upon them. Middle managers have complained frequently at being asked to carry out projects and programs that they never ask for. Veteran workers at different levels have been confused by the new methods and joke about “reengineering the engineers.” Younger staff, many with higher formal education than their


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supervisors, have not always found the culture receptive to new ideas. Some have left for better opportunities. Eight months ago Best Inc. brought in a new Managing Director (MD), John Lee. He came in promising fast productivity improvements and is betting on large gains from new investments in IT. This new enterprise resource management system – IT 2020 – is the centerpiece of his promise of change to the Board of Directors. The IT system will, however, mean significant change for all who work in the company. In addition to the purchase and redesign of IT hardware and software, the new system will require reengineering of many work processes. This will affect how employees work together across business units as well as their relationships to customers. While computers have been used increasingly in this business over the past halfdozen years, mostly they have been limited to word processing and email and concentrated in selected functions such as credit and record-keeping. The MD’s intention is for IT 2020 to be used in all departments – administration, marketing, credit, public relations, production, customer service etc. Moreover, many more employees will rely on the IT system to accomplish basic tasks in their jobs than ever before. Use of IT will no longer be optional. In fact, the key to its effectiveness depends on maintaining an up-to-date, coordinated database of information across departments. The MD is counting on this system to overcome a wide range of company problems and also to project a new more up-to-date image for the company. Given the scope of this change, the MD has decided to proceed by implementing IT 2020 at two branches in the Central Region on a pilot basis. Based on the trial implementation, he will then roll it out to other branches throughout the country. Despite this step-by-step approach, the MD is under pressure to show quick results. Therefore, trial implementation in the Central region will begin right away. Although this is the MD’s special project and he has mandated implementation, not everyone is happy with it. The project’s visibility was raised recently when the Board of Directors chose not to go with the lowest bidder for the project’s software development. Instead the Board, on a close vote, followed the MD’s recommendation and selected Hi-tech International’s system, IT 2020. Certain Board Directors were upset with the decision to give this contract to a foreign firm rather than to a domestic company with whom they had a long relationship. Central is the largest region in the company, and also the most political. The Regional Director, Al, is the most senior regional manager. In fact, he was the top internal candidate for John Lee’s position as MD. His support is necessary if IT 2020 will be successfully implemented in his region. You have just been selected for special assignment to the IT 2020 Project Implementation Team. You are not happy about this assignment since it could interfere with your own promotion. Being part of a highly visible, but politically sensitive change effort is unlikely to make you popular. Nevertheless, you have no choice, so you have to make the best of it and hope that success will get some positive attention from the MD.


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Your cross-functional team is comprised of people from different parts of the company, but none from the Central Region. You were told to coordinate the work of your implementation with Beth, the Management Information System (MIS) Manager in the Head Office, and also with Al, the Director of the Central Region. Two members of the Board of Directors – Carol and Dave – have been assigned by the Board Chairman to monitor this project. Shortly, you will find out more about the other people with whom you will be working to implement IT 2020. As you begin the simulation remember the following points: 1. 2. 3.

4.

5.

6.

You will have three years to implement the new IT system in the selected business units; You will move people through the stages of change by choosing activities designed to inform, interest and prepare them to use IT 2020. Before you selected a change activity, ask yourselves: “What does this person need at this stage of the change process?” Then select an activity that meets the needs of the individual or the group. Your committee has a budget of 35 bits to spend on change activities in the first year. Bits represent time and money. You will start with a new budget of 30 bits in the second year and 25 bits in the third year. Your resources are limited, so spend your budget wisely each year. You have two criteria on which your team’s success will be evaluated: the number of people actually using the IT system after three years and increases in productivity as measured in “Bennies” (company benefits) that arise from the use of IT 2020. Your team members will have a limited amount of time to devote to implementation of IT 2020. It is recommended that you read the materials and plan your strategy, but then you must act! The MD is expecting results soon and promotion depends on your success! THE LEARNING PROCESS

The instructional design of this project assumes that students will attend class for weekly three-hour class sessions over a six-week period. Students are also expected to complete weekly readings and play the computer simulation outside of class time. Note that while this is our current configuration, the project has been delivered in a wide variety of formats and sequences based upon the objectives and time constraints of the specific setting. Activity Flow During the Project The learning sequence consists of team-based use of the simulation, weekly minilectures conducted by the instructor, three instructor-led debriefings in weeks one through three, two student-led debriefings in weeks four and five, two written reflective assignments, and team-to-team knowledge sharing. The flow of activities in this project is shown below:


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Class Session #1 Ɣ Introduction to the Making Change Happen simulation Ɣ Complete one year of the simulation with instructor debriefing in class Ɣ Homework: Read Kotter (Heart of Change) chapters two, three, four Ɣ Play all three years at least one time on your own or with a partner outside class Class Session #2 Ɣ Mini-lecture: Goal-setting, strategy, resistance, adopter types Ɣ Complete two years of the Simulation with instructor debriefing in class Ɣ Homework: Read Kotter (Heart of Change) chapters five and six Ɣ Practice the simulation outside class and increase your level of mastery Class Session #3 Ɣ Complete three years of the Simulation outside class Ɣ Instructor debriefing of simulation in class for year three Ɣ Mini-lecture: Kotter’s 8 Stages of Implementing Change Ɣ Homework: Read Kotter (Heart of Change) chapters seven and eight Ɣ Write your Strategy Analysis on Making Change Happen Class Session #4 Ɣ Strategy Analysis of Making Change Happen due in class Ɣ Student-led debriefing of change factors, obstacles, strategies Ɣ Read Bridges & on-line resources on Change Transitions and Case Study Class Session #5 Ɣ Mini-lecture: Introduce Change Transitions Framework Ɣ In class case analysis on Change Transitions Ɣ Finish reading Bridges and on-line resources on Change Transitions Class Session #6 Ɣ Personal Case Paper due in class Ɣ Final Written Exam and Play Simulation in Class

Playing the Simulation After being introduced to the problem and their role as project implementation teams, the learners begin to access other factual information concerning the change context. This information is presented via handouts as well as on the computer screen. It includes information about the 24 people (i.e., the staff members involved in the IT 2020 implementation) and the 16 activities they can use to engage the staff in the change effort and prepare the organization to use IT 2020. The game board (see Figure 1), displays the organization’s members on the lefthand side. Information on each staff member can be accessed by clicking on their icon. Change activities are listed on the right side of the screen, again with clickable buttons providing access to information about the activity and its cost in bits. Listed across the top of the board are five stages of the change process: Information, Interest, Preparation, Early Use, and Routine Use. These stages of use are derived from the Concerns Based Adoption Model of change.11 The game pieces representing the 24 staff members (see Figure 1) start “off the game board” because they have yet to begin the process of change. Few have much information about the change, except by rumor. As noted above, a key goal of the change team is to move these staff members from a state of knowing nothing about IT 2020 to a stage of mastery and routine use of the ERM system in their daily work.


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The other is to gain “Bennies” (productivity benefits) which will accrue as staff begin to do activities with IT 2020 that increase efficiency and effectiveness. The People The project team will work with 24 people in the organization. These staff members work in the two “pilot branches” as well as the regional and head offices. We emphasize at the outset of the project that successful implementation will depend upon the team’s effectiveness in understanding the perspectives of these staff members towards the change (i.e., IT 2020) and executing a strategy that addresses their concerns. The descriptions of the staff members have been conceived taking into account a variety of factors including job position, social networks, organizational power and politics, personality type, and change adopter types. Relevant information about the 24 staff members is conveyed in an organizational chart, as well as through brief descriptions of the staff members accessible via the computer. Each of the 24 staff members has a position in the organization such as Branch Manager, MIS Manager, Board Director, Credit Clerk, Marketing Officer, etc. Job positions are relevant change since they shape the perspective taken by the staff member towards the change. For example, an IT manager could be expected to be more interested in an IT-related change than a credit clerk. Position is also relevant from the perspective of organizational power. Although students are not told this at the outset, the Branch Managers are critical “gate-keepers” without whose support implementation will fail in the branches.

Figure 1: Making Change Game Board


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The one paragraph descriptions of each staff member also convey relevant aspects of staff member personalities, experience and attitudes towards IT. For example, the description for Al, the Central Region’s Director, reads as follows: Al is a respected manager who is concerned with maintaining the Central Region’s productivity. Although he applied for the Managing Director’s position, he was not selected. Recently Al was overheard saying: “The new boss may not understand the way things are done around here.”

The description for Irene, a Credit Clerk, gives the following information: Irene says: “When there’s a job to be done, the old ways still work best.” She doesn’t trust technology or see a need to change the credit system. She will resist anything that results in more work, even in the short-term.

The descriptions of the 24 staff members also take into account Everett Rogers’ Adopter Types Theory.12 This change model suggests that people respond to change in “predictably different ways” that can be classified as five adopter types: Innovators, Leaders, Early Majority, Late Majority, Resistors. Empirical research has identified both the characteristics and approximate distribution of each type in the population. These characteristics have been embedded into the descriptions of the staff and inform their distribution within in the organization. We emphasize that, consistent with PBL, the information about adopter types is neither taught to the students in advance nor are the staff “labeled” as one type or another. Instead the learners confront the problem first; then as they begin to implement IT 2020, it becomes apparent that people are responding differently to the change. A few – the Innovators – jump at the chance to engage in change. Some others – the Leaders –appear to have unusual influence with their peers and so forth. The team will generally begin to notice a “pattern” in the responses. During the instructor-led debriefing, the pattern of responses among the staff is raised by the students. This leads to discussion about the different ways in which people respond to change. Only then – after it has become relevant to solving the problem – is the adopter type model introduced. At this point it makes sense to the students and class discussion about the varying strategies to use with different adopter types is followed intently by the various teams. In sum, construction of the simulation assumes that sustainable change results when we successfully engage and motivate the people who are expected to make use of it in their daily work. While we assume that a certain degree of resistance to change is natural, a variety of organization and personal factors are relevant to understanding the potential causes of resistance. Power, politics, position, personality and experience all factor into understanding how people will respond to the same change. The descriptions and actions of the people who comprise the change effort in the simulation reflect these assumptions. Implementation Activities There are 16 activities from which the learners can choose in order to create their implementation strategy (see Figure 1). These are typical activities that a change


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implementation team might undertake: gathering more information, talking with people, distributing written information, conducting a presentation for staff about IT 2020, holding a demonstration of the software, visiting another organization that is using the software successfully already, holding a skill development workshop, using the IT in the workplace, providing follow-up help to support implementation, holding an advanced workshop for experienced users, creating a branch support group, revising the software, policy revision. Some activities are conducted with individual people such as “Talk to” three people. Other activities may specify an organizational unit such as a Presentation to all 24 people about the new IT system. Other activities may require the change team to select a branch and the specific people who will attend such as a Workshop. This information is contained in the on-screen activity descriptions. As noted in the problem section, the project team has an annual budget to spend on these activities. Each activity has a different price in bits. Distributing Written Information is relatively inexpensive at 1 bit. Holding a Workshop is more expensive at 5 bits. Revising the Software is very expensive at 8 bits. The cost of the activity is deducted automatically when the activity is implemented by the team. The teams will spend their budgets on a combination of these activities until they run out of time or budget for a given year of implementation. Interaction and Feedback on Results A great advantage of the computer technology used with this simulation is that it allows seamless interactivity between the learner and the change context. The project team will “play” the simulation by considering first its strategy and then by selecting an activity to conduct with the staff members. Each time that learners “do” an activity, several things happen: Ɣ The cost of the activity is deducted from their budget. Ɣ The pieces representing staff members involved in the activity move. Ɣ Bennies, if any accrue from the activity, are recorded on the screen. Ɣ A Feedback Card pops up describing what happened. For example, if the team chooses to “Talk to” three people, their budget will be reduced by the cost of the activity (2 bits). If the activity is successful game pieces representing the relevant people will move one or more spaces across the game board (i.e., farther along in the process of change). If unsuccessful, the staff members stay put. After an activity has been implemented, the team will receive immediate feedback on what happened and why. Thus, the first time they “Talk to” Al, the team receives the following feedback: Al is very busy. He is involved in other projects to improve the region’s productivity and doesn’t have much time to talk with you today. He suggests that you coordinate with MIS staff at the Head Office. On your way out he says, “I don’t know they are always thinking up these new things for us to do.” Al moves one space.

The first time that they “Talk to” Irene, she responds as follows.


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I just don’t like computers. They’re so impersonal. How can this new system help me anyway? And what will I do when the system breaks down and I have to get the credit reports out on time? Will I be blamed for the late report? Irene doesn’t move at all.

Thus, the team proceeds through a process of planning their strategy, implementing it, getting feedback, reflecting on the results, and adjusting their strategy. Through the simulation, the team is able to see the evolving results of their strategy as the staff members begin to move through the stages of change. During the class debriefing at the end of the first year of implementation, the instructor introduces the PDCA Cycle (Planning, Doing, Checking, and Adjusting). The teams are asked to reframe their strategies in light of this cycle and consider how the framework could be useful for planning change strategies as they proceed. Development of Strategic Thinking As suggested above, the instructional model incorporated into the problem-based learning process allows relevant conceptual frameworks to emerge out of the learners’ experience while they play the simulation. The introduction of change theory during the process of active problem-solving enables the students to view theory as a practical tool. When adopter type theory is introduced, they immediately see the benefits of having a conceptual model to assist in organizing their thinking. At this point we would like to reemphasize our instructional goal of developing students’ ability to think strategically and flexibly. To us this means that students will be able to understand and apply the key factors that form the context for change in an organization and use that understanding to formulate effective change leadership strategies. Indeed, we stress three related points throughout the project: Ɣ Every context is different and there is no single sequence of steps that will bring about effective change in all situations. Therefore, memorizing or even seeking to identify one best sequence is useless. Ɣ There are many possible strategies (i.e., sequences of activities) that will yield excellent results in bringing about the change in any single context. Begin by seeking to understand the underlying needs of people as well as the resources and constraints of the situation. Ɣ The goal of learning through the PBL simulation is to understand how to apply the analytical principles that underlie effective change strategies. With this point in mind, we would note that a central feature of the simulation is the interdependence of the activities that comprise a team’s strategy. Interdependence means that the success of certain activities in the simulation depends upon the completion of other prior activities. Again, as with the adopter type information, the decision rules are only discovered through the “experience” of playing the simulation. The interdependence of the activities requires the project team to develop a strategic sequence of activities that create a context that supports change in the organization. It causes the team to develop a dynamic view of the change process in which the context is constantly evolving over time. This facet of


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the simulation is supported both by practical experience as well as by change theories.13 By way of example, many teams begin the simulation by sending staff to a skills Workshop on IT 2020. After selecting five staff members from the Eastern Branch to attend the workshop, the on-screen feedback tells them: “You don’t have support from the Branch Manager so you can’t hold the Workshop. Nobody moves.” In this instance the project team has tried to conduct the Workshop activity without the support or approval of the Branch Manager, Eve. This result emphasizes the position power and gate-keeping function held by line managers. The team has learned that they need to gain the branch manager’s support before trying the Workshop activity again. To do so they will need to spend some time “Talking To” Eve selling the project to her and seeking her ideas. Once they gain the Branch Manager’s support, the team will often return immediately to the Workshop activity. However, the result is once again unsuccessful. The on-screen feedback informs them: “You have the Branch Manager’s support to hold this activity, but staff members are not yet interested to attend. You need to take actions that build staff awareness and interest before sending them to this skill development activity. Nobody moves. Get back 3 bits.” The decision rule at work here requires that at least three of the five workshop participants be located in the Preparation stage of the change process in order for the Workshop activity to succeed. If managerial support and staff interest criteria are both met, the outcome will be successful. For example, the feedback could be as follows: You have managerial support to hold this workshop and staff members are eager to attend. The trainer is exceptional and the participants leave with many ideas on how they can use IT 2020 and positive feelings about the experience. Each participating staff member moves 2 spaces and you gain 200 Bennies. Gain an additional 50 Bennies if the Branch Manager attended the workshop.

This change model underlying these decision rules assumes that successful change results when the activities in which people engage address their needs and concerns. At the outset of the simulation staff know nothing about IT 2020 or why they should be interested in using it. What will it do for them? They need information, not skills at this point. Therefore, successful change will take place if the team selects activities that inform the staff such as “Talk To”, “Distribute Written Information”, or “Presentation.” While this appears quite straightforward, organizations routinely “skip” activities designed to create awareness and interest and simply mandate workshop attendance. This often results in a waste of budget and a low level of implementation of new learning as the staff return to their jobs. The interdependency among the change activities incorporated into the hidden decision rules is central to the design of the simulation. Over 100 interdependencies are built into the simulation as well as some randomly generated responses. These factors increase the life-like nature of the simulation and cause students to view the change process as systemic rather than menu-driven.


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Another way in which the project fosters the capacity for strategic thinking is by asking students to engage in goal-setting and strategy formulation at the outset of each year of the simulation. Each year the students must set “smart goals” that specify both the desired rate of progress of staff through the stages of the change process as well as the number of Bennies (i.e., productivity increases) they seek to achieve by the end of that year. This creates greater focus as well as reflection among students as they refine their strategies and reduces the “computer game” mentality of clicking away without thinking about cause and effect relationships. At the beginning the students tend to think in terms of activities rather than strategies. However, when they are asked to formulate goals and ways of achieving them, the change models becomes more relevant. For example, a team might draw on Kotter’s14 8-stage model of change to inform the development of their strategic objectives in the first year: Ɣ Raise awareness among staff in the pilot branches and create a sense of urgency towards the IT 2020 implementation effort; Ɣ Create a guiding team possessing position power, influence and expertise; Ɣ Engage the guiding team in developing a vision for the change and becoming models that can support others as the change moves forward. With these strategic objectives in mind, the project team could begin to effectively consider the suitable sequence of activities. At the end of the year, the team would reflect on their results in light of their goals (i.e., staff progress and Bennies) and their strategy. By playing the simulation multiple times, the learners can test out different strategies. It is through this iterative sequence of planning which activities to choose, implementing them, seeing the results, revising the strategy, and seeing the results that learners begin to see the patterns in the change process. These patterns gradually cohere into identification of underlying principles that we would like them to learn from their “experience” of the simulation.15 Assessing the Results As noted earlier, the simulation poses two goals for the project implementation team: 1) to foster effective use of the new IT system throughout the pilot implementation sites and 2) to increase organizational productivity. The simulation provides feedback on productivity outcomes (Bennies) arising from the implementation effort. Certain activities – generally those that involve interaction with customers – generate productivity benefits. These are conveyed via the onscreen feedback, accumulate through the three years, and are tracked on-screen. So, for example, if the activity Workplace Implementation was successful the feedback would note: “The staff appreciated the opportunity to implement what they learned and were pleased with the improved results. Each staff member implementing the new IT moves 2 spaces. You receive 150 Bennies.” At the conclusion of the three-year simulation the learners will have achieved some pattern of results related to IT adoption and productivity. The level of success of IT 2020 adoption is assessed by the number of people who reached the Early Use


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and Routine Use stages of change. Productivity improvement is assessed by the total Bennies achieved in the three year period of implementation. Using these two criteria and a set of internal decision rules, the computer assigns the project team to one of size levels of expertise in terms of their change management: Novice, Apprentice, Manager, Leader, Expert, and Master. For each level, additional feedback is offered to the team including advice on how they might improve their strategy the next time they play. Final Project Activities As noted earlier, this PBL project is delivered in a six-week format. We typically finish working with the simulation by the end of the fourth week of the project. We use the fifth class session to introduce an additional change framework (i.e., William Bridges’ Change Transitions). The teams analyze a short case study using the change transitions framework and then reflect on how this model might further inform their understanding of the problem studied in the computer simulation. The final class session is allocated for two activities. The students complete a 90 minute knowledge exam. Then each student must play the simulation one time and turn in their result. These represent further bases for student assessment as we shall describe later in the chapter. LEARNING RESOURCES As delineated earlier in the book, PBL uses problems as the stimulus for learning. Knowledge derived from theory, empirical research, as well as from practice is learned in an active context. In order to understand the problem and generate possible solutions to the change scenario, learners can access an array of human resources (instructor, students, video commentary on the case), texts and articles, on-line resources, and video clips related to the theory and practice of organizational change. This PBL project draws upon several complementary conceptual models related to organizational change: Ɣ Roger’s adopter types;16 Ɣ Kotter’s eight strategic stages in the change process;17 Ɣ Hall and Hord’s Concerns-Based Adoption Model;18 Ɣ Bridges’ change transitions; 19 Ɣ Senge’s learning organization.20 Assumptions derived from these theoretical frameworks underlie the “internal decision rules” that determine what happens as the learners play. That is, the change strategies that achieve good results in the simulation reflect these assumptions. Some of these assumptions include: Ɣ Resistance to change is natural. Ɣ Change is a process, not an event. Ɣ Change is a highly personal experience; people will respond differently to the same change.


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Change is a process that involves the gradual development of new feelings as well as skills. Change is both an external process in which people participate and an internal process of transition in personal attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. Change is made first by individuals, and then by the organization.

Beyond the change frameworks noted above, the project also highlights several principles of change leadership that underlie effective change strategies. These are highlighted in the debriefing sessions and mini-lectures. Ɣ Think big, but start small. Ɣ Change is an evolutionary process. Learn and adapt as you proceed. Ɣ Focus on understanding the causes of resistance rather than on the symptoms of resistance. Ɣ Adapt your change strategy to meet people's needs. Ɣ Both pressure and support are necessary to foster change. Ɣ Change is more likely to occur when a team is given responsibility for managing implementation. In particular, the simulation reinforces the importance of maintaining one’s eye on the vision throughout the implementation process. A particularly interesting contrast emerges between teams that attain similar numbers of players in routine use but large differences in the number of Bennies. This becomes an opportunity to illustrate the strategic difference between focusing on fostering use of IT 2020 without maintaining a focus on enhancing productivity. STUDENT PRODUCTS AND ASSESSMENT In this project the products used to demonstrate student learning include a combination of performance products (e.g., the simulation result) as well as written papers and examination. The particular combination of products has been designed to achieve several instructional objectives: Ɣ To foster and demonstrate team learning; Ɣ To demonstrate individual student mastery of objectives related to understanding change theories and application of change strategies; Ɣ To stimulate development of student understanding of key principles of change management through reflection on their experience. Although the key “performance product” in the project consists of the simulation level attained by students, we go to considerable lengths to deemphasize the importance of this result. We fear that an emphasis on the score could lead to an unhealthy focus on memorizing steps rather than on learning underlying principles. Therefore, we have aligned the mix of student products to support team and individual learning of principles.


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Team Product This is accomplished first by requiring the teams to complete a strategy analysis paper of about 15 single spaced pages. In preparation for this assignment, due in the 4th week of the project, each team plays the simulation through all three years. They must keep track of their goals, strategies, sequence of activities and results. This assignment consists of a set of questions through which the team reflects on its strategy and the change process. The paper requires teams to explicate their strategy and focuses on “why” the change unfolded as it did. We emphasize that the level of the team’s result is unimportant relative to the ability demonstrate an understanding of what happened and why. Individual Assessments At the same time, we believe that individual accountability is also essential in a team learning environment. This is ensured in several ways. First, students complete an instructor-developed, student-evaluated Team Participation Assessment rubric on each of their teammates. Second, on the day of the final exam, each student is given one hour to play the simulation a single time. The level of result is recorded and factored in as 10% of the student’s final grade. Most students excel on the simulation, to the point that we have considered deleting it as an assessment tool. However, we have continued to use it in the belief that it stimulates the students to practice the simulation and rewards them for their effort. Third, each student is required to write personal case essay of seven to 10 single spaced pages on an organizational change effort in which they have been involved. They must present the case information and then analyze it using a combination of theoretical frameworks. The analysis must culminate in an evaluation of the change effort’s success and a set of recommendations for improvement. This stimulates students to think about how they could apply the lessons from the project to other situations and is designed to foster synthesis, retention and transfer of learning. Fourth, the students take a two-hour final exam that tests their understanding of key concepts as well as their ability to apply the concepts to alternate change scenarios. Most university instructors who read this list of assessment products would likely conclude that it is excessive for a 1.5 credit course that only lasts six weeks! While our students would no doubt concur, we believe the assignments provide a sound foundation for stimulating learning as well as for reliable assessment. Ɣ The strategy paper fosters teamwork and serious reflection on how to apply change theories to the simulation. Without this assignment, students could master the simulation without learning to apply the underlying principles. Ɣ The personal case assignment fosters transfer of learning and allows us to assess the depth of student understanding, application, analysis, and synthesis. Ɣ As noted, the simulation “test” on exam day stimulates and rewards effort.


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The final exam is a final check on individual student understanding in a controlled environment.

As noted in Chapter Six, reliable assessment is a serious issue in our College’s environment. The “PBL track” represents an alternative route to research and consulting options in which students must defend substantial projects. Therefore, we place great emphasis on designing systems of assessment that stimulate learning and provide a defensible basis for student grading. ADAPTATION FOR THE LOCAL CONTEXT Space limitations preclude an extended discussion of how this simulation, originally designed in the USA, was adapted for use in the Thai context. However, given the theme of this volume, we would like to give the reader a flavor of the rationale and method used to adapt this PBL project for our context.21 When we undertook revision of the project, our first consideration was relevance of the problem. On this issue there was no question that organizational change was a problem of widespread concern in the Thai management community. Global change forces cited at the start of this chapter are felt strongly in Thailand, even more since the 1997 economic crisis. The specific change incorporated in the US version of the simulation – IT implementation – also represents a relevant, widespread, high impact problem in Thailand. However, the knowledge base incorporated into the simulation’s decision rules for effective change strategies was based almost entirely on “Western” theories of change. Our own experience and reading of research on organizational change in Asia suggested important differences between East and West. Therefore, revision of the simulation would revolve less around the problem itself than on the change strategies needed to “solve” it. Initial revision of the simulation involved consideration of differences in the institutional and cultural contexts of organizations in Thailand and the USA. Changing the institutional context to reflect a Thai organization was not difficult. This involved small changes in the titles of positions, the problem description, and the nature of the organization. These revisions were far less significant than changes resulting from differences arising from the social culture of Thailand and the corporate culture of Thai organizations. The linkages between cultural characteristics, their effects on change implementation in Thai organizations, the implications for leading change, and the resulting revisions to our change simulation were substantial. Weaving these features into the simulation in a way that would seem realistic to Thai managers and accurately model the process of change in Thai organizations would prove to be the real challenge of adaptation. In brief we used a two-pronged approach to preparing for the adaptation of the simulation. First we conducted a literature review on the topics of change, leadership, and national culture in Thailand and Asia. This yielded a series of propositions about how change might differ in Thailand from the USA. Second, we conducted a multi-site case study of change in Thai organizations as a means of


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testing these propositions. The result was a set of guiding propositions about differences in change management in the Thai context. Based on this analysis, we concluded that the decision rules underlying effective change strategies would need to differ in at least three ways. Ɣ The Thai version of the simulation would require the change team to pay even greater attention to building interest among the staff prior to actual implementation of the new technology. Ɣ The change team must pay greater attention to leading change as a group process and drawing on group resources. Ɣ There is an even greater need for support from the line managers than in the original version. Specific modifications to the simulation fell into several categories: Ɣ Revision of the descriptions of text descriptions and activity feedback; Ɣ Revision of the actual change activities; Ɣ Revision of the decision rules underlying player movement through stages of the change process and in the Bennies accruing from activities. For the purposes of this chapter we will limit ourselves to a single example of adaptation. Drawing upon Hofstede’s research on national culture, we identified large differences between the USA and Thailand on the cultural dimension of power distance.22 Thai culture places a much greater emphasis on deference to others based on seniority, social status and job position. Differences in power and status are accepted as “natural” and norms of behavior follow accordingly. Western concepts such as “empowerment” and social equality are paid lip service and even find their way into organizational life in limited ways. However, the deep cultural norms that govern social relations in and out of the workplace continue to emphasize large power distance. This was confirmed both our experience and the case study research. In the North American version of the simulation, when the change team goes to speak to staff who fall into the Early Majority and Late Majority Adopter Types the staff respond somewhat aggressively. They ask questions and complain respond about “another change”. However, after receiving answers to some of their questions, they move one space. This reflects the cultural expectation and belief among the staff themselves that they “have a right” to know about and influence workplace conditions that affect them. In contrast, large power distance makes deference to superiors the rule. Thus, we programmed the Thai version so that when the project team “Talks To” the Thai counterparts of the American staff the first time, the staff neither ask questions nor evince negative opinions. They listen politely, nod their heads; some even evince positive interest, saying “It sounds interesting.” However, instead of moving even a single space as in the original version, they do not move at all. This reflects the tension between the cultural need to show polite deference and the underlying uncertainties that still accompany change. This norm of overt compliance and passive resistance is an important pattern that leaders in Thailand must recognize and address before real change can take place. The strategies that are


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effective in this context have also been modified. Thus, the Thai version of the simulation challenges the learners not only to understand the local norms but also the strategies that will engage people in productive change. STUDENT RESPONSES This project has been in use at the College over a period of 14 terms with an average of four sections offered per term. Student response to the project has been highly favorable. This is evidenced in a number of ways. As noted in the Chapter Seven, course registration follows a market system. Students may choose to complete any four of the seven PBL offered each term. Despite the very heavy workload required for the change project, student registration for the project is consistently among the highest in the PBL track. The course ratings are also consistently high, regardless of the instructor teaching the course. The overall rating on the College’s course evaluations has consistently been in the top 25% of courses during the 15 terms in which it has been taught. In addition, in an unusual number of instances the course rating has exceeded the individual instructor’s overall rating. Moreover, instructors teaching this project have tended to gain higher instructor evaluations when teaching this course than when teaching other courses. We conclude from these trends that there is a “positive course effect” that can be attributed to the design of the project itself. We collect anecdotal responses from students every term on summative evaluation forms and formative talk-back sheets. These allow us to monitor student response and provide valuable ideas for improvement. The overall trend of comments on this module has been consistently positive. Examples taken from the most recent term’s Talk-back Sheets include the following. I feel that studying a Master degree should be practical, not only theory. This course links all theory and concepts to the practical application. I really like the simulation. It’s a great tool to help us understand theory and at the same time we can try the wrong choice (trial and error) to see the next result (what will happen). Better to make mistakes here than at work. I learned a lot but it’s not easy to learn the project and finish everything required in time as well as write the exam. But I’m proud that I’ve completed a very worthwhile course. Nothing to improve the course; it’s quite perfect. Just make it longer because it’s fun. The class has improved my thinking and enabled me to analyze cause and effect relationships in different situations. Actually I only took this class because I couldn’t get into the ones I really wanted. I thought I’d already learned about the topic in other courses. But now I’m so glad I took the class. I can apply so much of what we learned to my real life. It has also helped me develop a more open attitude about dealing with people.


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Short but sweet; In 6 intense weeks we understand more about changing organizations and the impact on people inside them. It is the most important thing for every course if we can apply what we learned. This course actually makes me eager to make use of what I learned in the real world. It was one that was unique and that I will cherish.

Lest the reader conclude that the authors are overly self-congratulatory, we would reemphasize that this was the first project designed for use in our PBL curriculum. Moreover, the computer simulation had been in use prior to the launch of our PBL track. Thus, this particular project has benefited from years of formative feedback. CONCLUSION The purpose of this chapter was to describe a PBL project on leading organizational change. We designed the project so that learners would construct their own understanding of an important knowledge base that is relevant to a high impact and widely applicable problem. This occurs as students move through an iterative process of thinking, acting, seeing the results, reflecting and reconstructing their strategy. The simulation is complemented by a series of instructor-led and studentled debriefing sessions as well as mini-lectures and reflective writing assignments. We believe that the project provides a useful example of how learning technology can be blended with PBL to provide a learning process that could not be accomplished under traditional learning conditions. Some of the distinctive features of this project that we would like to highlight include the following. Ć” Common, high impact problem: Organizational change is rampant throughout organizations and societies. The specific instance of technological change as formulated in this project is one that students can readily accept as real and important. The need for skills in managing these types of organizational changes is similarly urgent for them. Although the project focuses on one type of organizational change, students are able to see how they could apply principles learned in solving this problem to other organizational changes. Ć” Implementation focus: This project is a good example of the implementation focus that differentiates PBL from the case method. Students not only analyze and draw conclusions concerning this change context; they must also formulate and implement appropriate strategies in an interactive, dynamic process. Ć” Use of technology: Finally, the project provides a useful example of how PBL can provide a pedagogical foundation for the use of learning technology. The complexity of this simulation would be difficult to implement in such a seamless fashion without the capabilities of the computer software.


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Localized application of theory: This project incorporates a wide range of recognized theories of organizational change. However, instead of teaching the theories didactically, students construct the theories of change via the experience they gain in solving the organizational change problem. In doing so they are able to see the limits of current knowledge as well as its localized application in their own cultural context. This makes the project an excellent example of the premise underlying this book – students should draw upon global sources of knowledge in the process of learning to solve problems as they are presented in their local contexts.

NOTES 1



The author would like to acknowledge the contributions of Parinya Showanasai and David Ng Foo Seong as well as staff from The NETWORK Inc. in development of the computer simulation, as well as from Dr. Pornkasem Kantamara in design of the Thai adapted version. Additional information about the simulation can be obtained through contact with the author at philip.h@cmmu.net. 2 Drucker, P. (1995). Managing in a time of great change. New York: Talley House, Dutton, 75. 3 Drucker, op. cit., Kotter, J. (1996). Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 4 See Naisbitt, J. (1997). Megatrends Asia. London: Nicholas Brealey.; Ohmae, K. (1995). The end of the nation state: The rise of regional economies. New York: Free Press.; Rohwer, J. (1996). Asia rising. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. 5  See Kotter, op. cit. O’Toole, J. (1995). Leading change. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. 6 Drucker, op. cit. Evans, R. (1996). The human side of school change. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. 7 Fullan, M. (1993). Change forces. London: Falmer Press. Hallinger, P. (1998b). Increasing the organizational IQ: Public sector leadership in Southeast Asia. The Learning Organization, 5(4), 176-183. Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline. New York: Doubleday. 8 The NETWORK Inc. (1997). Making Change Happen. The NETWORK Inc., Rowley, MA. (info@thenetworkinc.org). 9 The software runs on Windows and Macintosh personal computers. It is available in English as well as in Thai, Bahasa Malay, and Korean languages. It also comes in a version designed for implementing change in schools and a second version that focuses on implementing change in general organizations. The version discussed in this chapter is the general organizations version. 10 The Nation. (1995, August 30). Thai banks come under pressure to change. The Nation, p. A2. 11  Hall, G. & Hord, S. (2001). Implementing change: Patterns, principles, and potholes. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon. 12 Rogers, E. (1971). Diffusion of innovations. New York, NY: The Free Press. 13  Hall & Hord, op. cit., Fullan, op. cit., Kotter, op. cit. 14 Kotter, op. cit.


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See the work of Bransford and colleagues who highlight the role of “pattern recognition� in the development of professional expertise. Bransford, J. (1993). Who ya gonna call? In P. Hallinger, K. Leithwood, & J. Murphy (Eds.), Cognitive perspectives on educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press. 16  Rogers, op. cit. 17 Kotter, op. cit. Kotter, J. (2002). The heart of change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 18  Hall & Hord, op. cit. 19 Bridges, W. (2003). Managing transitions: Making the most of change. New York: Perseus Books. 20 Senge, op. cit. 21 For a more complete explanation of the process of adapting the simulation please see Hallinger, P. & Kantamara, P. (2001). Learning to lead global changes across cultures: Designing a computer-based simulation for Thai school leaders. Journal of Educational Administration, 39(3), 197-220. 22  Hofstede, G. (1991), Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind, McGraw-Hill Books, Berkshire, England.


CHAPTER 10 DATA TO INTELLIGENCE ABSTRACT This chapter presents the design and implementation of a problem-based learning module on the topic of Data to Intelligence at the College of Management, Mahidol University. Students analyze data in multiple dimensions to discover salient business issues that are embedded within corporate data. They then synthesize relevant facts to develop answers to business problems. Students communicate the answers with justified conclusions and recommendations in a well-structured consulting style report and presentation. The chapter describes design considerations and discusses our implementation experience.1

INTRODUCTION In the long run, the only sustainable source of competitive advantage is your organization’s ability to learn faster than its competition2

In the current climate of intense business competition, an organization survives and prospers on its capacity to spot and adapt quickly to the changing environment, to continuously innovate and to take decisive actions that lead to the achievement of its strategic objectives. Such capacity is built upon the organization’s knowledge including the knowledge of the market, its competitors, its customers’ behavior, as well as of its own performance in providing products and services. Data, a potential source of such knowledge, have long gained recognition as a strategic organizational resource along with human resources and other more traditional capital assets. This increasing importance attached to the capacity to exploit data is accompanied by rapid advances in information systems, which have now become an integral part of all business operations. Organizations are investing heavily in information systems and associated staff resources needed to collect, store and process data. Bill Gates3 compares the organization’s information infrastructure to the human biological nervous system, with the information flow being the lifeblood of the organization. He observed that well-designed information systems and data infrastructure make it possible to foster organizational learning. Information can also trigger reflexes so that organizations can react quickly to danger or need, and enable them to make better decisions at the right time. He argues that the ability to make better decisions faster has become a pre-requisite not just to win, but to compete in the current global economic context. Nonetheless, the fact remains that relatively few organizations obtain the full value from their investments in information systems. Most organizations still use

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information only to support their day-to-day operational activities. Peter Drucker has commented that: Information Technology so far has been a producer of data rather than a producer of information - let alone a producer of new and different questions and new and different strategies. Top executives have not used the new technology because it has not provided the information they need for their own tasks.4

This situation will prevail as long as human “information providers” continue to underestimate the importance executives place on having meaningful business information for making decisions. The type of information that executives require is not, however, just sets of numbers and charts. Rather they need information that has been transformed into knowledge and intelligence which they can use in combination with their judgment to make decisions. We will use the term “intelligence” to represent information that has been transformed by incorporating an understanding of the decision context. The meaning that we will attribute to data, information, knowledge and intelligence, derived from dictionary.com, are given below: Ɣ Data: facts (which may be numerical or otherwise); Ɣ Information: understandable message interpreted from data; Ɣ Knowledge: synthesized information, or the combining of separate elements of information and insights into a coherent whole; Ɣ Intelligence: knowledge communicated for application toward a purposeful goal. The skills involved in transforming information from raw data into knowledge and intelligence are essential, in our view, to making better business decisions; yet, these skills are too often lacking among managers. The scarcity of these skills is not only apparent in Thailand and Asia, but the world over. The skills involved in transforming data into intelligence are not traditionally found in the management curriculum, and few companies have the foresight or resources to teach them to their employees. Among the only organizations that routinely address these skills in a serious fashion are leading consulting companies. The ability to identify and solve problems based on facts, and to communicate convincing conclusions and recommendations are essential for their survival. Therefore, they recruit their staff based on a combination of demonstrated ability and potential in the domains of analytical problem-solving and communication. These firms have developed standard models and frameworks specifically for such activities, and provide formal training in order to prepare new staff for consulting projects. Outside the consulting circle, however, such training is rare if not nonexistent. We developed the problem-based learning (PBL) project - Data to Intelligence, (D2i) at Mahidol University’s College at Management, to address this gap. In this PBL project students solve a business problem through a structured analytical process. First, they identify a problem from salient facts embedded in corporate data. Second, they analyze these facts to develop a deeper knowledge about the problem. Third, they synthesize this knowledge with an understanding of the business context.


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Fourth, they use this intelligence to formulate insightful solutions and recommendations which they communicate in a persuasive business presentation. LEARNING OBJECTIVES This project was designed primarily to enhance the capacity of students for thinking analytically about problems and making well-informed decisions. More specifically, the PBL project addresses the following learning objectives: 1. To understand a structured, fact-based problem-solving framework and to be able to implement the framework to solve business problems. 2. To gain skills in analyzing raw data from a variety of perspectives in order to discover relevant facts, and then interpreting these facts in terms of meaningful business issues and messages. 3. To gain synthesis skills in combining separate facts with background knowledge and intuitive insights to arrive at meaningful conclusions and practical recommendations. 4. To use graphics as powerful tools in envisioning and displaying information in order to communicate complex ideas simply and directly. 5. To be able to design and deliver logically structured, powerful presentations that use business intelligence to communicate and persuade the audience. Students successfully chapter. Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ

need a number of pre-requisite skills in order to conduct and complete this project within the time constraints describes in this The ability to think analytically, logically, exhaustively and in depth; Basic descriptive statistics as well as the ability to recognize patterns such as trend and correlation; Microsoft Excel for conducting multi-dimensional data analysis and creating data graphics. Microsoft PowerPoint for presentation and report design; Project management skills that facilitate teamwork, scheduling, task and resource allocation, and monitoring progress. THE PROBLEM

In the Data to Intelligence (D2i) project, the problem is embedded in a set of corporate data taken from a particular organization. Throughout the project, students work in groups, each with 4-5 individuals, in a class with a maximum of 24 students. Each team assumes the role of consultants on assignment to a client organization. The teams receive project descriptions consisting of: Ɣ A description of the background of the organization; Ɣ An indication of the current problems or opportunities that the organization’s management currently wants to address;


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A set of data, already collected by the organization that contains information pertinent to the issues to be considered; A list of key questions to which the executives would like to have answers in relation to the issues.

Students work towards gaining insights on the status of the client’s business performance, problems and opportunities from information embedded in the data set. The project’s outcome is to for teams to recommend either a solution to a business problem or a means of exploiting a business opportunity. This varies with the case problem chosen for the project. The teams then present conclusions with actionable recommendations to the client organization’s executives. Performance Based Faculty Improvement at CMMU Over the years, we have used the D2i project as a template around which to convey a variety of different organizational problems. The focal problem that we use to illustrate the PBL project in this chapter concerns an issue that the College of Management has been addressing: Performance-based Faculty Improvement.5 As is the case at most universities, we use student course evaluations as one means of monitoring teaching quality. Over the years we have accumulated a substantial data set comprised of these teaching evaluations. Our managers use this information for the purposes of performance management, faculty development, and curriculum and instructional policy-making. When using this data set to convey the focal problems in the D2i project, students receive a set of project specifications that include relevant information about the problem as well as what students will need to know and do to complete the project. The nature and definition of the problem(s) that the students face is quite ambiguous. The teams must work with the data set and information about the organization in order to define the problems. Thus, the project emphasizes problemfinding as well as problem-solving. Introduction The College of Management, Mahidol University (CMMU) employs student evaluations of courses and instructors at the end of each term. The data derived from these reviews are used by College managers in a variety of ways: Ɣ To identify improvement areas for individual instructors; Ɣ To identify College-wide areas of teaching and learning in need of development; Ɣ To support instructor selection decisions; Ɣ To identify areas in need of policy revision; Ɣ To guide reward and recognition of instructors. In this project, you will assume the role of a consultant team advising CMMU executives on the identification of problems areas as well as ways of fostering the continued improvement of teaching and learning quality. You will have at your disposal a data set containing information derived from student evaluations of


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instructors over the past five years. These data, as well as information gained from discussions with client executives and other sources, will represent the basis for developing an understanding of the organization and its problems. Instructor Evaluation Data Set A copy of the instructor evaluation data set is available for downloading from the D2i section of the e-learning system. The data set is in Excel format and is comprised of around 20 columns and over 1000 rows of data. Specific data fields include: Ɣ Academic Year and Term: e.g., 03-3, 04-2 Ɣ Course Number Ɣ Course Category: Core, Foundation, Specialization, Foundation and Specialization, Research, Consulting and Consulting Practice (PBL) Ɣ Course Section Ɣ Instructor Number Ɣ Instructor Nationality: Thai, Foreign Ɣ Number of Students in Course Ɣ Number of Responses to Questionnaire Ɣ A set of Performance Indicators and Ratings. The 17 evaluation items include a typical set of performance indicators. Some of these include communication skills in English, development of practical understanding, organization of presentations, enabling students to learn from each other, use of assessments that measure understanding and use of knowledge, overall course evaluation, and overall instructor evaluation. Students rate an instructor on each performance indicator according to a 5-point Likert scale: 1=Poor, 2=Not Very Good, 3=Adequate, 4=Very Good, and 5=Excellent. Based upon independent assessments of instructor performance and reviews of past student evaluations, College managers interpret the ratings on each performance indicator as follows: Ɣ 4.25 + Excellent Ɣ 4.00 - 4.25 Superior Ɣ 3.75 – 4.00 Good to Very Good Ɣ 3.50 – 3.75 Acceptable Ɣ 3.25 – 3.50 Below Standard: Needs improvement Ɣ < 3.25 Below Standard: Take action Guiding Questions At this point in time, the College managers are confronted with a variety of issues concerning instructor performance. These issues have potentially important implications for decision-making. Some of the issues include the following: Ɣ How well do first-time instructors perform relative to their peers in their first term and over time? What implications does this have for instructor selection and induction?


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Do ratings on projects in the PBL Capstone track demonstrate the claimed advantages of problem-based learning? What are the implications of your findings for this track and for the overall curriculum? Do instructors who teach multiple courses perform consistently or differently across courses taught? What implications do your findings have for instructor assignment and professional development? What are the distinguishing attributes, if any, of instructors who perform at 4.25 or above on average? What actions could be taken to grow more instructors who possess these characteristics? Is poor instructor performance a problem? If so, what is the extent of the problem and what actions, if any, should CMMU take with instructors who scored below 3.50 on the Overall Instructor Rating during the past year?

Project Tasks As a team of consultants, you will analyze and make sense of the data to gain meaningful knowledge that will give the client organization clear insights into problems and opportunities related to instructor performance. Based on this knowledge, you will recommend appropriate actions to the management. You will then present your recommendations, which are clearly supported by the knowledge that you have derived, to the organization in a professional consulting presentation accompanied by a consulting report. The consulting report contains the outputs from the entire project, constructed in accordance with the structure and style prescribed in this project. This product is the material that the team uses as the basis for the final presentation of their findings and recommendations to the clients. Using this Problem in the PBL Capstone Each student team works on one of the guiding questions or a suitable question that they define themselves after considering the problem scenario and reviewing the data set. In many cases, we also bring in one of the College managers and allow the teams to ask questions concerning his or her perception of different issues and problems that the teams are considering. In other instances, the teams contact College managers independently to make similar inquiries or to follow up on issues of particular interest. Over the course of several terms during which we used this version of the project, teams have over time addressed a wide range of relevant issues. The purpose of providing a set of guiding questions in this project is to ensure that teams in the same class address different problems within the scope of their projects. The Performance Based Faculty Improvement problem has proved to be a stimulating problem for students to address because of several factors:


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Students are familiar with the nature of the information incorporated into the data set since they themselves generate the data by evaluating their instructors term by term. Instructor’s performance is highly relevant to students; this provides a clear motivation for them to search for the answers. (Note however that we protect the innocents by sanitizing the data in such a way that students do not know the performance of any particular instructor.) The data set changes every term with the addition of new evaluations, so answers to the questions will also vary in details for each group of students going through this project during the terms in which we use this problem. The data are available within the College and, with sanitization, are not confidential. We thus save the effort of seeking suitable data from external sources who fear for the confidentiality of their corporate data. Last but not least, the output from the project is of real use to the College, the students’ client organization. The College’s academic administrators use the results to gain a deeper understanding of issues concerning the overall performance of our instructors. LEARNING PROCESS

Overview of the Learning Process We have designed the D2i project to incorporate a structured, fact-based problemsolving method. The process consists of five steps: 1. Problem definition, 2. Problem decomposition, 3. Data collection, 4. Analysis and synthesis, 5. Communication of findings. The first two steps provide a context for transforming data into knowledge in order to find, understand, and solve an organizational problem. They represent the “why we need the knowledge” and the “what data will lead to the knowledge” parts of D2i. Data collection, step three, is not executed in this project; it is, however, included for completeness since it is normally a significant feature in process of solving problems in the workplace.6 The essence of D2i, “transforming raw data into knowledge to solve a problem” and “communicating the solution effectively”, is found in steps four and five. It should be noted that in D2i students conduct simple data analysis only (e.g., descriptive statistics, trends, correlations); in-depth statistical analysis remains outside the scope of our learning objectives. Even though students can easily grasp the structure and the processes presented in D2i, executing these processes is tantamount to learning how to think clearly, logically, and analytically. This type of learning is more effectively achieved through repeated experience of performing relevant tasks with feedback. We thus devote a


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significant amount of class time to a combination of team practice and instructor feedback. This follows an explanation of concept, technique, and tools conveyed through a mini-lecture after students have attempted to execute each element themselves. We deliberately choose mini-lectures rather than reading assignments because we want students to spend time outside class on thinking and debating. Note, however, that the mini-lectures take place after the problem has been presented and during the process of problem formulation and problem solving. The Example Case Problem In order to facilitate practice of the analytical skills noted above, we have also created a simple problem for group discussion, the Example Case, which encompasses the entire problem-solving process from Problem Definition to Communication of Findings. The case involves a baked goods manufacturer who found that sales during the latest quarter have noticeably and inexplicably dropped from the same sales period in the previous year. The CEO is concerned because their sales have typically been predictable and seasonal, i.e., flat during normal periods with peaks during festive seasons. The marketing department has responded with a proposal to immediately launch a marketing campaign to stimulate demand. The CEO has asked all department heads to investigate their areas of responsibility for possible causes of the problem before he makes a decision on funding the proposed campaign. The company has quarterly data for the previous two years covering sales by products, product categories, sales regions, and sales channels. Students, acting as the department heads, analyze these data to investigate possible causes of the sales drop related to their individual areas of responsibility. Armed with facts revealed by the data, the departmental heads then share their knowledge to identify the cause of the problem. Students discover the root cause only when they share their knowledge and synthesize the facts from their separate investigations. They then develop a presentation to communicate and defend their conclusion and recommendations to the CEO. Students follow the structured problem-solving process, applying techniques and tools to the Example Case to find the answer to the problem. They develop an output for each step, which they share with the rest of the class. The instructor gives feedback to each team to correct misunderstandings and suggest improvements. The whole class is involved during the feedback session, thus encouraging them to learn from each other. The case serves as a simple vehicle for students to apply the desired framework. We also embed additional lessons-learned features into the design for students to discover by themselves. These include the value of information and knowledge sharing in problem solving; the discovery that some data are irrelevant and some analyses may not contribute to the conclusion; the realization that although intuition may be necessary in decision-making, experience and gut instinct alone may not necessarily lead to good decisions.


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The Main Project Problem For their own out-of-class project, each team either selects one of the Guiding Questions or formulates their own question for approval by the instructor. This ensures that the focal problem issue can be answered from the data set, and that it does not duplicate an issue being pursued by another team. Teams work on their project problems largely outside of class. Their projects must progress in line with what they learn in class and be completed in time for the final presentation in Session Six. As noted elsewhere in this volume, we emphasize the use of time management and project management in our graduate program, and expect students to use these tools during this project. We monitor progress by requiring each team to present examples of project outputs to demonstrate the application of what they learned from the previous class sessions. This ensures that the teams make continuous progress, rather than waiting to the last moment to develop their deliverables. It also enables the instructor to assess the level of students’ understanding and provide timely feedback. This learning process also enables students to improve their deliverables in several iterative steps. Schedule of the Learning Process Session One: Introduction, Problem Definition, Problem Decomposition In the first session we set the scene by presenting students with a small table of a company’s performance data (i.e., two years of sales data summarized by regions from the baked goods manufacturer in our Example Case). The students explore the data to discover what they can learn about the business performance of this company. Students would typically describe sales as seasonal and identify regions with the highest and lowest sales. Half of the class would also realize that, when comparing each quarter with the same quarter in the previous year, sales have risen slowly except in the latest quarter where sales have noticeably dropped. At this stage very few students, if any at all, would draw graphs to visualize the data and to communicate what they are able to learn from the data. Next we introduce the 5-step D2i process, the Problem Definition framework and the Problem Decomposition technique. Students define the key problem for the Example Case and then decompose this main question into successively smaller questions to reach a complete set of logically distinct, non-overlapping, simple questions. This is known as an Issue Tree. It forms a framework for determining what questions to pursue in order to arrive at a robust solution to the problem. This in turn sets the scope for data collection and serves as a road map for subsequent data analysis. There may be several valid ways of breaking a problem apart, but students must ensure that their Issue Trees contain branches that are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (abbreviated to MECE and pronounced “mee-see” among consulting professionals). The basic objective of being MECE is to miss nothing and to avoid confusion. This however does not necessarily mean that everything has to be investigated to the same depth. The ability to eliminate branches that do not matter in


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order to concentrate on ones that do matter is a skill that speeds up the problemsolving process.

Internal causes of decline? Why have sales declined in Q2 2002 versus the same quarter last year?

Product changes?

Changes in pricing?

Reduced production levels in products?

Changes in taste or look of products?

Changes in product mix? Distribution changes?

External causes of decline?

Changes in competitive environment? Changes in consumer tastes? Changes in behavior of distributors? Changes in macroeconomic environment?

Any reduction in # of distributors by type? Change in regional focus of distribution? New competitors in market? Changes in product range of competitors? Any distributors stopped carrying the products? Changes in how distributors sell products?

Figure 1. Sample Issue Tree

Although most students readily grasp the Issue Tree concept, many find it difficult to apply the first time. This is only to be expected since the ability to develop an Issue Tree comes with practice; even those who use it regularly still produce several versions before they are satisfied with the result. We discuss and offer feedback on the teams’ output and provide a sample issue tree to use as the basis for the next step. An example of an Issue Tree for our sales drop problem is shown in Figure One. During this first session students also receive the project materials including the project data set that they download from our e-learning system. To give a clear indication of the performance standards that we expect, students also receive a complete set of assessment rubrics for this project. We end the session by specifying the project deliverable to be completed for the next session. Session 2 - Data Source, Data Analysis We start the second session by demonstrating how the questions at the lowest level of an issue tree serve as the roadmap for data collection and research in a problemsolving process. Students then use the Example Case issue tree to identify the data required to answer the case questions and the possible sources of the data. For example, take the question, ‘Has the company reduced production levels in all or some products?’ The data needed to address this question could come from multiple sources including be the company’s sales and returns database, and an interview with the Production Manager.


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Students, using the Issue Tree as the roadmap, then explore the Example Case data to identify facts that are relevant to the questions in the case. They use Microsoft Excel7 to manipulate the data and create various graphic forms to visualize what the data tell them. At this stage they concentrate on looking for facts and produce their graphs in a rough form. The teaching assistant provides a quick tutorial on Excel functions if students are unfamiliar with particular tools (e.g., pivot tables, graphing functions, and simple statistical tools). Figure Two shows an example of typical output at this stage.

Product sales Q2 2002 vs Q2 2001 1200 1000

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Figure 2: Sample Graph Session three: Chart Selection, Chart Design, Interpretation and Synthesis In the third session we introduce more sophisticated charts for producing graphical representations of information, both quantitative and non-quantitative. We discuss the selection and design of charts with a view to accelerate the communication of business information to the audience. Students then proceed to interpret the results of their analyses and state each point they wish to communicate in a clear and concise sentence that is meaningful to their question. Two examples of interpreted results with clearly communicated messages are shown below. In Figure Three, the message is interpreted from and supported by information displayed in a scatter plot graph. In Figure Four, the message is interpreted from a more sophisticated graphical display known as a Waterfall Chart. Note, again that this project focuses on enabling students to find and define problems through the use of simple statistics and graphical displays. We encourage them to look for problems by displaying patterns and trends using tools that are readily at-hand in programs such as MS Excel.


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In Q2 2002 all products but hazel nut cookie show strong sales correlation with past Q2 sales

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Figure 3. Interpreted Analysis Captured in a Scatterplot

Figure 4. Interpreted Analysis Captured in a Waterfall Chart

Students, each assuming the role of a Department Head, then assemble as a management team to figure out what all the analyses tell them. They assemble the relevant pieces of information from each individual into a coherent picture that leads them to a conclusion and recommendation for their Example Case problem. At this stage they have arrived at a solution to the problem defined in the first session that they can support with facts, each fact visually explained via a chart that is clear and appropriate. Session Four: Presentation Structure We devote the fourth session to structuring answers to questions into a logical and convincing presentation using a presentation technique known as the Pyramid Principle.8 This powerful aid forces and reinforces logic in the whole process of


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“thinking out what to say” before communicating it in words. The technique assumes that the formulation of ideas for effective communication represent a pyramid structure under a single main point. This main idea forms a sentence summarizing the purpose of the entire communication, a “stone” at the top of the pyramid (see Figure Four). This main point is subsequently clarified by a number of major ideas/reasons at the next level; each of these major ideas is in turn explained by minor or supporting ideas further down the pyramid structure. Each stone in the pyramid represents only one logical argument or idea. Logic flows horizontally with all the ideas being at the same level of abstraction or detail. Ideas further down the structure represent descending level of abstraction. The stones in a pyramid must also be Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive (MECE). Students apply this technique to develop a structure of a presentation to communicate their recommendation to the Example Case problem. The stones at the bottom level of their pyramid are the interpreted facts learned from their analyses of the data. Each stone further up the structure is a single sentence summary resulting from their synthesis of a set of logically related facts. At the top of the pyramid is the answer to the question “Why have sales declined in Q2 2002 versus the same quarter last year?”

Figure 4: Sample of Pyramid Structure

Session 5 - Presentation Storyline, Presentation Delivery In the fifth session, students translate a pyramid into a presentation and review specific presentation skills. They complete the Example Case by transforming the tree-like structure of a pyramid developed in the previous session into a slide-byslide PowerPoint presentation. They first use a storyboard to visualize the logical flow of the text and graphical slides, then complete the message and contents of each slide, and finally improve the text and visual quality of the slides. The next part of the fifth session is a brief discussion on delivery of the presentation. The purpose is to review and highlight characteristics and good practices in a professional business presentation so that students can practice before the project presentation in the final session. Session Six: Examination, Project Presentation The sixth session is devoted to a one-hour examination followed by a 20 minute project presentation by each student team. The instructor evaluates student presentation skills during the presentation. At the end of the session, teams submit their reports, peer evaluation, talk-back sheet and instructor evaluation.


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Facilitating the Learning Processes: Role of the Instructor and Teaching Assistant The key role of the instructor in the D2i project is to provide regular personal feedback to students and to ensure through mini-lectures and class practice that students understand concepts which they commonly find difficult to grasp. The teaching assistant (TA) essentially provides technical support to students in their use of computerized systems which underpin the analysis and presentation. This project requires intensive feedback from the instructor at all stages of the process, not only during class and after class following the teams’ weekly presentations, but even more so for the project deliverables. The instructor needs to understand the project problems and to follow the thinking and reasoning of each student group in order to be able to comment on the quality of the team’s analysis and synthesis. With the restricted class size of 24 and four to five students per team, we still typically end up with five or six project teams per class. The workload on the instructor during the six-week period is akin to supervising the same number of Independent Study projects concurrently. Another challenge for the instructor is to provide good feedback without leading students along the thought path that s/he would have taken her/himself. In D2i we put the students into a situation in which they have to solve a problem in a rigorous and structured manner. This requires an analytical ability that most people do not naturally demonstrate. The ambiguity and ensuing anxiety experienced by students presents a temptation on some instructors to be too directing in their desire to help the students. We use teaching assistants to tutor and support students in their use of computer software; although all of our students are “familiar” with MS Excel, relatively few have used the advanced functions that are required in this PBL project. In addition, the TA prepares the problem data set so that the data are presented to students in a form that they can easily manipulate and analyze. As we change the problem data set regularly and also sanitize data in some cases, this can be a significant workload for the TA. TAs with suitable qualifications and training can also assist with certain aspects of the feedback and assessment. Our TAs have Master degrees and have learned D2i, thus we also involve them in some feedback and assessment tasks. The use of a rubric has also made it possible for a TA to assist in grading student examinations after a period of calibration with the instructor. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES At a holistic level the Data to Intelligence project is a practical realization of a conceptual framework on how organizations use information strategically, implemented through methods and tools developed from practical experience of consultants. According to Choo:9 Current thinking in management and organization theory emphasizes three distinct arenas in which creation and use of information plays a strategic role in determining an organization’s capacity to grow and adapt. Ɣ Firstly, organizations interpret information about the environment in order to construct meaning about what is


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happening to the organization and what the organization is doing. Secondly, they create new knowledge by converting and combining the expertise and know-how of their members in order to learn and innovate. Finally, they process and analyze information in order to select and commit to appropriate courses of action.

Within this understanding of how organizations use information, D2i focuses on the strategic use of information for problem solving and decision making. The PBL project does not address the innovation aspect of knowledge usage, but its scope extends to include effective communication of knowledge. The approaches used in D2i are based on techniques and tools originally developed and practiced at the strategic consulting firm McKinsey and Company. Their successful application of these techniques has led to worldwide adoption by consulting companies and numerous other organizations. The D2i problem-solving process is a simplified and abbreviated version of McKinsey’s fact-based problemsolving approach.10 The solution communication techniques are based on the Pyramid Principle, a structured communication method developed by Minto while she was a consultant at McKinsey. In our project we employ charts, graphical presentations of information, as the primary vehicle in communicating conclusions and recommendation. We base our guidance to students on the work of Zelazny,11 who also developed his guide to presentation design while at McKinsey. While we wish for students to learn how to employ these practical methods and techniques for solving problems, we also recognize that some of the skills developed in D2i are tacit in nature. These tacit skills include intuition, judgment, commonsense which constitute the capability to do something without being able to explain how to do it; tacit skills cannot always be reduced to rules and recipes. These skills are learned through extended periods of personally “living” through or experiencing an activity during which the individual develops a feel and a capacity to perform and to judge a successful outcome of the activity. This recognition led to a basic design principle of D2i in which we construct repeated practices with personal feedback. We believe that this can accelerate the development of these tacit skills in combination with explicit tools and techniques. LEARNING RESOURCES The learning resources for the Performance-Based Instructor Evaluation case given in this chapter include: Ɣ A brief background of the College of Management, Mahidol University, with a focus on our approach to quality instruction. Ɣ Description of CMMU’s Instructor Evaluation and the standard used to classify instructor’s performance levels Ɣ Guiding questions indicating the management’s current areas of interest in conducting instructor evaluations Ɣ Copy of the Instructor Evaluation Form


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Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ

Description of the structure of the Evaluation data set Data set containing typically over 3 years (9 terms) of evaluation data Computer software for data analysis, presentation and graphics Mini-lectures provided by the instructor Product assessment rubrics.

Relevant information regarding these learning resources is given under The Problem section of this chapter. The most valuable and crucial of all learning resources are the instructors themselves. They must be completely familiar with and have actually practiced the approach and techniques themselves for some time. This necessarily means instructors with consulting background who are also capable of transferring tacit skills to students. We consider ourselves fortunate that we have instructors who fit these descriptions. In our view a successful implementation depends largely on having suitable instructors. One point that we would also note here is that teaching D2i to students is more challenging than training or coaching new consultants. While consulting companies recruit their new hires first and foremost on the basis of their analytical ability, we do not have that luxury in the general population of our students. Another learning resource worth noting is a representative from the organization in the project case. For the Instructor Evaluation case we had the College executive responsible for quality improvement and for a case based on PBL instruction we had the manager overseeing the implementation of PBL courses. They visited the class in the second session to answer questions from student teams. There is no mandatory reading for this project. What needs to be learned and can be learned from reading actually develops more successfully from practice with feedback. These we have summarized the relevant knowledge in a series of concise presentations that we introduce during the mini-lectures; students learn by elaborating and practicing these techniques and tools. In view of the severe time constraints under which we operate, we accept that we have traded off self-directed reading and research in favor of students spending the available time on group idea generation, analysis and synthesis with feedback. STUDENT PRODUCTS AND ASSESSMENT As in other PBL projects, the student products include a combination of individual and team products, reviews and assessments. With the focus on developing individual student’s ability to think logically through problems and creating skills in analysis, synthesis and communication of complex ideas, the assessments in this project thus consist of 60% individual evaluation and 40% team evaluation. The student products included in this project are listed below in Table One.


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Table 1. Assessment Products Team Product 1. Consulting Report

40%

Individual Products 2. Presentation Skills 3. Final Examination 4. Team Participation

10% 40% 10%

The instructor evaluates the first three products, while students evaluate their peers for their levels of team participation. We have designed project-specific rubrics for the first three products and adopted the peer evaluation rubrics in common with other projects for Team Participation. We include all of the assessment rubrics in the student’s Learning Resources from the beginning of the project. Thus students know from the outset how they will be evaluated and what level of performance they are expected to achieve. Consulting Report Each student team, acting as consultants, develops and submits a professional consulting report. The report contains actionable recommendations based on the conclusions that they have drawn from the analysis and synthesis data about the problem. It is the sum total of the entire assignment, constructed in accordance with the structure and style prescribed in this project. This product is the basis from which the team draws their final presentation. The report is in the form of PowerPoint slides, as commonly used by consulting companies. Although the report appears like a presentation rather than a written text, we require it to be free-standing. That is the whole report, though concise, must be self explanatory to a reader; it must state the case clearly without a need for further explanations. Students submit both the soft file and the printed versions of the report. Our rubrics assess the consulting report on the following characteristics: Ɣ Value to the business in terms of provision of actionable recommendations for the business problems; convincing rationale; accuracy, depth, and breadth of analyses. Ɣ Its effectiveness in conveying complex ideas so that it can be easily and quickly absorbed by the readers. Particular considerations include clarity of thoughts, structure and flow of logic and the storyline, the way the ideas are stated, completeness of messages, and visual quality of the report. Presentation Skills Each team gives a twenty-minute presentation of the team’s findings and recommendations to the audience of one or more instructors, in the role of clients, and the rest of the class. The materials presented are the key points from their Consulting Report. The presentation concludes with a question and answer session. We assess student presentation skills based on the following criteria:


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Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ Ɣ

Visual - how the presenter appears to the audience in terms of professional appearance and mannerism, body position and body language, level of interaction with the audience; Verbal - what the presenter says and how s/he says it; Vocal - their speech in terms of flow, fluency, voice level, speed of delivery; Understanding of the presented contents.

Final Examination Students sit for a one-hour examination at the end of the project. The objective is to assess each individual student’s comprehension of the lessons learned in this project. The exam asks the students to recommend a decision or to provide the answer to a specific business question based on facts that they learn from analyzing a set of business data. The data tables given in these exams are very small but they provide enough facts to answer the question. In view of the limited time, we provide data in a form that students can derive the necessary facts without performing any calculations. The data set also has to be simple to envision since students are not allowed to use computers in the exam. The exam focuses on assessing each student’s ability to analyze data, to seek the facts in the data which are relevant to the question, to communicate those facts in terms of meaningful business messages supported by charts and graphs created from the data set, and then to structure the messages into a short presentation-style report that gives a clear and convincing answer to the question. Our rubrics assess the student’s answer as follow: Ɣ The answer addresses the decision directly and is a synthesis of the information incorporating all the facts derivable from the given data. Ɣ The conclusion is convincing, clearly supported by facts with a good flow of logical arguments. Ɣ Each chart clearly and concisely expresses a single message which is directly supported by the visual explanation in terms of the graphical body of the chart. Ɣ The chart itself accurately represents the data, is well-drawn and the chart type is suitable for conveying the desired message. Peer Evaluation This assesses student participation in teams during the development of the Consulting Report. It is based on the Team Participation rubric used in the College and described elsewhere in this book. Students use this rubric to give an overall assessment of their experience in working with their teammates, together with more detailed assessments including leadership quality, responsibility, quality of work and team cooperation.


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STUDENT RESPONSE Students experience a challenge in learning to think logically, in depth and in breadth, in order to extract business meaning from a seemingly meaningless collection of numbers. They must also develop an increased clarity of thought in order to clearly and simply communicate the insights gained to an audience. Students of this project fall into two categories - those with natural or previously learned analytical ability and those without. Their learning outcome depends more on their analytical achievement developed through the structured process of D2i than on their GPAs. Both groups appreciate the value of what they have learned from this project, but to different degrees as observed from their responses to the project. The responses of the “non-analytical group” tend to focus on an immediate, visible and explicit level (e.g., “learning how to design effective graphical presentations”, “gaining skills in software tools”). The analytical group shows deeper appreciation for being challenged to develop a more systematic approach to their tacit understanding or practice (e.g., “numbers can give knowledge about business situation”, “gain practical experience of problem-solving based on facts”, “improve my analytical thinking”, “improve ability in organizing my thoughts”, “enhance my ability to deliver messages clearly and convincingly”). Since we base the D2i process on a consulting approach to problem solving, there have also been responses that we did not expect (e.g., “it helps me get a picture of how consultants actually work, therefore I realize that I don’t want to work for consulting companies” and “what I was asked in my consulting job interview were all in D2i”). Below is a list of comments that we regularly receive from students: Ɣ “Difficult” - The most common feedback, including from the best and the brightest, is that it is “very difficult because we have to think so much”. At the risk of being regarded sadistic, we take this feedback as a pleasing confirmation that our fundamental objective for this project has been satisfied. Ɣ “A lot of work & time too short” - When asked what should be omitted from the project, their responses are invariably “nothing”. Some responses have been more explicitly positive (e.g., “A lot of work but worth it”), while others are more drastic (e.g., “This module should be called D2D for Done to Death”). Ɣ “Very useful and totally applicable at work and in school” - Students always tell us how readily they can apply the skills learned to their jobs; a few proudly reported how senior managers appreciate their D2i approach in communicating information and have instructed other staff to follow their approach. Applicability at school has also been noted (e.g., “helps with projects in other classes”, “obvious which groups in our class have been through D2i”, “should learn this at the beginning rather than at the end of our program”). Despite our discomfort, students do base their course selection, at least in part, on the experiences of their peers. To date D2i has gained a reputation among our


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students of being one of the most difficult PBL projects among the seven that we currently offer. Nonetheless, student registration has been steady. We conclude that a good number of students do appreciate the value gained from learning D2i. ADAPTATION FOR THE LOCAL CONTEXT Evolution of the Project as a PBL Capstone Project D2i originated from a small topic that we taught in one three-hour session of the Business Intelligence course in one of our Master of Management specializations. The only objectives of the session were: 1) to draw studentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s attention to the fact that they must select a type of graph or chart that suits the data and the message that they want to express, and 2) to teach students techniques for developing high quality charts to convey business information. These skills, though much needed, are noticeably absent among most business professionals with whom we interact in our local business community. As its utility became more evident, we decided to make the topic available to students in all other programs through the PBL Capstone. Given the limited time for the preparation of the original project, we used the only viable and sizable set of data that we had available â&#x20AC;&#x201C; our own instructor evaluation data. In the original version, we did not impose the problem-solving structure on the process. Our instructions to the students were simply to discover what they could learn about instructorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s performance from the data. This resulted in many teams discovering the same information, mainly in the forms of trends and averages. Only a few groups went beyond these superficial analyses even though the data were rich enough to support deeper investigations. This led to the addition of instructor-led questions to differentiate investigations by the teams and to force an adequate depth into each investigation. Having run the project with the original contents a few times, we could see that the way we were managing class time would allow us to add the problem-solving front-end to the project. The project would then cover all the fact-based problemsolving process. This would also provide a context for the core data transformation and the communication of findings. We thus arrived at the current contents of the project. Adapting the Problem Content Adapting D2i for the local context simply means using problem cases and data sets that are meaningful to the learners in their own environment. The structure, methods and tools that students learnt to employ are already in use worldwide. Finding a data set that works well contributes significantly to a successful implementation of this project. On the one hand the data are merely a vehicle for students to practice their thinking and communication skills in solving business problems; therefore, any business data should do. But the challenge is to strike a balance between ensuring ease of understanding of the business context in the case, and providing a significant


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challenge in making sense of data from a rich and extensive data set that reflects what happens in normal business situations. We offer below the approach we use and the factors that we consider in our development of the problem. Ɣ Data first, then problem: We select a suitable data set first and then design the rest of the problem around the data. Although this is a reverse of the class process, it simplifies the case development. Since we need to ensure that the data set contains enough facts to logically and convincingly solve the problem, we start by selecting a probable data set and exploring what the data tell us. We then form conclusions from what we have learned and then develop problem questions that would be of interest to managers for which answers can be derived from the synthesis of the discovered facts. Ɣ Familiar business context: The business context should be familiar to the learner group so that lack of business understanding would not hamper the problem-solving process. For example a case that requires significant understanding of a problem at a financial firm would not be suitable for non-finance managers. In addition, the context which is of interest or is familiar from past experience of learners would provide a good start and a clear motivation to pursue the answers. Ɣ Well-bounded problem: Many business problems that learners will face in real life are vague. But given the time limitations and the emphasis of the project, the problems should be ones for which the learners can readily understand the problem context and proceed to defining the problem boundaries. Ɣ Size of data set: The data set needs to be large and extensive enough to exhibit patterns such as trends and inter-relationships, but not so large that the data management and analysis tasks become the primary focus. The Performance-based Faculty Improvement case described under the problem section fits the above descriptions and has been one of our most heavily used problems to date. Our own executives have used recommendations from the class to take actions on improving our faculty performance including: Ɣ Conclusions concerning the performance of first-time instructors led to changing our selection process to include teaching a sample lesson. Ɣ Performance trends that compared faculty who teach alone with the performance of faculty in shared subjects led to a requirement for faculty members joining a course that used a “common curriculum” to observe the subject for one term prior to joining the team. Ɣ Student feedback indicated that class handouts were of inconsistent quality and format across subjects and instructors, which led to policy changes on College expectations for class handouts. Ɣ Early student feedback indicating that instructors in the PBL Capstone projects were not assessing student practical understanding to a higher degree than in other classes led to changes in our approach to assessment.


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Differences in the performance of first-time instructors as well as experienced instructors teaching a subject for the first time led to the implementation of a formal though abbreviated mid-term evaluation for these groups of instructors. We have also implemented our own adaptations for the local context when we offer subsets of D2i in our corporate training programs for managers from specific organizations. Thus far, these have included the Thai Ministry of Education and International Mine Action Centers. For the Ministry of Education we used a problem data set drawn from the centralized university entrance test results and student’s Grade Point Average (GPA) from their secondary schools. The problem data set used with the Mine Action managers consisted of land mine survey data from a country suffering from unexploded ordnance. The managers use facts learned from the data to formulate a prioritized action plan for clearing the affected areas. The adaptation of the project to these situations confirms for us that this approach can be employed to assist managers in learning to apply knowledge from “global sources” in virtually any “local context.” CONCLUSION This chapter has described the design and experience of using a PBL project on transforming data into intelligence to make business decisions. Business problems that fall within the scope of this project are both common and of increasing importance to organizations of all types. Indeed, the skillful use of information for making informed, intelligent decisions and the ability to communicate the basis for such decisions to stakeholders have over the past decade achieved the status of management fundamentals. Unfortunately, we find far too few management graduates who are able to demonstrate these capacities in practice. This was the purpose of designing this PBL project. We conclude the chapter by noting four characteristics that we believe have contributed to making this a successful PBL project: Ɣ Complexity and credibility of the problems: The problems that naturally reside in the data sets around which we construct this project appear as credible to our students. Moreover, the complexity of the problems is only revealed to the students as they begin to mine the data for issues and then synthesize these with facts arising from the business context. Together credibility and complexity form a powerful motivator able to stimulate and maintain student interest and effort over a sustained period of time. Ɣ Direct Experience: Very few people are born with a natural gift to be analytical and logical. We only develop these action-based analytical skills through repeatedly experiencing and practicing complex relevant tasks with formative feedback given in face-to-face discussions. Ɣ Applicability: The learning addressed by this project is widely applicable. Finding and understanding problems and making decisions represent a large portion of what managers do; structured problem


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solving increases the efficiency of time-consuming, dispersed activities. The ability to make sense of data and communicate ideas clearly and simply are valuable everywhere. Thus the learning in this project is potentially useful to a variety of professions and at all levels of organizations. Irrespective of their prior analytical abilities, the learners gain knowledge and skills that they can apply now, and that will serve them throughout their careers and their lives. Experience of the instructors: In addition to the author, four other instructors have taught this project, each with high levels of success in terms of student performance and feedback. Notably, each of these instructors has had extensive prior experience as a consultant, most in the domain of strategic management. This suggests that replication and adaptation of the project in other settings using “local” data sets by other instructors is feasible if they possess the right combination of knowledge and experience.

NOTES 1

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The current D2i module is based on the design concept and materials which have been developed and gradually modified into the current version by a team of instructors at the College of Management, Mahidol University. The author and Tanai Charinsarn were the original developers, with Rhonda Hollinberger subsequently providing further ideas and input. The author wishes to acknowledge the significant contributions of these two instructors in the development and improvement of this module. Senge, P.M. (1990). The fifth discipline – The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday. Gates, W.H. (1999). Business @ the speed of thought. London: Penguin Books. Drucker, P. (1998). The next information revolution. Forbes, 62(4), 47. Hallinger, P., & Snidvongs, K. (2002, December). Chun rup mai dai: Implementing performance-based faculty teaching evaluation in Thailand. Paper presented at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Institutions of Higher Learning, Bangkok, Thailand. See for example, Chapter 10, New Product Positioning, in which students must collect and analyze data to understand a marketing problem. We have also considered the use of more sophisticated Business Intelligence software such as Cognos, developed by Kinsey & Kinsey (see cognos.com). However, we see two drawbacks. First, we remain uncertain whether it is more useful for our students to be exposed to the more powerful software programs, or to develop capability in the use of a program that is and is likely to be on the computers they use at their workplace. Second, while these Business Intelligence programs are more powerful in terms of their overall capabilities, they are actually more difficult to use for the types of charting and graphing functions in which we are especially interested for this project. Minto, B. (2002). The pyramid principle, 3rd edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.


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Choo, C.W. (1998). The knowing organization: How organizations use information to construct meaning, create knowledge, and make decisions. London: Oxford University Press. Rasiel, E. M. (1999). The McKinsey way: Using the techniques of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s top strategic consultants to help you and your business. New York: McGraw-Hill. See also Rasiel, E. M. & Friga, P.N. (2002). The McKinsey mind: Understanding and implementing the problem-solving tools and management techniques of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s top strategic consulting firm. New York: McGraw-Hill. Zelazney, G. (2001). Say it with charts, 4th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.


CHAPTER 11 NEW PRODUCT POSITIONING ABSTRACT This chapter presents a problem-based learning project on New Product Positioning. The PBL project is organized around a problem that challenges students to determine how they would position a newly launched brand in a competitive market. This requires students to develop an understanding of consumer motivations and their implications for positioning the new brand. Each student team designs and uses a questionnaire to measure and explore consumer motivations towards buying their particular product. Their analysis of the data they collect is used to formulate a strategy for product positioning. This chapter describes this process and discusses design considerations.1

INTRODUCTION Over the past decade, the marketing landscape has changed in two significant ways. First, the spread of “free trade” has made the local marketplace in all nations increasingly competitive. Second, more and more companies are crossing borders and launching products and services in other countries and regions of the world. Companies that sell exclusively to domestic markets are likely to find themselves fighting to maintain local market share against international competitors. These facts of the changing global marketplace are as relevant to companies in Asia as in Europe and North America. Indeed, their relevance is further heightened for Asian firms, especially small and medium size companies (SMEs). These companies often find themselves competing against foreign firms whose marketing resources are more extensive and technologically sophisticated. While new product development always presents challenges, competitive pressures and emerging technologies can speed up the process. This serves to place greater importance on marketing intelligence and skills in understanding and utilizing market research to address marketing problems. Having previously worked as a market researcher for AC Nielsen (Thailand), the author continues to observe and encounter a marked lack of knowledge about the use of market research to understand business problems among firms in the Asian region. I have attended numerous meetings prefaced with the revelation that the client has never conducted any market research. This has occurred even with firms that have been in business for more than ten years and among local and regional market leaders. The application of quantitative methods (e.g., marketing engineering) to business practice also appears to lag behind in Asia. The owner’s or marketing manager’s

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intuition, prior experience, and personal beliefs rule over more systematic analysis when it comes to analyzing market situations and solving marketing problems. Moreover, when market research is employed, it tends to lack the analytical power needed to shed light on relevant issues. It is interesting to note that while this describes the status of most Asian SMEs, my experience with multi-national firms in the region suggests that the sophisticated use of market research is also limited in their marketing practice. As a practitioner-turned-academic, I created this PBL project with the aim of helping students see how they could employ market research skills in business situations they are likely to encounter in their careers. While the focal problem for the project concerns the positioning of a new product, the research tools and analytical approach that students learn are transferable to other management problems as well. Scholars, marketing gurus, and business consultants affirm that firms, whether selling products or services, should develop and promote competitive positioning as a business strategy.2 Many positioning strategies have been suggested as options, often with fervor and promise of success. Yet, there is often a gap between the rhetorical passion expressed for a particular strategy and the facts of the marketplace. Consumer research is the only way to obtain advance insight into whether a given positioning strategy is likely to motivate potential customers. Moreover, while publication of books touting the promise of different effective business strategies has boomed in recent years, the global marketplace itself is comprised of regions whose cultures vary on important dimensions. Companies must formulate strategies, not on the basis of a global business model, but on a deep, accurate understanding of their consumers in different markets. Thus, while strategy and marketing models may be broadly applicable, they must be employed with an understanding of the local context. Knowledge of how cultural differences influence consumer motivation becomes critically important, especially when launching new products in new markets. By way of example, for several years, McDonald’s (Thailand) has been running a promotion stating that, “Food orders will be delivered within 60 seconds, or you will receive a discount coupon for the purchase of a drink.” This promotion originated in the United States, which is considered a time-pressured society. Thailand, in contrast, is not; Thai people are accustomed to what they refer to as a sabai sabai or take it easy approach to daily life. Indeed, among Thai’s the characteristic of pushing hard to rush things to completion is known as jai raun or hot hearted. To refer to someone as jai raun in Thailand is not a compliment! Thus, this use of speed as a motivator is unlikely to achieve the desired effect of attracting customers among Thai consumers. If tested, McDonald’s would probably find their Food, Friends and Fun campaign much more successful at attracting Thai customers. This is based upon the strong motivation of Thai people for eating in groups and making the process of daily living fun and sociable. McDonalds is a well-established brand in the local Thai market. Thus, they probably attract sufficient customers, regardless of whether they are attracted to promises of rapid service. But what if instead of McDonalds, it was a new firm, or an established firm launching a new brand into the market? A misplaced strategy


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could have more significant implications for consumer acceptance. In this PBL project, students tackle the problem of determining how to position a new brand entering a competitive â&#x20AC;&#x153;localâ&#x20AC;? market. The market they encounter happens to be Thailand, but it could as easily be Buenos Aires, Tokyo or New York if students were learning in one of those locations. LEARNING OBJECTIVES This project was designed to provide students with an opportunity to learn about the development and use of marketing strategy. The learning objectives include: 1. To become familiar with the role of quantitative techniques and market research in understanding a business problem; 2. To develop an appreciation for the role that empirical market data can play in the design of a business strategy; 3. To be able to design a plan for collecting relevant information for understanding a business problem; 4. To understand and use conceptual constructs to design and implement a questionnaire for collecting data on consumer motivations; 5. To understand the concept and use of different positioning strategies; 6. To use the results of quantitative analysis of data on consumer motivations to formulate a positioning strategy for a new product. This project is delivered in a six-week format within the PBL Capstone track of our Master of Management program. Given the content and sequence of our M.M. curriculum, we do not assume that students have prior background in statistics, questionnaire design, or the use of SPSS. However, prior to studying this project, we do assume that all students will have completed courses in Strategic Marketing Management, Organizational Behavior, and Strategic Management. Thus, we are assured that students will be familiar with the concepts of strategic positioning, perceptual mapping, and cultural differences. Students studying this project come from all of our management majors. THE PROBLEM Problem Representation Originally when we designed the project, we wrestled with the issue of problem finding. We saw two choices: either provide a pre-packaged problem for students to analyze, or ask them to find their own problems within a common structure. Most of the other PBL projects used in our program give the students a pre-packaged problem about a company. Had we followed that approach, we would have provided descriptive information about a local company, its product, and its marketplace. In addition, given the objectives of the project, we would have included a data set containing information about a particular companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s potential customers. The students would analyze the data set and synthesize their understanding of the


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company, its potential customers, and other features of the competitive environment in order to formulate a positioning strategy. This type of project structure mirrors the approach to problem finding employed in the Data to Intelligence project discussed in Chapter Ten. As the authors delineate in Chapter Ten, this approach to problem finding has two distinct advantages. First, the instructor maintains a high degree of control over the content of the project (e.g., the company, nature of the problem(s), the data set). This ensures that the data set contains the type of information required for exploring key issues (i.e., in the instructorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mind) that might influence new product positioning. Second, by giving the data set to students they would be able to focus on analysis, interpretation and synthesis of the data. They would not have to use valuable time to plan for and collect the data themselves. This approach is both easier for the instructor to manage and higher in certainty for the instructor and students. Despite these advantages, and against the advice of our PBL coach, we decided to take a riskier approach, but one that we felt offered potentially higher benefits. We simply inform students that their role will be to develop and recommend a positioning strategy for a new product to a company. The students themselves will need to find the problem! This more open-ended approach incorporates features of the student-centered variant of PBL (see Chapters Two and Three). Note, however, that the student task is not completely open-ended. We pre-select a particular product category that will represent a common situation that all of the student teams in the class will face in positioning a new product. The product category changes term by term. In past terms, we have used ready-to-drink green tea, electrolyte beverages, fitness centers/gyms, technology products, energy drinks, soap, shampoo, and even bottled water. Introducing the Problem At the first class session, we break the students into teams of four to six students. We inform them that their project teams represent business consultants who have been hired by a local firm to develop and recommend a positioning strategy for a new product they are bringing into the Thai market. This problem, while abstract, is in our view typical of one that many businesses face: understanding their market and positioning products or services for maximum impact and competitive advantage. For example, in a recent term, we selected ready-to-drink (RTD) green teas as the product category. This was an appealing choice because the market for RTD green tea has shown explosive growth in the Thai market since its launch in 2001. Students are familiar with and interested in the product. They would like to know the reasons behind the productâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rapid acceptance in the local market and the implications for positioning other new products. We inform the teams that they are in the process of launching a new brand of RTD tea into the Thai market, which already has over thirty competing brands. The first week of class involves team brainstorming about the product category to consider not only types of products that already exist, but also ideas for variations. Subsequently they will design, administer and analyze the results of a consumer


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survey, and then draw upon this information to determine a positioning strategy for the product that they select. For example, a team could recommend a me too brand of RTD green tea. Alternatively they could recommend launching a new variant, perhaps slimming green tea, antioxidant rich healthy green tea, or green tea with organic fruit juice. Students can consider different competitive positioning strategies during their initial brainstorming, but final decisions will need to come from an understanding of the local market based upon empirical data describing the motivations of potential buyers. Since this information is not readily available, the teams will need to collect it from potential customers. This will require them to design questionnaires and collect data that provide insight into consumer motivations to buy this type of product and into potential acceptance of their product in the local market. Thus far, we have encouraged students to work with the assumption that they are launching a new brand, although the exercise would not change if they were allowed to consider line or brand extensions from brands already existing in the market. Therefore, while the product category (e.g., tea, water, shampoo) is the same for each of the teams in a given class, their brainstorming may lead them towards different variations. Even if teams select the same type of product, the motivations that emerge from their brainstorming are likely to differ. Moreover, even if their motivations have similarities, the way they develop their constructs and questions for the survey may differ. By the end of the project, even teams that find some overlap in product ideas and motivations will appreciate how their measures and results differed. They will also see how different positioning strategies can stem from a common beginning. We note that this approach localizes the problem to whatever the relevant context happens to be for the learners. Therefore, the instructor does not need to provide specific details about the business context. Similarly, as the task requires decisions related to positioning strategy, no details are necessary regarding the prospective company or budget, such as for advertising or other implementation activities. The instructor simply states that the firm requires a suitable positioning strategy for the new product within the selected category. To stimulate excitement about the opportunity, the size and growth of the market could be highlighted, but we have not done so thus far. By leaving the nature of the problematic situation ambiguous and ill-defined, uncertainty for the instructor and students increases. Similarly, asking students to design the questionnaire and create their own data sets increases uncertainty as to the quality of the information that the teams will use to make their decisions. Our instructor team chooses to view these features of the PBL project’s design as advantages rather than disadvantages. Although use of a fixed data set would make project implementation more manageable and consistent, we fear this approach could be too confining and static. We believed – and it has been confirmed for us – that working with ill-defined ‘live’ situations makes the project more dynamic for students and instructors. For instructors, it has the benefit of keeping us fresh and making the experience of teaching the project multiple times more fun. This, however, places greater demands on the instructor skill and adaptability in terms of


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managing several different live scenarios that are evolving simultaneously in a single classroom. LEARNING PROCESS This project requires a high degree of monitoring and feedback by the instructor in order to complete the desired activities in the six-week period of time that we allocate. The project is conducted in six class sessions spanning three hours each, typically structured such that 45 minutes to an hour is allocated to a mini-lecture on a specific topic, and the remainder utilized for hands-on work and assessment. It should be noted, in addition, that students complete a substantial portion of the project tasks outside of allocated class time. These tasks include designing the questionnaire, conducting fieldwork, data entry, and data analysis, as well as preparing the written report and presentation. Groups also discuss the project with the instructor outside of class, either via e-mail or actual meetings. Work Flow of the Project Completion of the project within the allocated time is always a challenge; thus students begin hands-on activities from the start of the first class. We provide an overview of the work flow below. Week One In the first week, we introduce students to the project problem. The students form teams, which address the problem: a blank product within the specified category. They must decide on â&#x20AC;&#x153;their productâ&#x20AC;? and how to position it. Teams brainstorm about existing and potential types of products within the category, and motivations consumers might have for buying that product. We encourage teams to exercise creativity, such that if they want to explore a new concept, they can shift their focus, as long as it remains within the category selected for their class. For example, when assigned RTD green tea, some teams came up with the idea for an herbal RTD tea, which did not yet exist at that time. One team selected an herbal white tea variant, explaining that most teas in the market were green, and that none currently had herbal formulas Potential motivations could revolve around the desire to consume healthy beverages, increase energy from the herbal formula, to lose weight, or enhance skin care. In another section using water as the focus, a group selected the category of herbal water, to match the current trends focusing on increased health consciousness and citing that there were no direct competitors. The instructor assesses student results, providing the teams with formative feedback. During this session, the instructor also provides a mini-lecture on product positioning. This includes a brief contrast of subjective versus objective methods of perceptual mapping. Students complete the brainstorming session during the first class period and submit their results to the instructor. Each group must select and justify one product idea and a list of potential consumer motivations to buy it.


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Week Two In the second week, the teams continue to refine their product ideas as well as seeking to identify relevant consumer motivations for their products. We suggest that the teams identify between four and six constructs that might motivate consumers when buying something from the product category of interest. For each construct, we ask them to develop five to seven questions or statements that will contribute to its measurement. The instructor provides a mini-lecture on questionnaire design and the use of scales to capture the constructs of interest. While the teams work on construct development, the instructor monitors their progress, focusing especially on the utility of their survey questions. Teams must submit their draft questionnaires within three days after this session. This allows the instructor time to go through them before the next class. This exercise is graded. Week Three In the third week, students work with the instructor feedback received on their constructs and questionnaires. The refine the constructs and questions, as needed, and seek to complete questionnaire design by the end of class. They are required to submit their final questionnaires no later than three days following completion of the class. During class we demonstrate how to set up a file for data entry. The teams prepare their files for data entry in SPSS, so that when fieldwork is completed, they will be ready to input the data. The data must be ready for analysis by Week Four. This requires the students conduct their survey fieldwork and complete data entry between the third and fourth weeks. In terms of sample size, we ask students to collect at least 50 completed questionnaires. While this is less than the true requirements for factor analysis, the teams are operating under severe time constraints. They have only three or four days for data collection and data entry. Thus, there is a tradeoff to be made. Moreover, the technique usually works, even with the smaller sample size. If it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, the software allows for increasing the number of iterations, which has always solved the problem. We wish for this class to focus primarily on understanding and applying the technique, so we accept the tradeoff and alert students to the potential consequences. We use a small portion of class time for a mini-lecture on data analysis, specifically on mapping techniques used in market research. Factor analysis is introduced, with a clarification that students will employ exploratory rather than confirmatory factor analysis. During this class, students also take their first quiz. This covers questionnaire writing and survey design, and runs roughly 45 minutes. Week Four In the fourth week, there is an in-class walk-through example of how to run exploratory factor analysis using SPSS. We have also designed a video clip student may access for further self-study. Students spend most of the class running factor


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analyses and interpreting the output. Data reduction requires that many steps be repeated, following specified criteria. Students do not finish within the class period, so they continue the process of data analysis outside of class. Week Five In the fifth week, the instructor gives a mini-lecture about perceptual maps and positioning strategies. Details are provided about expectations for the presentation in Week Six. Students take a 45 minute quiz covering factor analysis and spend the rest of the class session refining the output of their factor analyses and extending their analysis to include frequencies, means and cross-tabulations of their data. These will assist in selecting and supporting their positioning strategy. Week Six In this final session, the teams present their project results to the class and submit their report and data files to the instructor. The presentations begin with an overview of their brainstorming results, then move to potential motivations and how they set about measuring them. They show the class their initial constructs and measures, and contrast these with the results of their factor analysis. The results of the data analysis provide the basis for their positioning strategies. Positioning is plotted visually using perceptual maps, illustrating where their product would stand against direct and indirect competitors. Sample student presentations are available for viewing at www.cmmu.net/pbl. The class finishes with a summary of what was undertaken and completed in the project. The instructor also provides an overview of what else could be revealed by employing other analytic techniques (e.g., AR mapping or multiple regression). Finally we ask students to share their ideas about how they could apply what they have learned to their own business situations. Facilitating the Learning Process: Role of the Instructor The course has run with one instructor and one teaching assistant per class, but it is not uncommon for two instructors to be in the room, actively coaching student teams. In contrast to a traditional class comprised of lectures, cases, and discussion, this project environment emphasizes hands-on learning. The quizzes quickly reveal anyone who has not been contributing to group work, and this is highlighted in class to serve as a warning for potential free riders. We review the concept of problem-based learning from day one in class, highlighting the fact that initially they are apt to feel confused, and that such feelings are normal. Our students do rise to the task if they are sufficiently motivated. As a PBL novice myself, I observed several key sources of motivation to achieve that seem worthy of highlighting: x Studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; perception of the problemâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s relevance; x Perceived meaningfulness of the skills, tasks and products; x The instructorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tactical interventions with individuals and teams; x Accountability measures used in the project (i.e., quizzes, products);


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As a novice user of PBL, I find that the instructor must balance how much help is offered to the students along the way, versus maintaining distance and guiding them to find their own solutions. From my experience in teaching this project more than ten times, I do believe that students need a certain amount of guidance in developing new skills and accomplishing the required problem-solving tasks. However, the instructor must keep in mind that our role is to coach, and that students need to complete the tasks themselves. The instructor’s coaching tasks include clearly explaining the project goals, outlining the tasks to be undertaken and monitoring team progress. If a team falls behind in its project timeline, it will not be prepared for submission of products. Time management is essential for students, as well as the instructor. The instructor also shows students how tools may be applied to the task, answers questions and gives feedback as students work in their teams. Feedback is given both in class, and through e-mail, and at times through appointments made outside of class. Feedback from the instructor is a critical means of ensuring that the student-centered learning moves in the desired directions. Using a less structured project design also means that the instructor must be diligent in evaluating the questionnaire design, as the quality of the factor analysis will depend very much on the quality of their measures. Relatively few of our Master degree students are familiar with constructs, scales, or factor analysis. Moreover, because our students are second language learners in English, we have to carefully scrutinize the assumptions embedded in their survey questions. Therefore, the instructor must proofread survey questions and offer guidance to avoid a situation of garbage in, garbage out. There are common conceptual pitfalls, such as the difficulty of trying to explore ‘price’ as a motivation. If students write out specific prices, they will fail to capture a single construct, as answering one price will by definition exclude answering another. Hence factor analysis will not reveal a pattern of consistent responses. We tend to give examples of relevant constructs from marketing and consumer behavior, such as country of origin, sales proneness, or positive price signaling (i.e., higher priced products offer higher quality). Books of scales, such as those published by the American Marketing Association3 may also be useful in terms of showing an academic approach. Additionally, students can run into cross-loading problems due to overlapping meaning in their constructs, such as ‘high quality’ and ‘healthy’ (i.e., food or drink that is high quality may also be perceived as healthy). This problem is of value since it educates them to the importance of clearly defined constructs and measures. It may also demonstrate how findings that do not match our expectations may still be useful. The level of involvement of the TA depends very much upon the individual’s degree of knowledge of the material covered in the project. As strange as it might sound, in the Thai context students are generally unaccustomed to interacting directly with their instructor. Thus, students often feel more comfortable to talk to


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the TA. Yet, for this to succeed, the TA must be perceived as a credible source to answer questions, and also understand his or her role in a PBL context. Many PBL Capstone instructors find it difficult to finish the class on time. Students are caught up in their group work and want to continue their progress, making it somewhat awkward for the instructor to leave class! This tends to be most pronounced during data analysis and interpretation in Weeks Four and Five, and to a lesser extent during questionnaire design in Weeks Two and Three. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES AND LEARNING OUTCOMES Every marketing text teaches that successful marketing is about satisfying consumer wants and needs. While consumer behavior scholars offer theories as to what motivates consumers, there are always differences arising from markets, people, culture, and a variety of other things. One cannot understand consumer wants and needs without conducting research. Many companies make products or services available simply because they can do so, meaning they are product or technology driven, rather than market driven. Although their role in the PBL project is that of consultants, students experience the uncertainty that a company owner or brand manager would feel when deciding to launch a new brand. They gain hands-on experience in drafting and implementing a questionnaire that will help them to understand consumer motivations and make an informed decision on the appropriate positioning strategy. If a company were preparing to launch a new brand into the market, they would need to explore their marketplace from a variety of angles such as competitors, consumer motivations, market size and maturity. Aside from market size, growth, or feasibility issues, a company would look at existing brands in the market. This may be plotted graphically as a determinant gap map, or as a perceptual map. In the absence of data, these maps are purely subjective, with brands being plotted based upon experience in the market, such as from interpretation of advertising, known pricing and distribution channels, or perhaps observation of consumption. A determinant gap map could be useful for exploring market opportunities by mapping existing product categories of direct and indirect competitors, or for specific brands. For example, a company interested in RTD tea might consider all types of beverages as indirect competitors, and select the criteria of interest for the axes, such as high/low price and natural/artificial, and then plot out all beverages. This technique draws on oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own market knowledge or feelings, and is highly subjective. Perceptual maps are also subjective; nonetheless they are commonly used to show the relative position of brands in contrast to others. Qualitative focus groups often explore positioning using perceptual maps, having respondents show and explain where they perceive each brand should be plotted. This largely comes from advertising support, as brands without ad support tend to have unclear positioning, in which case price (or even country of origin) may be used as a proxy for quality. For example, a brand of paper from Advanced Agro has received heavy advertising support, under the brand name of Aa. The advertising communicates quality, saying it will not jam printers or copiers. The packaging follows the societal


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marketing approach, explaining that they use farmed trees, and the price is higher than other brands in the market. Based on these features, a perceptual map might be drawn showing Aa Paper positioned as higher price and higher quality than competitors (see Figure One, although competitors were not plotted). Alternatively, the end points of environmentally friendly could be used â&#x20AC;&#x201C; or multiple maps could be created using different end points to highlight differences between brands. Setting forth a planned positioning strategy is important, as marketing communications, pricing, and other activities should maintain consistency, otherwise the positioning may become confused. High Quality

Inexpensive

Expensive

Low Quality Figure 1. Perceptual Map Showing Aa Paperâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Positioning

Subjective perceptual maps and determinant gap maps are conceptual. Therefore, they only show relative directions for the brands plotted. Other techniques such as AR (attribute rating) allow for more precise comparisons by mapping positions using attributes derived from the results of surveys using scaled attitude questions. One of the main objectives of this PBL project is to expose students to market research and quantitative analytical techniques that can be applied to identifying and solving business problems. They will be able to relate the problem of positioning to what they have studied in marketing, and hopefully feel more comfortable with using data to analyze a problem or situation. The project is not meant to replace a market research class, nor equate to a course in statistics. Rather it is a synthesis of the two, in which students learn to use tools for addressing a common business problem, product positioning. From our experience, it seems that many who study statistics do not necessarily understand how to apply them to real situations. This course teaches application of a statistical tool, but does not teach the theory behind how it works. While this may be perceived as a necessary limitation due to time constraints, one could argue that management practitioners do not actually require the theoretical background.


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Guiding Questions Thus far, no written questions have been provided to the students, although they could easily be written and shared. As students tend to have no idea what they are setting forth to do in developing constructs and measures for factor analysis, useful questions posed verbally tend to be: x Why do consumers buy such a product? There can be many different reasons and motivations, such as? Water is often raised as an example. How do various companies market water? What positioning? What motivations do they seem to be trying to tap into? How effective do they seem? As all functional product aspects can be copied, we encourage students to attempt to capture psychological aspects. x For each motivation, how would you measure it? x Can you develop questions that will measure these constructs? Do the questions make sense? Will people understand them? x Upon running factor analysis, do the items seem to be measuring the same thing? Do the statistical factors make sense conceptually? x From the results of factor analysis and additional data analysis, what positioning strategy was selected, and why? LEARNING RESOURCES The learning resources for this project include: x Mini-lectures delivered by the instructor; x PowerPoint lecture handouts are provided to the students; x Video clips are provided to illustrate the creation of a data entry file, as well as running factor analysis; x Johnson Wax case;4 x Selection of required readings, optional readings and additional online and library resources relevant to the project. Context-related Resources Instructional video clips were developed recently during the evolution of the course. These focus on various aspects of data input and data analysis. They relate specifically to the use of SPSS. These support videos are useful for two reasons. First, although we provide some direct input of domain relevant knowledge through the mini-lectures, it is our desire for the students to remain actively involved in their own learning. Second, in practically all of the instances in which we have taught this project, the teams progress at different rates. Therefore, different teams need information at different times. The videos allow them to access the information when it is relevant to them, or revisit it, if they feel uncertain.


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Reading Resources The learning resources encompassed in formal readings are included at the end of this chapter. In early versions of the course, the first Quiz used the Johnson Wax case. Later on, the case has been included as an example of a business situation wherein the techniques are applied to the process of new product development. The readings tend to be specific to the tasks the students must undertake and the final outcomes we wish to achieve. Students seek additional resources on their own. STUDENT PRODUCTS AND ASSESSMENT The relationship of the work products and assessments in this project to the flow of activities is shown in Table One. We have designed assessment rubrics for the brainstorming activity, the questionnaire design, and for the overall report. Table 1: Assessment Structure 1. 2. 3. 4.

5.

Brainstorming activity of potential motivations (group) Questionnaire draft (group) Quiz 1: survey design (individual) Quiz 2: factor analysis (individual) Project presentation, report, data file, output file (group)

5% 10% 30% 30% 25%

Student Products As noted in Table One, student teams are responsible for several deliverables in this project consisting of performances and products. Brainstorming As discussed earlier, upon being exposed to the problem, teams begin brainstorming potential products and motivations towards buying the product. They are encouraged to brainstorm as many ideas as possible, but eventually narrow their potential motivations down to four to six constructs. When they move to the questionnaire development phase, they will determine how to measure their constructs of interest. When the class was first run, points were neither assigned to the brainstorming exercise, nor to the questionnaire design. From time to time, however, some teams underperformed when compared to other teams. Thus, we decided to assign points to these products in an attempt to motivate all students to exert the desired level of effort. Teams are assessed based on the basis of product opportunities, selection of a category and justification, and potential motivations as to why consumers would buy the product. An example of a new product concept, Water Plus, is shown in Figure Two. This product concept would be bolstered by a statement of the teamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rationale for their choice.


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Figure 2. Sample Product Concept

Teams often present potential motivations using mind mapping or other creative techniques. Brainstorming typically results in a set of statements reflecting possible motivational constructs. An example with Water Plus is shown in Table Two. Table 2. Brainstormed Constructs for Buying Water Plus


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Questionnaire As time is short, students are given three days to develop and submit a draft questionnaire after class in Week Two. This allows them to get feedback and make adjustments so their fieldwork can begin, and to prepare them for the Quiz on questionnaire design. They are instructed to utilize Likert scaled response questions for capturing motivations so that exploratory factor analysis can be run. Questionnaires are assessed based on the following criteria: x Screening questions to find qualified respondents, x A limited number of general questions, x Scaled response attitude questions about motivations, x An intention to buy question, x Demographic questions. Points are deducted for double-barreled questions and for using inappropriate scales. Thus far, points have been awarded on an item-specific basis. Presentation The project culminates in the team presentation and report. Each team is given 20 minutes to present the results of their brainstorming session, the selected product and justification, motivational constructs, and associated statements. They show the results of their initial factor analysis, as well as their final outcome of data analysis. This approach allows them to contrast what they set forth to measure against what they actually ended up with. Examples of factor analysis output for Water Plus are shown in Table Three. Table 3. Motivational Constructs for Water Plus Supported by Factor Analysis

The group initially tried to capture four constructs, but ended up with three after running factor analysis. From this output, as well as from further data analysis, the group developed perceptual maps to illustrate their planned positioning strategy, in this case also showing competing brands.


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These motivations serve as a basis for their planned product positioning, which is presented visually via a perceptual map or other maps, along with supporting data analysis. The perceptual maps give a visual feel for how the brand would be positioned. Additionally, groups are encouraged to write a positioning statement, describing what the product is, who it would be for, and why it should be so.

Figure 3. Final Positioning of Water Plus in a Perceptual Map

Report At the time of their presentation, the teams must submit the following documents on a CD and in hard copy formats: x Questionnaire (typically a Word or Excel file); x Their raw data file (SPSS.sav file; soft copy only); x Their data output file (SPSS.spo), with notes for each item cut when running factor analysis (soft copy only); x Their written report and PowerPoint presentation (soft copy for PowerPoint, hard copy of the report).


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Figure 4. Overview of Assessments

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Assessment The products described above form the core of the assessment used in this project. However, the College encourages instructors to ensure that assessments of individual knowledge contribute at least 60% of the total assessment for a course. Therefore, this project incorporates additional assessments that target individual learning, which I describe below (see Figure Four). Quiz One Quiz One is designed primarily to ensure that individual students are keeping up with the pace of the project. It requires students to write sample questions, to answer questions with short answers, and to critique sample questions. A codebook is used to assess the quiz, with each question having a certain number of points; expected answers are listed to contrast against student answers. We typically place a variety of mistakes in the sample questions, and students are asked to identify and explain what mistakes they see, and how to correct them. Mistakes may be questions that are vague, use jargon, or that are double-barreled. The quizzes change each term, but questions typically cover similar issues related to constructs, scales, questionnaire design, questionnaire wording, layout and flow. Quiz Two Quiz Two covers criteria for assessing output from factor analysis, as well as checking for understanding of reasons for data reduction. Most of the questions involve giving students sample data output and asking them to interpret it. This could involve analyzing a screen plot, interpreting tables based on Eigenvalues and variance, and analyzing a rotated component matrix showing factor loadings. As in Quiz One, we produce a codebook with the point breakdown for each question and expected answers. The data interpretation questions are much more structured than the questions in Quiz One, hence students tend to finish the second quiz more quickly. The quizzes originally ran in Weeks Four and Five, but the first one was moved forward a week to give students feedback on their performance more quickly. It also helps reduce students stress from having quizzes two weeks in a row. INSTRUCTOR AND STUDENT RESPONSE Developing this PBL project has been a challenging and exciting experience. As a lecturer with ten years of experience teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in Thailand, it was my first experience with PBL. Classes in Thailand tend to consist of lectures, and most students develop quite amazing memorization skills. They do, however, tend to become very passive; actively involving them can be quite a challenge. When first using PBL, my role felt very unlike that of a teacher. I felt uncomfortable in the early days, walking around as a coach-on-demand rather than lecturing in front of the class. However, it was truly amazing to actually see students actively working in class, to hear them talking, and to listen to their comments.


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I could actually see what they did or did not know. Seeing students nodding affirmation during a lecture or answering a teacher-directed question is a far cry from the experience of seeing them actively struggling to solve a problem and learning from it. The questions asked of the instructor and each other during handson problem-solving clearly revealed the student’s actual level of understanding. What a surprise! In previous years of teaching marketing research classes, I never spent time in class for hands-on work. Thus, I never achieved as clear an understanding of how students engaged the material or what they actually knew. In line with lecture style courses, I would give them assignments to work on outside of class, then give feedback and continue on. This method lacked “live interaction” and yielded relatively few useful insights into their stages of thinking when working on the problems. Moreover, I had no sense of who was contributing to the project since I did not get to see the groups in action. Students often seem lost during the PBL project, as the problem is abstract and the process of developing constructs and measures is wholly unfamiliar to them. Over the course of the project, however, students are able to cover a great deal of ground in a short period of time. The first Quiz seems to be a turning point for many students in that the subject material suddenly gains clarity and relevance. Thus, while the quiz was designed as an assessment tool, it seems to be a useful learning tool as well. The majority of “negative” student comments have revolved around the complexity of learning to use SPSS and factor analysis within such a short timeframe. The biggest weakness expressed thus far has been that the time allocated to the project is too short; some feel they do not learn in as much detail as they would like. Since these comments are common to all of our PBL projects, I conclude that this sis imply a natural reaction to working hard to produce practical output to a challenging project under time constraints. Welcome to the world of work! On the positive side, student enrolment has been consistently high for the project. We assume this is linked to student hunger for learning how to solve marketing problems. Typical student comments have been: “The course is very practical, can utilize it in real working life.” “The content is very interesting, useful, and practical.” ADAPTATION FOR THE LOCAL CONTEXT Given its design, the project does not require adaptation for the local context. This project should be applicable to any market around the world. In this respect it provides a potentially useful template for other instructors to localize the application of marketing knowledge to their local context. There are several potential extensions or variations of the project worth considering as well. In the first launch of the course, students were asked to develop a new business idea to launch in the immediate vicinity of the campus. The brainstorming activity revolved around generating potential new business ideas, such as restaurants, copy shops, traditional massage, or a car wash. Upon redesigning the course, it was decided to expand the role and use of the


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questionnaire. A different instructor could choose to focus on the use of different analytic techniques as well depending upon goals, time constraints and prior background of the learners. It would also be possible to create a competitive situation among the teams by giving all of the teams the same product category. For example, they could be placed in competition to develop the most interesting and feasible positioning strategy in order to gain financial support from an independent investor. Another idea is that we might bring in new product ideas or perhaps new technologies and have students explore potential positioning strategies. CONCLUSION This chapter has a PBL project on New Product Positioning. In conclusion, I would like to suggest three aspects that have contributed to making this a successful PBL project: x Proximity of the problem: By choosing a product category that is familiar and of interest to students, the problem becomes more real and relevant than a case from a book. We have heard many complaints from students over the years that our cases are from other markets, and hence less relevant and interesting to them. Moreover, involving the students in the selection of their own product elicits creativity and initiative, attitudes that we want students to experience during their learning. These attitudes, in turn, produce a sense of ownership and involvement that is difficult to achieve in a case about a far-off company. x Implementation focus: In this project, students develop a tangible strategic recommendation to a common business problem. They learn to apply specific analytical skills in order to formulate strategy using empirical data. By moving through the process from a blank slate to the finished product, students feel both a sense of accomplishment and a feeling for the situation that marketers or business managers face. Indeed, the orientation that results from working in a project environment is very different from what students experience when working with cases. Part of this comes from the requirement to produce a real product. x Instructor role: The amount and nature of the instructorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s workload is very different from traditional courses. The instructor spends far less time in front of the class, and much more time walking amongst the students, coaching and answering or raising questions. We seem to spend more time in direct contact with students as well as in providing oral and written feedback. This is more mentally taxing than lecturing, yet is also far more rewarding. This responds to our intrinsic desire to share our knowledge rather than tell our knowledge. The feeling that we have passed on something of value to our students is the final motivator that keeps us engaged as teachers.


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NOTES 1

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The author would like to thank Dr. Edward Rubesch for his help in designing the original version of the PBL project, and Dr. Nathasit Gerdsri, for help in adapting the class and helping refine it, as well as helping develop the assessment rubric. Hooley, G., Greenley, G., Fahy, J., & Cadogan, J. (2001). Market-focused resources, competitive positioning and firm performance. Journal of Marketing Management. 17, 503-520. See also Kenyon, A., & Mathur, S. (2002). The offering as the strategic focus. Journal of Strategic Marketing. 10, 171-188. The Johnson wax case can either be cited directly from Harvard Business cases, or can be found in Lilien, G., & Rangaswamy, A. (2004). Marketing engineering: Computerassisted marketing analysis and planning (Revised 2nd edition ). Victoria, Canada, 283301. To obtain the Johnson Wax case, please see http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp. harvard.edu/ or Alreck, P., & Settle, R. (1994). The survey research handbook: Guidelines and strategies for conducting a survey (3rd Edition). Chicago: Irwin Publishing. Bruner II, G. C., James, K., & Hensel, P. (2001). Marketing scales handbook: A compilation of multi-item measures Volume III, Chicago: American Marketing Association. See also Bearden, W., & Netemeyer, R. (1999). Handbook of marketing scales: Multi-item measures for marketing and consumer behavior research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


CHAPTER 12 RETAIL TO e-TAIL ABSTRACT In this chapter, we present a PBL project, entitled Retail to e-Tail, in which student teams tackle the problem of how small and medium sized enterprises can use e-commerce to increase their competitiveness.1 Students learn how to analyze a companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s competitive situation and use that information in order to formulate a suitable e-marketing strategy and plan. The teams must then transform the plan into action by creating a prototype website that implements the strategic objectives of the e-Marketing Plan.

INTRODUCTION The current business environment is changing so rapidly that it is easy to forget that as recently as 1995 the conduct of e-commerce via the world-wide web was an unknown concept. Yet a dozen years hence, organizations are using corporate websites as an irreplaceable channel not only to communicate with stakeholders, but also to market and sell products to a broader array of customers both within and beyond their traditional markets. E-commerce has, in a short time, become an essential tool for enhancing competitive advantage among companies. At the same time, however, the technological demands of e-commerce present a special set of problems for small and medium size firms (SMEs). SMEs, the engine of growth in many parts of the world, are struggling with the challenge of utilizing e-commerce for communication, record keeping, marketing, advertising, and sales. This challenge is particularly salient for SMEs in the less economically developed regions of the world. These companies are less likely to possess the technical and human resources available to large companies and to SMEs located in more technologically sophisticated nations. Moreover, many of these companies have their genesis in traditional family businesses. These characteristics have limited their adaptability to the rapid technological changes of the past decade. The Retail to e-Tail project addresses this broad and important challenge facing companies, especially SMEs in our business environment. The project develops student awareness of how an SME (or any organization for that matter) can tap the potential of the Internet to reach customers and other stakeholders, many of whom would have been beyond their reach in previous eras. In this PBL project, students learn how to conduct a situational analysis of the firm, use those results to formulate an e-marketing strategy, and then transform that strategy into action via the Internet. The project prepares our students â&#x20AC;&#x201C; current and future small business owners,

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managers and entrepreneurs – with tools they can use to formulate appropriate online business strategies for their own firms, now and in the future. THE PROBLEM The Retail to e-Tail project focuses student attention on a high impact problem faced by business organizations throughout the world: meeting rising customer expectations for convenience, product quality, and access to relevant information on products and services at a lower cost. Technology, one of the major engines of globalization, can assist organizations seeking to meet this challenge. With the rapid expansion of Internet access and concurrent cost reductions associated with technology, e-commerce has evolved into an important tool for organizations in all sectors of the economy. The Retail to e-Tail project frames this problem from the perspective of local Thai SMEs. The problem scenario presents this situation through the eyes of local small business owners and managers who are struggling to make their companies more competitive. They believe that e-commerce may be a possible solution to some of their problems. However, they lack anything beyond a surface understanding of the Internet, and have even less idea about how e-commerce works or just what it could offer to them. This problem is both real and relevant to the students who study in our program. Many are the sons and daughters of first and second-generation family businessowners whose companies possess limited experience with technology. Other students are working as professionals in multi-national organizations. These organizations, whether located in the public or private sector, are desperate for local managers who understand the practice of e-commerce from a business – not a technical – perspective. Thus, our management students come with the expectation that they will learn how to use both intellectual and practical tools that can help their organizations meet the challenges that have emerged with the growth of the global economy. Problem Creation We have designed several versions of the Retail to e-Tail project. Each version presents essentially the same focal problem, but in the context of local organizations representing different industries (e.g., manufacturing, tourism, service, education). Each version of the project uses the same “learning template” (i.e., the same learning sequence, learning objectives, resources, product specifications, assessments). We typically produce a new scenario each year and rotate the version in use every term. We have developed multiple versions of the project for several reasons: x To keep it fresh for the instructors, each of whom may teach the project once or twice each term; x To vary the content so that different classes of students do not find it too easy to “borrow solutions” from students who studied the project in a prior term;


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To keep up with the changing nature of “the problem” over time as the environmental context continues to evolve; To improve the quality of presentation and content of the problem scenario as the instructors gain feedback from students and learn from their experience; To appeal to the interests of students whose interests might lie in different industries.2

In the project’s first incarnation, the project problem focused on the situation of a local jewellery manufacturer. This company was facing stiff domestic and wished to explore use of the Internet to increase export sales. The owner’s vision of using the Internet was to create a B2C – Business to Customer – on-line distribution channel to market his products internationally and increase sales. Subsequent problem scenarios have emerged out of our relationships with companies as well as from our students. Since many are working in SMEs, some have suggested their own companies as possible venues for future versions of the problem scenario, possibly hoping for free strategic advice! The focal organizations vary in size, product/service, marketing capability, corporate culture, technological capacity, and management vision. Thus, both the context of the problem and the suitability of the specific e-commerce strategy and solution look quite different across these firms. For example, while a B2C solution was appropriate for the jewellery company, a Business to Business (B2B) solution might make more sense for another company. We create and introduce the problem scenario to students in the form of a multimedia case. We convey problem through mixed media: a video clip, supplementary text about the company, as well as fact sheets. Our own IT staff produces the video scenario, which typically includes footage of the company and its products and services, and interviews with senior managers and other relevant stakeholders. Since these are “real problems,” the owners are truly interested in finding solutions to their problems. Thus, they tend to be quite open about their goals, their concerns, and their resources, as well as what they simply do not know. Sample Problems As noted above, a somewhat similar set of concerns and goals characterizes the companies represented in our “bank” of project scenarios. They are typically seeking to increase revenue, reduce costs, increase brand awareness, expand customer base, reach new markets domestically and internationally, and improve communication with stakeholders. However, the expression of these concerns varies according to the nature of the business, their competitive situations, and the personalities of the people involved. In this section, we briefly describe the focus of the different problems scenarios we have developed to date, and then follow with a longer synopsis of one version. x Science Buddies is a business that aims to provide extra-curricular science education for children. This company, headquartered in Singapore, established a franchise operation in Thailand in 2004.


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x

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They have no name recognition in Thailand and face strong competition in the extra-curricular education market. Currently all of their transactions are processed manually, but they see the potential for e-commerce to handle their transactions online in the future. The local franchisee wishes to use the Internet as a key channel to advertise and sell their services to the end users, but were not sure of where or how to start. Bhara Spa opened in 2004 with the idea to utilize organic products for the treatment of a various medical ailments. Since at the moment its target market consists of local people, it is critical that they build strong customer relationships. They hope that this can be facilitated by the Internet. However, since its inception, the company has worked with a paper-based system. The owner sees potential in introducing a website to expand their customer access and to use CRM (customer relationship management) tools to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of customer transactions. Baanmaihom Resort is a resort located in an agriculture zone in Thailand. In addition to the usual spa and resort facilities, they also offer a variety of eco-tourism activities including visits to a local museum, a nature park, and a tour around large canal that maintains traditional local life. The resort is looking to create greater customer awareness, as well as on-line marketing and sales. Management is interested to know if and how the Internet could help them reach more customers. OneSongChai is a company specializing in the promotion of Thai boxing (Muay Thai). The business started with the sole revenue source of selling tickets to people who came to the stadium to watch boxing matches. Over time, the owner has developed additional revenues from television production and advertising, as well as from a line of Thai boxing products that include herbal oils, ointments, boxing equipment, clothing, books, and videos. Sales of these products have, however, been limited to the boxing venue. With increased competition from other promoters, Songchai finds that his revenue growth has flattened. He is looking for new ways to educate the world about Thai boxing, as well as to sell tickets and promote his products. He believes that the Internet may represent a solution to his problem, but when asked what he has in mind, he responds, “Well since I don’t have much knowledge about this, I really don’t know. What do you think?”

VPS Shoes Vichien and Pisan Polyurethane Co. Ltd. (VPS) produces Polyurethane shoe soles and finished shoes. VPS is a traditional family manufacturing business in existence since the 1950s. Since the time of its establishment, VPS has sold their products solely in the domestic Thai market in large lots to Jong-Heng Company Ltd., the largest buyer of shoe soles in Thailand.


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VPS uses polyurethane in its shoe sole production process. Polyurethane is a lightweight material that can be adapted for many different styles and designs to provide a variety of trendy looks. Polyurethane yields advantages over other similar materials in that it has a relatively low production cost. Over the years, VPS has developed a good relationship with their supplier of raw materials used in the production process, thereby allowing them to maintain a relatively low cost structure. VPS is capable of producing customized shoe-soles quickly to order. The company has become well known in the local market for its ability to provide consistent performance in the production of high quality shoe-soles. It currently commands 30% of the domestic market for shoe soles. Recently VPS has expanded from its traditional manufacturing of shoe soles to include production of finished women shoes. VPS purchased new equipment as well as a new manufacturing facility. Like shoe soles, VPS is able to produced finished shoes according to customer specifications, provided the style employs polyurethane soles. They have the ability to tailor shoes to the needs of retail companies (e.g., Nike, Adidas) who might wish to market the shoes under their brand names. Alternatively, they are able to sell ready-made shoes directly to retail customers. VPS has excess production capacity in its factory, with a back-up option to outsource production to fill larger orders. Footwear and shoe parts businesses are growing rapidly nowadays due to the increasing demand for products from the market. VPS faces strong competition at this time, both from market leaders and other smaller factories. While VPS is very experienced in producing shoe soles, it is a relative newcomer in the finished shoes market. In particular, price reductions by smaller factories are forcing VPS to reduce their profit margin per unit sold. The intense competition from within the Thailand domestic market has forced VPS to consider export opportunities to increase sales and enhance profits. Vichien and Pisan believe the Internet could help them achieve this goal of developing a larger customer base, especially in export markets. The Internet seems like an easy, low-cost vehicle for communicating product information to potential customers and investors. But where should they start? LEARNING OBJECTIVES Prior to studying this project, students in our program will have completed a fairly standard set of management courses (e.g., marketing, management, business strategy), but few have had any specific introduction to e-commerce. Thus, although students bring useful fundamental knowledge of management to the project, much of the learning will involve the introduction of new knowledge. Upon completion of this PBL project, we intend that students will know and be able to do the following: 1. Conduct a comprehensive situational analysis of a specific business; 2. Evaluate the potential of the Internet as a solution to certain types of business problems and issues;


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3. 4.

Formulate an e-marketing strategy based on the relevant characteristics of a specific business; Implement an e-marketing strategy for a specific industry through the development of a business-specific website.

We should also note that in our context, the project draws students from a variety of management disciplines (e.g., entrepreneurship, general management, human resources). This diversity of background knowledge is viewed as a strength on which the student teams can build. So although we do specify a common set of learning objectives for the project, the instructor also encourages students to guide their learning towards the areas they need and want to learn about. In addition to learning concepts and principles related to e-commerce, students practice and enhance a number of prerequisite management skills: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Project management, Team collaboration, delegation, and leadership, Group problem-solving and decision-making, Locating and analyzing information, Time management, and Oral communication and presentation.

LEARNING PROCESS Unlike in a traditional classroom environment, students in this PBL context control much of their learning process. x They determine how to plan the project, organize themselves, allocate roles, and delegate responsibilities. x They determine how to approach the problem and find the additional data needed to understand the problem (e.g., data on competitors, nature of the marketplace for that business). x They take stock of their own internal resources and decide how much content input is needed on different aspects of the project (e.g., marketing strategy, e-marketing, web design). x In the end, they must transform the “book knowledge” gained from various resources into well-informed, practical solutions that meet the needs of their client organization. In our current term schedule, we deliver this project in a six-week block, with three hour class sessions each week.3 In addition, students attend a six-hour web site implementation tutorial conducted by a teaching assistant. Figure 1 provides an overview of the project’s activity flow.


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Mission Possible Situational Analysis of the client. Business Models/Planning Process Web Design for e-Business Leveraging e-Technologies Progress Report Due Creating e-Market Momentum and Realization of Customer Promise Web Project Cycle User Case Analysis Examination Creating Effective Websites e-Marketing Plan and Web Site Presentations Figure 1. Activity Flow

Session One The instructor starts with an overview of the course objectives and then students divide up into learning teams. The instructor introduces the problem through a video clip that conveys the corporate vision and mission, as well as the current competitive situation of the company. The instructor then distributes fact sheets about the company and other information provided by the company executives such as their basic marketing plan. Next, the instructor outlines the task flow of the project as well as the deliverables, assessment rubrics and the relevant due dates for assignments. By the end of this segment of the class, the teams understand that they will engage in the following main tasks in helping solve the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s problem: x Conduct a situational analysis of the company, its products, and its potential; x Use the results of the situational analysis and other company data to develop an e-marketing strategy that is aligned to the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mission, products, services, and business environment; x Design a prototype website that implements the e-marketing strategy; x Present the strategy and web-based implementation. Students then take time to identify and discuss salient features of the problem. This is followed by a mini-lecture that provides background about the motivation for businesses to go online, business models, and the business planning process. This instructor input ensures that students understand the relevance of the project. We distribute a Situational Analysis Worksheet that focuses team brainstorming on the problem facing this company.4 The teams spend the rest of the class discussing the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s problems and opportunities and starting their situational analysis. Since there are only six weeks to complete their tasks, students inevitably express concerns about time constraints. We concur and emphasize that the effective use of project planning, time management, team problem-solving and other management skills learned in prior courses will be critical to their success.


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Session Two The teams come to class having completed their situational analysis of the company. The instructor begins the class with a mini-lecture about the Internet, e-technologies, and Internet traffic and hosting issues. Students work for most of the class session in their teams, integrating this information and determining its relevance to the results of their situational analysis. Towards the end of the class, the instructor distributes an Internet Traffic and Web Hosting Worksheet. This exercise provides structure for the teams to process information concerning the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s expectations and requirements for the Internet services they will provide. The teams will incorporate the results of this analysis into their e-Marketing Plan and implement the finding on their website. Session Three The teams submit progress reports which instructor reviews while students conduct their meetings focusing on developing their e-marketing strategies. The instructor distributes a Marketing Mix Activity Worksheet to assist them in refining the specific products/services they might include in their e-marketing strategy. The instructor provides the teams with feedback at the end of the class, highlighting potential problems they may face without prescribing solutions. Session Four The instructor uses approximately one hour of the fourth session to present web design tools and guidelines and web project cycles. The teams employ a Use Case Analysis Worksheet to assist in integrating the results of their e-marketing strategy for their prototype website. They manually draw a Use Case diagram for their website starting from top-level view and down into more detail. Teams complete this activity integrating information from their analysis of the project problem, the desired marketing mix, expected website traffic, and projected customer interaction with the company website. Session Five This session begins with a 90-minute closed-book examination to test domain knowledge that students have gained up to this point in the project. While we would prefer to use this time for learning, the exam ensures that individual students are accountable for learning the basic domain knowledge relevant to the project. From the instructorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perspective, we observe that the exam does also act as a stimulus for students who might otherwise leave more work to their team-mates. After the examination, the instructor gives guidelines on expectations for both websites and project presentations and reviews the rubrics that will be used in assessing the performance products. A common problem that the teams encounter concerns the alignment of their e-Marketing Plans with their prototype websites. We have developed a Site Map Worksheet that helps students address this problem. The remainder of the class session is spent with teams completing and synthesizing their marketing plans and web sites.


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The instructor specifies three products to be submitted for the next session: an eMarketing Plan, a prototype website and individual reflective essays. Teams are encouraged to submit their products for initial feedback if so desired. Instructors provide comments prior to the deadline via email or through direct consultation outside of class. Session Six The final session is devoted to team presentations of their products. We invite the business owner from the company to listen and provide comments. At times, if the owners cannot come to the presentation, we send them a link to look at the website and the plan. Most provide positive feedback and ask useful questions about the students’ products. Each team has 20 minutes to present its solution to the company’s problem. The team presentations must incorporate their analysis of the company’s situation and delineate how this led to the development of the selected e-marketing strategy and plan. Following discussion of the e-Marketing Plan, the team presents its website. The team must clarify the means by which the website implements the strategy. Each presentation is followed by 10 minutes of Q & A. Although a single instructor is assigned to the class, there are typically two instructors teaching the project to different classes. In all cases, both instructors attend the final class of both sections. This gives broader input to the students and also ensures that the instructors can monitor the output quality of different classes. LEARNING RESOURCES The learning resources developed for this PBL project consist of video-clips, fact sheets, hyper-links, activity sheets, readings, and questions answered by the executive of the relevant company. The learning resources associated with the project are stored on our e-learning system. At the end of each session, an in-class worksheet activity is distributed. There are five worksheets; Situational Analysis, Traffic and Hosting, Marketing Mix, Use Cases Analysis, and Site Map. These worksheets are designed to stimulate focused, systematic thinking about the e-Marketing Plan and website prototype. This project does not require a textbook. The intent is to allow students to face a complex problem that requires the integration of skills and knowledge from several disciplines. We do note optional readings as well as online and library resources relevant to the project on a range of topics: e-marketing, business strategy, business models, interface design, problem analysis, and website design. A tutorial for web implementation is scheduled between the second and third week of the project. A Teaching Assistant provides an optional six-hour tutorial for students in either Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage programs. These are common software programs used for Website design and construction.


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THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES AND LEARNING OUTCOMES The Internet continues to change the nature of the business process and environment at a swift pace. Business is using the Internet to generate value to customers while producing revenue for the company. In practice, e-commerce draws upon a range of knowledge from a variety of fields including management strategy, decision science, MIS, design, advertising, and marketing. e-Marketing involves the application of information technology to the process of creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers. An e-Marketing Plan typically incorporates a number of core elements including a situation analysis, emarketing strategy, business objectives, implementation plan, budget, and evaluation plan.5 In their situational analysis, students review the company’s internal and external environments. Our students typically use SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and/or Porter’s Competitive Forces Model.6 After completing their situational analysis, students engage in e-marketing strategic planning. They may conduct a market opportunity analysis (MOA) to identify key segments of the potential market on a variety of dimensions (e.g., demographic, psychographic, geographic).7 Subsequently, the teams would need to consider strategies for attaining the appropriate marketing mix. They must also consider the most suitable Internet business model for the firm. The Internet can help companies create and capture profit in new ways by adding value to existing products and services or by providing the foundation for new ones. Common Internet business models include virtual storefront, information broker, transaction broker, online marketplace, content provider, online service provider, virtual community, and portal.8 In e-commerce there are three categories classified by participants in the transaction; Business-to-Business (B2B), Business-to-consumer (B2C), and Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C). Each of these represents a potentially independent business model, or alternatively they can be combined together with each other, or with traditional business models. The student teams must select and justify the particular Internet business model(s) that they deem most suitable for the client company. Use Case Analysis is a standard technique for gathering requirements in software development. A Use Case can be defined as “a narrative document that describes the sequence of events of an actor (an external agent) using a system to complete a process.”9 Use Case Analysis tells who uses the system in addition to what the system should do. Generally, a Use Case Analysis also shows the process interaction between actors and a system, such as in a prototype website. Communication between the customer and the company shifts to a screen-to-face interface on the Internet. Therefore, professionals recommend that the interface design should align with the business model. Our learning resources identify seven key elements in designing the customer interface: x Context: site layout and design; x Content: text, pictures, sound and video that web page contains; x Commerce: site’s capability to enable commercial transactions;


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Community: the way site enables user-to-user communication; Connection: site is linked to other sites; Communication: the ways the site enables two-way communication; Customization: site’s ability to self-tailor to different users or to allow personalization.10

A well-designed website should be consistent with the selected business model. The team’s e-Marketing Plan should integrate all of the above elements. This plan must then be translated into a website that can be utilized for business purposes. As we shall discuss in the succeeding section, the website will be analyzed both for its own merits and on its linkage to the e-Marketing Plan. STUDENT PRODUCTS AND ASSESSMENT As noted above, this PBL project results in several deliverables that express a team’s solution to company’s problem. These products form the primary basis for assessment of the team’s collective student performance. However, the assessments of these products do not explicitly shed light on the learning of individual students. Therefore, we have designed additional assessment exercises to fill out the picture of what students know and can do after completing the project. Student Products The problem scenario that students address in the Retail to e-Tail project requires a solution. The mode of solution involves students in the design and initial implementation of an e-marketing strategy for the company. The project incorporates several products that students submit over the six-week period: x Worksheet Activities; x Project Progress Report; x e-Marketing Plan; x Web-site; x Presentation.11 Worksheet Activities We have already mentioned the five worksheets distributed in this project. First, a Situational Analysis Worksheet is used as the foundation for students to analyze the internal and external situation in the company in the first session. For the VPS project, students tend to identify strengths in terms of price advantage, close relationship with major partners, and good credit reputation. Low maintenance of machinery and high inventory, limited distribution channels, and small numbers of suppliers are typically identified as weaknesses from the internal analysis. Rapid growth for polyurethane shoes, fashion trends, and e-commerce trends emerge as opportunities to grasp for VPS. Economic recession, rising fuel costs, price pressure from small competitors, and restrictive trade policies are examples of threats in the external analysis for VPS.


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The teams use the Traffic and Hosting Worksheet to estimate the number of visitors, number of pages per visitor, and conversion rate for customers. Based on this analysis, the teams then define the hosting requirements in terms of storage capacity, monthly bandwidth and operating system, and requirements for the future. Using the Marketing Mix Worksheet, most teams define finished shoes and soles as the preferred products for VPS in the future. Some identify only finished shoes for Internet sales if they wish to reduce the risk for the new channel. The target markets vary with the countries the team selects (e.g., Japan, Korea, United States, or Europe). In all instances, student choices will need to be justified with reference to their analysis of relevant data about the company and its situation. The Use Case Analysis for VPS involves telling the story of what needs to be done for the customer to place the on-line order for shoes (e.g., customer identifies items and quantities, the system accepts and queues the order, obtains shoe prices from the system, sets up promotion, or even creates and sends an invoice online to the customers). The actors involved in the order process could include a salesperson, marketing manager, order clerks, accounting subsystems or invoicing subsystems. Mainly, cases are what happened when actors use the VPS website to achieve a goal. By collecting all interaction in terms of how the VPS website would be used, we can gather all of the requirements. Lastly, the Site Map Worksheet is used to display the structure of the each teamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s website. For VPS Company, students develop the website structure in many variations. Some divide the site map into general forms which is about us, product, customized design, web board, payment, and contact us. Some use customer needs as the criterion for their site map; company information, e-catalog, customer service, terms and conditions, contact information, and frequently asked questions. Project Progress Report Students write a progress report on their e-Marketing Plans. The project progress report gives an opportunity for students to get feedback on their projects while there is still time to improve them. There are no page length restrictions or guidelines for the progress report. e-Marketing Plan The primary product created by the students in this project is an e-Marketing Plan that synthesizes key information gleaned from the various information sources. The e-Marketing Plan must include the following components: situation analysis, target stakeholders, strategic objectives, marketing strategy, strategic integration, implementation plan, budget, control plan and plan presentation. For VPS, the e-Marketing Plan would typically include a combination of goals such as increasing shoe and soles sales volume, improving market share, building company awareness among shoe exporters, creating a long-term relationship with repeat customers, and providing customer satisfaction via the Internet. Nearly all teams incorporate analysis of the footwear industry as well as the local shoe market in order to determine the correct product positioning. Some offer an analysis of


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Internet usage statistics and e-commerce trends in Thailand. Others provide market summaries, demographic information, needs analysis, and growth and trend analysis. Most teams conclude that there are huge opportunities for VPS to do business on the Internet. The teams use these findings to define the target stakeholders. For example, in addition to target customers, some teams consider the main polyurethane supplier as both a strength and potential threat due to his monopoly power. Some advise VPS to find additional suppliers to reduce the risk of relying on a single vendor for their raw material. After concluding this front-end analysis, the teams must identify a preferred business model for the company. Some teams use a merchant model for VPS to sell shoes and soles online. Others may encourage VPS to join a high traffic web portal as an affiliated website (e.g., the Department of Export Promotion, Local Thai Export Thai Leather Goods Association). Most teams propose a B2B categorization for VPS, though some also discuss the pros and cons of incorporating B2C features as well. The teams are also expected to provide recommendations concerning budgeting and project implementation. Project implementation should specify contingency plans as well as some basic dimensions of change management since the use of these technologies will be something quite new for the company. Prototype Website Consistent with the tenets of PBL, each team must not only develop a plan detailing what they would do and why, but also implement their plan to the maximum extent practical given the constraints of the learning context. In the Retail to e-Tail project, solution implementation entails the creation of a prototype website that reflects the strategy identified in the teamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s e-Marketing Plan. Why ask management students to design a website? After all, it is neither their goal nor ours for them to become web designers or IT experts. We assert that creation of the prototype website requires students to consider how their e-marketing strategies would actually look when implemented in an e-commerce environment. This forces them to transform broad recommendations into practical steps. Gaining experience in basic design of the specifications of a website could also prove useful in future management roles in organizations. Students find the task of transferring conceptual recommendations contained in the e-Marketing Plan to the construction of a prototype corporate website challenging. Some teams that write up an excellent e-Marketing Plan do not always succeed in this respect. We refer to this product as a prototype website because it does not actually go on-line on the Internet. As a prototype, however, the website must work in the sense of demonstrating identified design principles, navigation between pages, and incorporation of sales transaction mechanisms. In terms of assessment of the website, we focus on four broad issues: 1. Aesthetics, creativity, innovativeness of design; 2. Structure, navigation, and Search Engine Optimization standards;


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3. Overall linkage to the e-Marketing Plan; 4. Specific features included to fulfill its strategic purposes. In the VPS scenario, most teams use a navigator system to guide the location (i.e., company background, product, payment, feedback, shoe trend). Some incorporate value-added functions such as shoe customization, order tracking, free email account, trading account, guestbook, and site registration. Other teams focus only on women’s shoes. Still others divide shoes in terms of price, sole model, material and dress categories (casual, dress, evening, outdoor, sandal). Some teams recommend outsourcing payment functions to another website (e.g., e-Case Gateway) to provide more reliable service and reduce the risk of fraud. Presentation In their project presentations, students present in much the same way that they would in a consulting engagement with a client. They provide an overview of the project objectives and process, discuss the analysis underlying their e-marketing strategy, specify the strategic choices, and justify their recommendations. Then they present the website and delineate the linkage between their strategy and website design features. Although the prototype website is not technically “on-line”, it must work during the presentation or the consultants will face some embarrassing moments. We use the college-wide presentation rubric with slight modifications. Assessment Structure and Components The assessment structure for the project is linked to the learning objectives and the project products. Assessment is designed to provide a picture of team performance as well as individual knowledge. The assessment plan for the project is shown below in Table 1. Table 1. Assessment Structure for the Retail to e-Tail Project Component e-Marketing Plan Prototype Website Presentation Reflective Essay Knowledge Exam Team Performance Assessment

% of Grade 40% 15% 10% 10% 25% Ungraded

Type of Assessment Group Group Individual/Group Individual Individual Individual

The reader can see from Table 1 that 65% of the module grade is based on assessments of solution products and performances, and 35% on the basis of “paper and pencil” knowledge assessments. This reflects our belief that students should demonstrate their knowledge through its application. At the same time, however, since these products come from the team’s work, it may leave us uncertain as to


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what individual students have learned from the project. Therefore, we extend project assessment to include several additional assessments that do not directly concern the solution products. These include a Reflective Essay, a Knowledge Exam, and a Team Performance Assessment. Reflective Essay Each student submits an essay on his/her teamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s performance and his/her own role within the project. In the essay students are encouraged to consider any aspects of the project from inception, initial meetings, all the way through to delivery of the final products. Since this type of product is discussed elsewhere in the book, we will not elaborate further here. Knowledge Exam A Knowledge Exam is scheduled during the fifth class session. There are four questions, of which the student must answer two. The examination covers the domain specific knowledge that we expect students to learn in the project. We often use short problem scenarios such as the following. A look into the traffic statistics of your newly established B2C handicrafts website reveals that the average number of daily visitors is 75 while the number of daily page views is 80. Elaborate on the implications for your e-marketing strategy and discuss the need for action using the seven Cs concepts. How relevant are "hits" and "unique visitors" as traffic metrics to assess the success of a website? Which other information from your website statistics would be desirable to fine-tune your e-marketing strategy?

Team Performance Assessment Since this project is conducted in teams, we require team members to evaluate their own performance together with others performance as part of this process. These evaluations are not graded; however, it reminds them to pay attention to their performance during the course. Students should become capable in assessing their own progress in learning and that of their peers as well. The ability to provide feedback to other members is an important personal skill for collaborative learning. STUDENT RESPONSE Most students who complete the project comment about the time pressure for delivering the plan and the technical challenges they faced in creating a website. Typical comments from students include the following. x

Before studying this course, I had the perception that e-tail meant building a website and selling products online. However, this course brings me to the new perception that â&#x20AC;&#x153;e-tail is not only a website.â&#x20AC;? For the traditional business that needs to go online, they have to prepare much more than a website to get the real value from e-commerce.


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x

Knowledge in e-marketing is new for me but I learnt a lot. Even though I completed marketing courses in both my Bachelor and Master Degrees, this project encouraged me to learn more about how to create a marketing plan that is practical and reasonable to implement. Website implementation forced me to brush up my knowledge in HTML. I like Dreamweaver as a tool because it is easy to use.

x

The best concept or the best idea is not always the best solution if we couldn’t implement it in a proper way. Every move for the company is an investment; we could not try and fail like we did in the class…. Class had thought us to look into the reality that is most suitable for the real world.

Negative responses to the project generally come from students in one of two groups. The first group consists of students who found too much overlap with a prior course they had studied (e.g., Introduction to e-Commerce). The second consists of students who found themselves in teams in which the technical capability of the students was uniformly low. In these cases, website development tasks can take on undue proportion with respect to the objectives of the project. At the same time, however, many students who express early reservations about creating the website later find themselves surprised and pleased with the result. x x

Now, I can create my own website to fit my own business; Who knows !!! I learnt a lot from this class not only the e-Marketing Plan and creating the website, but the way to work in my team to get the job done effectively. I will definitely use the experience from this class to apply to my future learning and at work.

ADAPTATION FOR THE LOCAL CONTEXT Since this project uses problems drawn from our local context, there is little to discuss in the way of “adaptation” per se. The problems involve real Thai SMEs whose operation and problems are quite close to our students’ experience. They find this highly motivating, relevant and interesting. We believe that it will also reduce problems of transferring the knowledge gained from the project to their own work contexts less problematic. Some of the knowledge that students must learn and apply in this particular project is technical and requires little localization. However, students are encouraged to consider the differing responses of various stakeholder groups to the use of technology as well as to their usage of the Internet. CONCLUSION Today there is no question but that a corporate website acts as an organization’s window to the world. This makes it increasingly important for companies to develop and maintain websites that not only inform, but also generate revenue and increase the customer base. The R2e project is designed for that purpose. Noteworthy elements of this project include the following:


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Use of local problems: The focal problems used in this project come from local businesses that are trying to meet the challenges of a highly competitive market-place. They are all seeking to adapt to technological and economic changes that bring both the opportunity of larger customer reach and the threat of global competition. Our students, most of whom are working, face these same challenges at work every day. Thus, the reality of this project turns out to be highly motivating and easily accepted as a “real set of problems” by the learners. While many are initially intimidated by the expectation that they will have to design a website, the high impact nature of this problem motivates them to persist in the face of meeting a difficult goal in a short time frame. Multi-disciplinary knowledge content: To create a successful website requires expertise in a number of business disciplines including marketing, strategy, and technology. Although the R2e project offers tools for conducting business, it further aims to bridge skills in planning and implementation. In planning, students learn conceptual models and processes that form the basis for creating a good business strategy. Implementation focus: Many cases would ask students to analyze a problem and describe “what you would do to resolve this situation.” A hallmark of PBL is the construction of a learning context in which the student(s) is challenged to take that analysis and recommendations a step further. In this project, students must formulate a suitable e-marketing strategy and plan for the company and then transform the strategy into e-commerce tools (e.g., a website) that increase productivity and create business value. While it is not our goal for students to become webmasters, we believe that this step implementing action recommendations forces students to understand the application of knowledge at a deeper level that will be useful to them in the future as business owners and managers. REFERENCES

Frost, R., & Strauss, J. (2002). Building effective web sites (1st edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Greenlaw, R., & Hepp, E. (2001). Fundamentals of the internet and the World Wide Web. New York: McGraw Hill. Strauss, J., El-Ansary, A., & Frost, R. (2002). e-Marketing (4th Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


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NOTES 1

2

3

4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

The author wishes to acknowledge the contributions of fellow instructors who have been involved in the design and/or teaching of this module. These include Dr. Philip Hallinger, Dr. Ram Piyaket, Tipvarin Mekaroonkamol, David Grassian, and Svend Nelson. Note that in our use of the module, students do not have the option to choose which version of the problem scenario they will address. All of the students in a single class address the same problem scenario. The instructor varies the module from term to term. We use this approach to achieve a higher level of standardization across teams and class sections. In a program that had different constraints (e.g., student numbers, frequency of use of the module, instructor mix), it would be possible for each student team to choose which scenario they wished to address. Note that we originally designed the module for delivery in a seven week period with 21 hours of contact time. We have also taught it in a shorter period as well. Obviously, the variations in time require adaptations in the scope of the project specifications, especially the products and assessments. Sample video clips, Fact Sheets, and Worksheets can be viewed at www.cmmu.net/ pbl/r2e Strauss, J., El-Ansary, A., & Frost, R. (2002). E-Marketing (4th Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Porter, M. (1980). Competitive strategy. New York: Free Press. Porter, M. (2001). Strategy and the Internet, Harvard Business Review, 79, 62-78. Op. Cit. Strauss, et.al., 2006. Laudon, K.C., & Laudon, J. P. (2006). Management information systems: Managing the digital firm. New Jersey: Pearson Education. Jacobson, I., Christenson, M., Jonsson, P., & Overgaard, G. (1992). Object-oriented software engineering: A use case driven approach. Addison Wesley. Reading, MA. Rayport, J., & Jaworski, B. (2001). Introduction to e-commerce. New York: McGraw Hill. Sample deliverables and rubrics can be viewed at http://www.cmmu.net/pbl/r2e


CHAPTER 13 REORGANIZING FOR COMPETITIVENESS ABSTRACT This chapter presents a PBL project, Reorganizing for Competitiveness, that has been developed and used at the College of Management, Mahidol University.1 The project concerns a high-impact human resource problem that threatens the competitiveness of a medium-size Thai company. The project challenges students to develop an integrated solution that will boost the human resource capacity of the client organization, enabling it to thrive in a changing marketplace. Acting as teams of consultants, students conduct an industry and organization analyses, formulate a vision statement for the company, redesign organization structure, provide initial input on key performance indicators, and prepare an implementation plan. At the conclusion of the project, the teams present their solutions to the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;clientâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. The chapter describes the structure and learning process of the project, and discusses design considerations of interest to others who might wish to design a similar project within their own local context.

INTRODUCTION Todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s organizations operate in a highly dynamic business context, which is compounded by complexity and uncertainty throughout society. The complexity of operating in a rapidly changing global environment has overwhelmed many small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) throughout the world. SMEs in Southeast Asia, for example, have had to adapt to a raft of new regulations imposed by international trade organizations such as AFTA, WTO, APEC, and the EU that did not even exist as recently as 15 years ago. Globalization and the increased market competition that it has spawned are challenging the competitiveness of Thai SMEs as these business owners try to understand and adapt to externally-driven changes. Despite attempts by the Thai government and SME owners themselves to improve their competitiveness, these companies are losing market share at an alarming rate.2 This picture is further reinforced when venture capitalists decide to move their investments elsewhere due to the perceived lack of innovation by Thai SMEs.3 There are indications that Thai SMEs have taken the wrong, or at least an incomplete, approach in tackling this problem of competitiveness. They have tended to focus on training, e-commerce development, and/or strategic clustering to improve competitiveness. In the absence of a clear strategic direction embedded in a shared vision and a suitable organizational structure, SMEs will continue to face

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problems of inconsistent quality products/service quality, unnecessarily high costs, and a lack of innovation. Endorsing this view, business theorists have long proposed a connection between organizational alignment and performance.4 Indeed, researchers have found improved organizational performance results when there is a good fit among environmental variables, organization structure, and strategic orientation.5 Thus, the literature suggests that business leaders should align their internal structure and systems with the changing environment in order to remain competitive.6 In this PBL project, student teams take on the role of consultants for a Thai SME that is facing a problem of competitiveness in the marketplace. We have designed several versions of the project focusing on SMEs in different sectors of the economy: a ceramics factory, a private hospital, and a research and training (R&D) institute. In this chapter, we describe a version of this PBL project that is built around the competitiveness problem at a government agency, the Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University (INMU). Each consulting team will need to assess INMU’s competitive environment, as well as its internal capabilities. Then they must formulate a new strategic vision for INMU and realign INMU’s organization system to fit the new vision. Realignment of the organizational system must include redesign of the organizational structure, specification of corporate-level roles and responsibilities, and a set of key performance indicators. Upon completion, the teams present their integrated solution to the ‘client’ and provide recommendations on how to implement it. LEARNING OBJECTIVES This project provides students with an opportunity to learn about and develop skills in executing the following features of the reorganization process. 1. To be able to understand the need for reorganization. 2. To be able to use a systematic approach to assess the status quo and identify a new strategic direction. 3. To be able to develop an effective vision statement. 4. To understand the strengths and weaknesses of different organization structures and design a structure that is suitable to changing environmental conditions. 5. To understand the Balanced Scorecard concept and develop a Balanced Scorecard in response to existing business issues and a new vision. 6. To understand the relationship among the vision, the organization structure, and the Balanced Scorecard as an integrated solution. 7. To develop an integrated plan for increasing organizational competitiveness in response to a changing environment. Most students who study this PBL project already have taken courses such as Principles of Management, Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management, Strategic Marketing Management, Strategic Management, and Thai


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Economy in the Global Context. Therefore, we assume that students have gained the following pre-requisite knowledge and skills prior to studying this project: x Understanding of how the changing global economy impacts economic development, business opportunities, and national, firm and industry competitiveness; x Understanding of relevant Organizational Behavior concepts concerning human motivation, organization structure, job and customer satisfaction, leadership, goal-setting, values, and corporate culture; x Knowledge of Five Forces and Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analyses; x Surface exposure to the concepts of key performance indicators and Balanced Scorecard; x Team management skills including meeting management, problemsolving, and decision-making; x Presentation skills. The project challenges students to apply these management skills and concepts, and to integrate them with new knowledge about redesigning an organization to improve competitiveness. Although the Reorganizing for Competitiveness project focuses on problems in a Thai SME, it appeals to students from a wide range of Master of Management specializations. The problem of improving an organization’s ability to compete in a changing market seems highly relevant to students who are working in all types of organizations. THE PROBLEM There is widespread concern among Thai government officials and business leaders over declining national competitiveness. Thailand consistently ranks low in the annual IMD World Competitiveness rankings and the results have not been improving significantly in recent years.7 Despite the existence of nine national development plans, structural problems continue to limit the ability of Thai firms to compete regionally and globally. This problem persists because Thai firms have been tackling the competitiveness problem at the ‘surface’ level and ignoring more fundamental problems. For example, they have actively sought to buy new IT and develop e-commerce solutions. They largely overlook such HR infrastructure problems as an unclear and unshared strategic direction, an inappropriate organization structure, and performance management inconsistent with the firm’s strategic direction. These problems deter the firm’s competitiveness primarily through having higher costs, inconsistent quality of products and services, and lack of innovation. We have designed three different problem scenarios for this project around organizations in different sectors. We provide brief descriptions of the first two later in the chapter in the section on Adaptations for the Local Context. However, in this chapter we will focus on the problem scenario at the Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University (INMU).8


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Established in 1977, INMU has the mission of contributing to the implementation of the National Food and Nutrition Plan in Thailand. It has fulfilled this mission by conducting research at community and laboratory levels, by providing national and international training and education programs, and by providing technical services in food and nutrition development. The Institute’s primary goal has been, and continues to be, the attainment of the highest possible quality of life for individuals, communities, Thai society, and for people living in other countries within and outside the Southeast Asian Region. The Institute is a unit of Mahidol University, a government-funded research university. Its internationally distinguished faculty is comprised of food, nutrition and health science researchers whose specializations encompass agriculture, anthropology, biochemistry, biomedicine, biotechnology, communications, community nutrition, computer science, education, food and nutrition planning, international nutrition, microbiology, physiology, primary health care, rural development, sports nutrition, and toxicology, among others. The Institute currently employs 66 researchers and 79 support staff. Funding for INMU’s activities comes from a combination of government funding and “soft money” from research grants. As a unit of Mahidol University, these employees are considered “government officers” (i.e., civil servants) protected by strict government labor regulations and guaranteed employment to the age of 55 years. At the same time faculty members are also subject to academic norms with respect to rank and promotion, as well as their general job responsibilities. In recent years, the research landscape in the health sciences has undergone rapid change and the struggle to obtain grant funding has intensified with many new competitors, locally and internationally. Research grants are increasingly sponsored by large multinational corporations with new conditions attached to the grant awards. Although INMU’s academics have sought academic grants and distinctions, neither they nor the Institute have been guided by norms of commerce, performance rewards, or customer focus. Equipped with a commercial mentality and ample financial resources, INMU’s competitors appear more responsive and adaptive to customer demands. In these changing circumstances, INMU’s position as a leading food and nutrition research institute in the region is at risk. Moreover, Thailand has recently adopted a new government policy that mandates government-supported universities and research institutes to become selfsupporting in the next few years. The change from government-supported to independent status will require far-reaching, unsought changes by the organization. The changes will affect every aspect of operation including finance and budgeting, personnel and human resources, operations, and marketing. With little or no commercial experience, an entrenched governmental mindset, a rigid organizational structure, and limited evidence of adaptability, INMU finds itself under tremendous external pressure to change. In less than two years, it must become an autonomous, self-funding unit of the university with the ability to compete with other public and privately-funded research institutes if it is to survive. The teams begin the project with an expanded version of this scenario about INMU and the problems it faces. This scenario represents a good example of a messy problem that encompasses other sub-problems. While the competitive


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landscape faced by INMU is similar to that of many other local organizations, its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities are unique. The project challenges students to develop an integrated solution that addresses the organization’s fundamental problems and ensures INMU’s long-term ability to compete in the local and global market. LEARNING PROCESS Currently, there are four trained instructors for this project, all of whom have extensive consulting and industry experience. Staffing for the delivery of the project includes an instructor and sometimes the client’s senior managers. The instructor’s coaching tasks include: x Providing timely, useful feedback to students; x Monitoring team progress in relation to their project plans; x Ensuring that the teams understand instructor’s expectations; x Providing some direct input through mini-lectures. The instructor for this project acts as a consultant resource in five broad areas: consulting process, vision development, organization design, balanced scorecard development and change management. Overview of the Learning Process Although students complete most of the tasks in this PBL project on their own, the project requires active monitoring and coordination by the instructor in order to finish in six weeks. Students study the project over six three-hour class sessions (i.e., a total of classroom 18 hours). We operate this project with a maximum class size of 24 students and students typically study in teams consisting of five or six students. The course schedule is shown in Figure 1. Figure 1: Overview of the Project Sequence Session One: x Introduce the SME case x Conduct Porter’s Five Forces and SWOT analyses x Prepare an organizational diagnostic report Session Two: x Preliminary presentation of the organization diagnostic report x Work on developing a “vision” for the organization x Roundtable consultation with instructor on “vision” development Session Three: x Individual Vision Reports returned to students x Work in team on vision development and organizational structure x Roundtable consultation with instructor on proposed organizational structure Session Four: x Interim presentation of “vision” and organizational structure for feedback x Finalize organizational structure and work on job roles and measures x Roundtable consultation with instructor and work on final presentation


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Session Five: x Final presentation x Start working on final consulting report Session Six: x Final consulting report due x Cross-assessed individual contributions x Final exam

Session One In Session One, we begin by asking the following questions in order to set students’ expectations. How can one develop/reshape/redesign an organization to… x become more competitive? x nurture innovation? x bring about cost reduction? x produce consistently high quality of products and services? x respond effectively to a rapidly changing business environment (so that it will survive)? The initial introduction of the project uses selected video clips to convey the problem students will confront. Students first view a one-minute video clip that focuses on competition between Motorola and Nokia. The video clip shows why a business, even a very successful one, must continuously assess its business environment, even beyond its national borders. The case demonstrates how Motorola, lost its position as the world’s dominant mobile phone provider to Nokia due to a combination of overconfidence and inability to understand changes in its environment, specifically the emergence of digital technology. Students then view a five-minute video, Thailand on the World Trade Stage, that features two prominent Thai economists. They discuss Thailand’s inability to improve its competitiveness, focusing both on explanatory factors and the consequences. The video offers contrasting examples of national competitive strategies used by Singapore and China. This sets the stage for key business issues that confront Thai business leaders today and the tools they will need so their organizations can thrive in the future. Following this introduction of the project, the instructor presents a video that conveys the specific problem that the student teams must solve in this project. It features an introduction of the organization by the INMU Director. The Director talks about her vision for INMU, her personal perception of problems of the organization, pressures for change from the government, and INMU’s past inability to develop a customer-focused, adaptable organization. The Director notes that competitive pressures do not only arise from changes in government policy, but also from other units within the university, other universities, and private agencies that see market opportunities in the area of food and nutrition development. She discusses strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that also factor into the current situation facing the institute. She describes the negative consequences of the rigid, government-imposed labor regulations and the quality compromises that have resulted from a history of top-down management


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in the context of an academic research institute. She discusses constraints on change (e.g., constraints on her authority, corporate culture, funding) as well as some of the emergent opportunities that exist. At the end of the video, students learn that their role will be to act as teams of consultants to the senior management of INMU. Their task will be to recommend a plan that will enable INMU to reorganize so that it will have the capacity to survive and compete in the changing marketplace. After students have organized into groups, they gain access to additional data about INMU’s situation. This comes in the form of interviews with staff at various levels of INMU as well as customers. Students watch these videos on their own outside of class. The interviews address other INMU members’ personal visions for INMU and offer additional perspectives on the issues addressed by the Director. Students are also pointed to on-line and text documents about INMU. As the instructor had previously served as a consultant to INMU’s top management, students can also ask for additional information; however, they must formulate the questions carefully. Some questions may focus on hidden issues that INMU members would not have revealed in the videos. This information could concern corporate culture, size, organizational politics, and past experiences with organizational change at INMU. We next present the problem as noted in the previous section of this chapter and introduce the teams to the project mission. You have been hired as management consultants to assist the INMU top management to improve their organization’s effectiveness and equip the institute with the ability to compete in the market through reorganization. You have five weeks to identify the client’s business issues and develop insightful and practical recommendations to resolve those issues.

By this point, students have begun to understand the competitive and changing context surrounding INMU. They begin to realize that INMU is both a promising organization, but one that needs to change if it is to survive. The instructor then discusses deliverables each team must prepare for the INMU project. 1. Organizational diagnostic report; 2. Vision development report; 3. Final presentation and report of an integrated solution. For the remainder of Session One, students work in their respective consulting teams. They use SWOT and Five-Forces analysis to identify key organizational issues and brainstorm preliminary directions the organization could take to address the relevant issues. During this period, the instructor acts as a facilitator and learning resource. At the end of the session however, we debrief about organizational issues and inform students that they will have to present what they have found to the class in the following week. The organizational diagnostic report is also due in the second week, meaning that they have independent work to complete outside of class. In order to frame the nature of our product expectations, we also distribute a rubric that we will use to assess the organizational diagnostic report (see www.cmmu.net/pbl).


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Session Two The second session starts with team presentations of organizational issues and unresolved questions they have identified. Key issues would typically include cost, quality, and innovation since these are fundamental to competing in the global market. For example, teams may raise any of the following issues and questions: x How does an unclear strategic direction impact cost? x How does a top-down management approach impact innovation? x How does hierarchical structure impact organizational adaptation to environment change? x Which solutions will enable the organization to make fundamental versus surface changes? Students spend most of the rest of class in their teams discussing resources related to vision, organizational structure, and organizational culture in the Thai context. Out of these discussions, the consulting teams begin to formulate their strategic visions for INMU. There is a debriefing at the end of class to share knowledge and information among the teams. Students receive a rubric to assist them in creating individual vision development reports due two days prior to the next class session. Session Three Session Three begins with instructor feedback on their vision development reports. Students then work in their teams to finalize their vision statements for INMU. We next turn to the issues of organizational design. The whole class .views two video resources about how successful private and government organizations have reorganized to respond to the competitive and dynamically changing business environments. These clips clarify the relationship of organizational structure to the work process and highlight how different organizational structures impact customerfocus, adaptability, innovation, and flexibility. We then revisit INMU’s existing organization structure and reflect on its effectiveness in light of the issues they have identified up to this point in time. The resources available to students (i.e., readings, expert consultant, videos) encourage students to view an organization’s structure as both fundamental and dynamic. This contrasts with traditional Thai management practice which views organizational structure as a descriptive artifact that is static once it has been defined. Then the teams start to work on redesigning the INMU organization structure starting with a set of documents on organizational design (see Learning Resource Section below). The instructor acts as a facilitator and organization design consultant throughout the session, monitoring each team’s progress. Depending upon need, teams may request consultant input on the strengths and weaknesses of organizational structures. Session Four Session Four is where students consider about how organizational vision and structure impact INMU’s ability to compete in its changing market. Starting the


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session, we highlight the fact that many features of INMU’s organizational structure are typical of other Thai SMEs in the public and private sectors. The teams then make their interim presentation. Questions typically revolve around several issues: x The relationship between their Five-Forces and SWOT analyses and vision development; x The relationship between the team’s vision for INMU and the selected organizational structure; x How these changes will impact INMU’s ability to compete in the market. In the next segment of the project, the teams address corporate-level roles and responsibilities and develop key performance indicators (KPIs) which represent the foundation of a Balanced Scorecard for INMU. The teams explore the interrelationship among vision, organizational structure, corporate roles and responsibilities, vision-critical performance indicators, as well as how these impact performance. The objective is for students to see that a sustainable solution to INMU’s competitiveness problem will need to integrate these dimensions of the organization management system. At this point students access a variety of learning resources about corporate-level roles and responsibilities and the use of the Balanced Scorecard approach in practice. Towards the end of Session Four, we debrief on their work up to this point, and discuss what they will need to include in their Final Presentation. We review the rubric that will be used to assess their presentations, and also revisit the characteristics of effective presentations. Session Five In Session Five, the teams present their “integrated solutions” to the client. The first time that a project is used, we invite the real client in to participate. However, it’s unrealistic to expect a senior executive to come to listen to four presentations for each of two class sections, twice in a term, and again in subsequent terms. Therefore, the instructor usually serves as the INMU Director after the initial piloting of the project. The instructor notes the questions, perspectives, and responses of the client executive and incorporates these into future feedback to the teams as suitable. Often a second instructor of this project will also serve as a panelist. We try to create a real “Board Room” environment through the room set-up, expectations we set for students, and the approach in asking questions. Although students may view us at times as “unkind” we ask the same types of questions that would be asked by top management at INMU, or another organization. Some examples of questions the instructors might ask include the following. x What would be your advice if I want to implement only the Balanced Scorecard without changing the new organization structure? x I think the existing structure, which emphasizes a top-down approach, is already suitable because my people are not self-directed and wellinformed. Why should I change my structure?


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x x x x x

Why do you think the matrix structure you have proposed will stimulate innovation? What problems do you anticipate in achieving the empowerment benefits you seek through the horizontal, cross-functional structure that you have recommended? How will your recommended vision help improve profitability and the ability to compete in the market? Please explain to me how your solution helps improve INMU’s ability to compete in the market? I do not want to develop a vision since we have gone through many sessions of vision development with several versions of vision statements. They never work. I therefore do not see any benefit in it. How will your recommended vision make a difference this time?

Student learning is accelerated through the presentations and Q & A sessions. Students learn from the varying approaches taken by the other teams. They can see the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches and develop an appreciation for the complexity as well as for the necessity of achieving an integrated systemic solution. At this stage the art of the instructor’s role is to draw out the underlying principles of the team’s solutions so as to highlight the conditions that impact problems and strategies. The instructor also uses the Q & A session in order to highlight cultural issues that may impact on the implementation of the team’s solutions. For example, Thailand’s culture has been described as exhibiting high power distance, collectivism, femininity, long-term time orientation and moderate uncertainty avoidance. These cultural factors will impact on many features of management’s attempts to implement the changes that students suggest. Session Six In Session Six, students submit their final reports. We allow them to revise their reports using what they learned during the presentations. During the session, the team members use a Team Participation Rubric to evaluate their colleagues’ contributions to the project. They also take a two-hour final exam. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES AND LEARNING OUTCOMES In this project, we want students to understand how to address a common, high impact problem facing many organizations throughout the world. We locate the problem in local Thai SMEs rather than using a textbook case for several reasons. Localization of the problem increases its relevance to our students. They can understand the problem in more dimensions, and feel its richness and complexity. Localization also enables us to incorporate cultural factors that impact both on understanding of the problem and on the implementation of solutions. The knowledge domains incorporated into the project and its solution process are multi-disciplinary including leadership, organizational behavior and change,


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strategic HR, and strategic management. The solution focus on strategic human resource management takes a complementary approach to that offered by Porter in Microeconomics of Competitiveness.9 Porter focuses on the strategic clustering of firms at the firm, industry, and national levels but does not, in our view, address the improvement of internal capabilities within a given firm. We believe that the approaches taken in the Microeconomics of Competitiveness and Reorganizing for Competitiveness are complementary since effective clustering is also based on the input of high-performing, individual firms. Through studying this project, we intend for students to develop an integrated understanding of the theoretical and empirical knowledge-base underpinning the concepts of Vision-based Leadership, Organization Structure and Design, Key Performance Indicators, and the Balanced Scorecard. This understanding extends to the ability to apply and synthesize the knowledge into a practical solution to the presented problem. We hope that students will develop an understanding of the complexity of leading an organization in a changing and heterogeneous business environment and the intricacies of applying global management solutions such as performance measurement in the local context. Vision-based or Transformational Leadership theory10 is fundamental to this project. In the fast changing environment, transformational leaders align people and supporting systems to suit their visions11. These organizational systems, including reporting lines, job design, performance management system, and teamwork versus individual focus, should be internally consistent with a vision12. Empirically, organizational alignment has been found essential to successful vision realization in several studies. In particular, Kotter13 (1995) attributed unsuccessful transformation attempts in 100 large companies to their failure to remove obstacles to a new vision. Specifically cited are organizational structure and performance appraisal systems. Through organizational alignment, transformational leaders seek to empower people to act consistently with the new vision.14 Leaders also shape the social contexts in their organizations aligning their vision with actions through decisions and commitments concerning the: x Design of incentive systems; x Way that jobs are structured and allocated among workgroups; x Choice of people to head the teams; and x Goals and expectations they associate with each organizational unit.15 Together, vision and context help direct peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s energies toward a common goal, build a shared commitment to the vision, and empower people to act towards its attainment. Prior to developing a vision, students employ the Five-Forces16 and SWOT17 approaches to identify a strategic direction. They then follow the emerging Vision theory18 that vision characterized by brevity, clarity, stability, future orientation, abstractness, desirability and challenge brings about superior performance outcomes initially through follower satisfaction. Developing content for the vision is informed by a study by Pearson19 that a successful strategic vision appears to take into account industry, customers, and an organizationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s specific competitive environment in identifying an innovative competitive position in the industry. Students are also


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referred to a study by Rafferty and Griffin20 in which they concluded that visions do not always create a positive impact on follower attitudes, and that one should distinguish between “strong” and “weak” visions as well as vision content to understand their effectiveness. Students are informed by these theoretical assertions and empirical evidence in formulating a vision for INMU. The organization design approach is primarily informed by Daft’s21 work in organization theory. Students choose among the following four different types of organizational structure: Functional, Product, Matrix and Horizontal. They can also combine any of the types to form a hybrid structure where appropriate, depending on specific business requirements. In terms of local issues, the Horizontal structure is not realistic for many Thai SMEs because the Thai workforce is not well informed and educated like that of the West. Therefore, students learn about this local constraint. However, they do not only stop there. They also learn how to transform such a workforce into a highly multi-skilled one through job rotation and other means so that the Horizontal structure will be possible for Thai SMEs in the future. The development of key performance indicators in this project is informed by the Balanced Scorecard concept by Kaplan and Norton22. Based on their strategic vision, students develop corporate-level performance measures in the four broad perspectives: Financial, Customer, Internal Process, and Growth and Innovation. We recommend they come up with only a few vision-critical KPIs in each perspective. Thai employees, particularly those in the government sector, are not familiar with their performance being monitored. Therefore, proposing many KPIs will only maximize resistance to change. In terms of recommendations for implementation of the integrated solution, students mainly follow Kotter’s23 Eight Stages of Change. They usually focus on the Quick Win initiatives development to minimize resistance to change, often the case for Thai SMEs when the recommendation is to transform a pure functional structure to a matrix where there are dual authority and process-focus. LEARNING RESOURCES The learning for this project is supported by context-related and technical resources. The context resources provide background information, or rather paint a picture, about INMU and the environment in which it operates. The technical resources contain intellectual tools relevant both to understanding the problem as well as to solution development. Context relevant resources include the following: x Input from the instructor; x The “Thailand on the World Trade Stage” video; x The introductory video of INMU; x The interview video of INMU top management, employees and customers; x INMU website and printed documents, containing information about INMU management structure, “vision & mission” and services;


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A set of printed and on-line documents about two successful food & nutrition institutes in the US and England: Rowett Research Institute and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Technical Resources include: x Input from the instructor; x A set of printed vision articles24 and online articles in our e-learning and electronic journal database; x A video clip on organizational structure and design; x Organization Theory and Design by Daft25; x The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action by Kaplan and Norton;26 x Leading Change by Kotter.27 Students have varying degrees of relevant prior knowledge when entering this project depending upon their work experience and prior coursework.28 One of the first tasks undertaken by the teams is to review their internal knowledge resources. Technical resources provided in printed and online forms can help accelerate their learning at a point of need. The resources are organized in four sections: Industry & Organization Analysis, Vision Development, Organization Design, and Balanced Scorecard. They provide broad knowledge about the Five-Forces and SWOT analyses, vision development, organization design, and the Balanced Scorecard. Students read and learn to pick any information relevant to the problem they are facing in each phase of the integration solution development. STUDENT PRODUCTS AND ASSESSMENT This project includes an extensive array of products and assessments. The relationship of the products and assessments to the activity flow was indicated in Figure 1. Student products and weights assigned to each are listed below in Figure 2. As noted earlier, we have designed assessment rubrics for each of these products.

Figure 2: Assessment Products


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Organizational Diagnostic Report In this report, the teams are expected to identify the key issues relevant to INMU’s ability to compete in its changing market. Generally, each team conducts FiveForces and SWOT analyses using context resources to generate information for this report. The first issue that usually emerges from the analysis concerns an unclear, unshared, and uninformed strategic vision. These issues result in misallocation of resources, ill-informed planning, and an uncertain foundation for the human resource management system. In particular, these analyses are likely to reveal problems in job design, performance evaluation, and reward. The second emergent issue concerns coordination barriers among departments and various groups of people. The boundaries tend to be rigid, causing long turnaround times in many organizational processes and reduced morale among staff. Unclear roles and responsibilities, a third issue, result in duplicated effort, staff and departmental conflict, a lack of accountability, and unreliable performance management. The organization structure is highly functional and hierarchical, reducing innovation throughout the organization, except its research groups. Although the organization had previously developed key performance indicators, they were not linked to a clear strategy. All of these main issues are deterring INMU’s ability to compete in the long run through high cost, inconsistent quality of products and services, reduced commitment, and a lack of innovation. Vision Development Report This individual assignment identifies INMU’s future direction and formulates a working vision statement according to the characteristics of effective vision statements and content derived from the Five-Forces and SWOT analyses. Each student is expected to design a unique vision statement. As noted earlier, these are shared in class, and then used by the teams in formulating their vision statements. Students formulate a strategic vision for INMU, informed by the Five-Forces, SWOT and their analysis of organizational issues. Focusing on vision content, the first draft of the strategic vision is usually a one-page statement describing what they would envision INMU to look like in the future. Then, students craft a vision statement. A vision statement for INMU might be: “To be the leading research institute for food and nutrition in Asia through research, innovation and education.”

Although we emphasize that there is no single “correct or best” vision statement, this does not mean that all proposed visions would be equally suitable for guiding INMU in the proper direction. The vision noted above is one that addresses the issue of unclear strategic direction, focuses on the Institute’s core competency of food and nutrition research, identifies its competitive locus in Asia, and clarifies its strategic areas of focus to achieve the vision. Innovation throughout the organization, as opposed to only in the research area, and education will bring the institute a sustainable competitive advantage.


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Interim Presentation Each team presents their proposed vision statement and organizational structure to the instructor and the whole class. This non-graded, interim presentation provides an opportunity to ensure that the teams are on track before they continue with development of the Balanced Scorecard and implementation plan. Final Consulting Presentation Each team of student consultants presents its proposed integrated solution to the client and the other teams. In this presentation, they have to justify each element of their recommended solution as to how it will help improve the organization’s ability to compete in the long run. Assessment focuses on content, delivery and the students’ ability to deal professionally with questions. Final Consulting Report Each team of consultants submits a consulting report detailing its proposed solution and implementation plan. This report incorporates feedback received following the interim and final presentations. The reports are returned to students with additional feedback as well as a grade. Some readers may wonder why we provide multiple opportunities for feedback prior to submission of the final report. We offer two reasons. First, learning benefits from practice and corrective feedback. Second, and consistent with PBL methodology, the project follows a “consulting methodology” in the design of its products. That is, in the “real world” of organizations, consultants would almost always make preliminary presentations. They would then incorporate the client’s feedback into a final report. Thus, in the design of the project, we have been guided by the real product development and delivery process, rather than by a conventional academic approach of requiring the final presentation and report to be submitted simultaneously. As students are tackling a high-impact, fundamental organizational problem, their solution should integrate the organizational diagnosis and strategic vision (see above), as well as a blueprint for a new organization design, KPIs for a Balanced Scorecard, and an implementation plan. We briefly review some of the directions teams might take in formulating this project report. Organization Design INMU needs to move towards becoming a more flexible, adaptable and customerfocus organization. A hybrid structure incorporating features of functional structure and matrix structures could be suitable considering the present staff capacity and limited organizational resources that need to be shared. Back office functions could be organized in a functional structure, while the front office functions would benefit from the flexibility of a matrix structure. Working within a matrix structure, product managers (e.g., research and graduate program managers) become primarily


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responsible for coordinating across relevant functions to ensure customer satisfaction. They also act as a single point of contact for their customers. Based on its requirement to generate revenue, INMU needs to commercialize its research. Some teams recommend development of a new unit that would operate as a semi-independent, subsidiary company, owned 100% by INMU. This would enable INMU to gain advantages from greater flexibility as a non-government unit and give managers some experience in working outside the government structure. This new unit requires several multi-skilled staff with a commercial mentality to run and work closely with the food industry. Therefore, suitable staff members would need to be recruited from both inside and outside the organization. High-level organizational roles and responsibilities are also developed according to the new INMU main and subsidiary company structures. Balanced Scorecard To deal with unclear accountability as well as to form a basis for performance management, students develop the underpinnings of a Balanced Scorecard and a Strategic Map for INMU. The teams develop only a limited number of strategic objectives according to the four perspectives incorporated into a Balanced Scorecard. In addition to formulating strategic objectives, students also identify relevant KPIs. Students have to make sure that the key performance indicators deal with current INMU’s issues (e.g. cost, turnaround time, revenue) and are measurable. Implementation Issues and Recommendations Typically, students use what they have learned in other courses to identify change issues caused by attempts to transform the direction and structure of INMU. They provide recommendations on how to implement their change management plan, including issues such as staff redeployment. Of course we emphasize that there is not a single “correct solution” and encourage students to understand how the context influences the application of theory to this case. Through the Q & A and other forms of feedback we encourage them to think flexibly and to understand the principles and conditions that shape the application of knowledge to different organizational contexts. Final Exam With the many other products required for this six-week project, an exam may seem superfluous. However, as noted in Chapter Six on Student Assessment, it is essential in the context of our degree program that the instructor has a clear understanding of the extent to which each student has achieved the learning objectives. The Final Exam asks students questions concerning vision development, organizational design and the Balance Scorecard. The exam focuses on the students’ understanding and ability to apply and synthesize the concepts. The exam also assesses the degree to which students understand the constraining factors that affected the solution to the INMU problem. This facet of the exam helps the


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instructor see whether students would be able to transfer their learning to a different situation. Peer Evaluation Students use a standard Team Participation rubric for assessing student participation in their teams. This rubric includes the following criteria: timeliness of group meetings and their stay for the entire duration, meeting of task deadlines set by the team, understanding of concepts and issues relevant to the project, quality and quantity of useful ideas offered, quality and quantity of work performed, and assistance in keeping the team organized, cohesive and progress toward completion. STUDENT RESPONSE In general, response from students has been positive, even on the project’s initial introduction three years ago. It consistently draws a high number of students from a variety of programs. Feedback on strengths of the project attests to the benefits of the PBL approach. These include: x Focus on a relevant problem of concern to students across different program disciplines; x The opportunity for students to learn from each other, including from the efforts of other teams; x Multiple opportunities to refine their products with corrective feedback; x Assessment that enhances their understanding and rewards their efforts; x A successful balance between instructor-structured and studentdirected activities; x Real-world products that the students accept as typical of what they would produce in real working situation. Feedback on the project underscores its relevance for our students, most of whom are working in organizations. For example, a former student highlighted the utility of the project when a consulting company came to present its proposal on developing a Balanced Scorecard to her organization. At the presentation, she knew the right questions to ask. Other evidence of the practicality of the course comes from requests among firms employing our students to deliver the Reorganizing for Competitiveness project through our corporate training department. In addition, student feedback has also noted features of the instructor’s role in its implementation. Both positive and negative feedback have highlighted two key areas. First, students note the importance of the instructor’s experience and knowledge in domains central to the problem they confront in the project. This suggests that even in the context of student-centered learning, the instructor still represents an important learning resource for domain-specific knowledge. The instructor is not simply a “process facilitator.”


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Second, students have been both complimentary and critical of the instructor’s role in managing the project. Indeed, the fact that an instructor acts as both a facilitator and expert can have unanticipated consequences that are not always positive! When the instructor fills the role of providing direct input about specific approaches to solving the problem, students may perceive a bias towards certain “preferred solutions.” This can interfere with the instructor’s ability to be a neutral facilitator and create a negative dynamic in the class. This is exacerbated when the instructor takes on the role of the client during the final presentation. Methods of dealing with this problem include the following: x Invite outside “consultants” to class and provide students with the opportunity to ask them questions. x Use others to role play the client at the final presentation. These could be representatives from the real client organization. As noted at the outset of the chapter, we have designed several different versions of the project around a similar type of problem at different types of local organizations. We have incorporated students’ formative feedback into the redesign efforts at each stage. In the next section we discuss some of what we have learned in terms of design considerations. ADAPTATION FOR THE LOCAL CONTEXT Adaptation of the Problem This project addresses a prevailing management problem confronting SMEs in Thailand and the Asian region. Due to space considerations, we have focused in this chapter on describing the design and use of a single version of the project, the INMU problem. Here we would like to expand briefly on the nature of other two versions of the RFC project, and also reflect on what we have learned. The first version of the project focused on the problem of competitiveness at a ceramics factory located in a Northern Province of Thailand. Complicated by expansive growth, Quality Ceramics faces common issues of inconsistent product quality, rising cost of production, low staff morale, deskilled employees and lengthening turnaround times. It is also under pressure from intense competition from within Thailand and overseas, particularly China. Like INMU, Quality Ceramics has its own strengths, specifically its distinctive formula of clay and its customer relationships. However, with the advancement in reverse engineering technology, it cannot rest on its laurels; it needs to improve its own internal capabilities and stimulate innovation within the organization. The next version of the project concerned the situation at a small private hospital in Bangkok. This version offers students the advantage of focusing on a service industry as opposed to a manufacturing company. Located in Bangkok, Theptarin General Hospital has a fine reputation on the treatment of endocrine-related diseases. With the increasing level of health consciousness among people and a trend toward an aging society, the hospital is being presented with an opportunity to expand itself into a preventive care and treatment center of endocrine-related diseases. This expansion requires a shift in the way the hospital is run.


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Among others, a new 20-story education center is being constructed for this purpose. Similar to INMU, the hospital has some disturbing, potentially problematic issues of increasing costs, lengthening turnaround times, unclear accountability, and staff lacking a customer focus. These issues indicate a possible need for the hospital to reformulate its strategic direction and reorganize the organization. The third version of the project, described in this chapter, was designed around INMU. Here we would further note that this version was designed around a real consulting problem in which two of the project instructors engaged. As we took on the consulting job, we considered how we might use the consulting “case” as a problem for a PBL project. The use of a “living problem” is of course consistent with the tenets of good case writing and PBL project development. We had been approached by INMU Director to help prepare her organization to become an autonomous, self-funding unit of the university. After gaining her permission, we planned the video production. The management, staff, and customer interviews featured in the video series come from actual interviews we did for the consulting project. As the consulting project progressed and more issues were revealed, we were able to feed the new information into our class. At one stage, for example, the INMU Director was on the national news, explaining how she planned to improve INMU’s ability to compete. We now use the news report in class to further increase the project’s sense of reality. Adaptation of the Knowledge Base In the context of a rapidly changing environment, regional SMEs must reconsider the suitability of their internal organizational structure for meeting these new competitive pressures. In our experience working with these local companies, the most common method of addressing competitive pressures has been to develop a new vision and undertake a cosmetic shifting of higher level roles and responsibilities. They seldom reformulate their strategic direction and redesign their organizational systems (e.g., design a new organizational structure and KPIs) to suit the new strategic direction. During periods of growth SMEs simply add new functions onto their existing structure. This reinforces functional skills, top-down management and a highly hierarchical structure. The legacy of this has been the lack of innovation which impedes the ability to compete in the global market. When SMEs reformulate their strategic direction and develop KPIs, they often do so without redesigning an organizational structure to suit the new strategic direction. This situation is just like setting an ambitious goal and forcing staff to carry it out without removing many structural obstacles (e.g., long reporting lines, long approval processes, and insufficient authority). Instead of higher productivity, the SMEs often find a demotivated workforce, inconsistent quality of products/services, and lower levels of customer dissatisfaction. Rather than increasing their competitiveness, the SMEs lose out to companies that are better organized to cope with the demands of their competitive situation. In dealing with these fundamental issues, the project draws upon Westernderived management frameworks. Frameworks such as Five Forces and SWOT analysis are applicable in the Thai context. Leadership theories from the West are also applicable though some modifications are made based upon differences in the


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cultural expectations of leaders in the local context. Moreover, on-going research work on the role of leader vision in Thailand is expected to reveal culturally validated findings that will help refine the theory for future classes29. In terms of organizational structure, we also note a need for adaptation. In North American society, the recommendation for an organization such as INMU could well focus on design of a horizontal structure intended to distribute leadership and empower staff. In Thailand, we lack empirical research on the relationship between alternative organizational structures and outcomes. Nonetheless, theoretical analyses as well as local wisdom drawn from the experience of managers and consultants provide some knowledge base for adaptation. Thus, we note several factors that could cause a horizontal design to fail in the Thai context of an SME. x Unlike in their Western counterparts, the workers in Thai SMEs tend not to be well educated. x The expectations of Thai workers â&#x20AC;&#x201C; at all levels of the organization â&#x20AC;&#x201C; have been shaped by a national culture that emphasizes the importance and legitimacy of differences in status, position, and hierarchy. x Redesign of an organization can represent a radical change for staff who are already facing multiple, continuous and simultaneous changes at work. With these local factors in mind, in this project we emphasize the need for managers to carefully consider a variety of factors in applying global knowledge in the local situation. Closing Thoughts on Project Design Finally, we wish to reflect on some of the lessons we have learned in the design of PBL projects. We would note first that an instructor does not need to keep looking for new problems. Given a good focal problem, there are advantages to designing several versions of the same project. It reduces instructor time by providing a template for replication of the additional versions. The availability of several versions allows the instructor to maintain his/her interest in teaching the project. This is especially true in settings such as ours in which we might teach the same project two or three times in a single term. Being able to change the version of the project in use also helps avoid the problem of past students sharing their solutions with friends in subsequent classes. The problem on which this project focuses is common, high in impact, and perceived by students and practicing managers as relevant and important. It is, however, useful from an instructional standpoint to identify variants of the problem as it plays out in different types of organizations or sectors. Thus, as noted above, we have located the problem in different industries (manufacturing, service, scientific), different sectors (public, private), and different locales (urban, rural). The use of organizations that vary on dimensions such as these also means that the solutions will need to differ. That is, it avoids the use of a single template for a solution. Although this is irrelevant for any individual student, it again addresses the


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problems of maintaining instructor freshness and students sharing their products with friends. One of the features of the project design in which we also gained considerable experience is in the use of video for problem representation. It really helped simulate the actual environment and provided a lively “feeling” for students. Unlike printed documents, students could observe non-verbal communication from the interviewees. At the ceramic factory, for example, a staff interviewee was asked if he was happy with his current job. Of course, with a Thai attitude, he said ‘yes’. However, his gesture and facial expression did not suggest so, and all students could catch this from the video. If it were in a written case, the writer would have difficulty to convey such a message. CONCLUSION This chapter has described the PBL project, Reorganizing for Competitiveness. As noted elsewhere in this volume, we have constructed our curriculum to help students explore the application of management knowledge derived from global sources in their local context. We have designed several versions of this PBL project, each of which focuses on the competitiveness of Thai SMEs. These PBL projects allow students to analyze the suitability of knowledge similar to those in which they work now and will work in the future. To conclude this chapter, we would like to highlight five dimensions that seem to contribute to making this a successful PBL project: x Real-world problem & rich context: In presenting the problem to students, the use of videos, other on-line and printed documents, and the consulting experience of the instructors with the organization in the project provide a highly rich context that closely resembles the real context. This stimulates student interest as well as their desire to learn how to address this type of problem. x Typical Thai SME issues: As noted earlier, many of our students are SME owners or managers, or are professionals working in the local corporate community. The Thailand on the World Trade Stage video paints a worrisome picture that affects the students personally as they consider the potential threats to their national and personal opportunities. The video enables them to place this particular incidence of the problem in a context that is realistic and meaningful. Moreover, many of them are experiencing the same types of “problems” in their own workplaces. This further stimulates their curiosity to understand “what can we do about it?” x Student-initiated-learning: The fact that students direct their own learning both within and outside the class is enjoyable for them as well as for the instructor. Students – and the instructor – frequently stay later than the designated class time to continue our work. Students have a chance to integrate concepts and apply skills they have learned in previous courses as well as new knowledge gained specifically from


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x

x

this class. Given a wide variety of resources, they select relevant content at their point of need to address the problem. Industry experience of instructors: As mentioned before, all instructors for this project have extensive consulting experience. Some actually consulted to the organizations in the problem scenarios for this project. This consulting experience has proven useful in providing the students with relevant fresh information that would otherwise be difficult to obtain. It also provides the instructors with a theoretically informed but action-oriented perspective on working with clients that transfers well into the teaching situation. In our view, an instructor who does not possess this industry experience would face different challenges in teaching the project successfully. Real-world solution: As noted in Chapter Three on PBL project design, the development of a “real product” enhances student interest and motivation during their learning. It also challenges their ability to transform abstract, decontextualized knowledge into feasible, culturally appropriate solutions. In our setting, we find that although initially challenged, students are generally able to analyze problems reasonably well. However, they often fall short of our expectations in translating their analysis into solutions that are both analytically sound and workable. Feedback to students provided during the project draws on the consulting experience of the instructors. Real-world solution development challenges students to consider the implementation of their solution in practical terms, as well as how to achieve the ‘client’ buy-in.

NOTES 1

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5

6 7 8 9

This module was initially designed by the author. Over time modifications have been made with the input of other instructors of the module. The author wishes to acknowledge the contributions of these instructors, Ake Ayawongs and Nattavut Kulnides. The Nation, Feb. 28, 2005, Section 2B. Krungthepturakij, Feb. 15, 2005, p. 21. Miles, R., & Snow, C. (1978). Organizational strategy, structure, and process. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; Mintzberg, H. (1979). The structuring of organizations: A synthesis of research. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Geletkanycz, M.A., & Hambrick, D.C. (1997). The external ties of top executives: implications for strategic choice and performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, 42(4), 654-81; Lawrence, P.R., & Lorsch, J.W. (1967). Organization and environment: Managing differentiation and integration. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Avery, G.C. (2004). Understanding leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. See http://www01.imd.ch/wcc/ranking/. See http://www.nu.mahidol.ac.th/en/ This is a course organized by Michael Porter that is offered internationally at multiple cooperating universities. See more information at http://www.isc.hbs.edu/moc.htm


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Den Hartog, D.N., House, R., Hanges, P., & Ruiz-Quintanilla, S. (1999). Culture specific and cross-culturally generalizable implicit leadership theories: are attributes of charismatic/transformational leadership universally endorsed? Leadership Quarterly, 10(2), 219-256. Kotter, J. (1990). A force for change: How leadership differs from management. New York: Free Press; Kouzes, J.M., & Posner, B.Z. (1987). The leadership challenge: How to get extraordinary things done in organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; Locke, E.A., Kirkpatrick, S., Wheeler, J.K., Schneider, J., Niles, K., Goldstein, H., Welsh, K., & Chah, D.O. (1991). The essence of leadership. New York: Lexington Books; Nanus, B. (1992). Visionary leadership: Creating a compelling sense of direction for your organization. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Kotter, op. cit., Kouzes & Posner, op. cit,. Locke et al., op. cit., Nanus, op. cit. Kotter, J.P. (1995). Why transformation efforts fail? Harvard Business Review, 59-67. Conger, J.A., & Kanungo, R.N. (1987). Toward a behavioral theory of charismatic leadership in organizational settings. Academy of Management Review, 12, 637-647; Cowley, M., & Domb, E. (1997). Beyond strategic vision. Boston, MA: ButterworthHeinemann; Nanus, B. (1992). Visionary leadership: Creating a compelling sense of direction for your organization. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; Robbins, S.R., & Duncan, R.B. (1987). The formulation and implementation of strategic vision: a tool for change. Paper presented to the seventh Strategic Management Society Conference, Boston, MA, 14-17, October; Sashkin, M. (1988), â&#x20AC;&#x153;The visionary leaderâ&#x20AC;?. In Conger, J.A., & Kanungo, R.N. (Eds.). Charismatic leadership: The elusive factor in organizational effectiveness (pp. 122-160). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; Srivastva, Suresh, & Associates (1983). The executive mind. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Nanus, op. cit. Porter, op. cit. Learned, E., Christiansen, C., Andrews, K., & Guth, W. (1969). Business policy: Text and cases. Homewood, IL: Irwin. Kantabutra, S. (2003). An empirical examination of relationships between vision components, and customer and staff satisfaction in retail apparel stores in Sydney, Australia. Unpublished PhD thesis, Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Sydney. Pearson, A.E. (1989) Six basics for general managers. Harvard Business Review, 67(4), 94-101. Rafferty, A., & Griffin, M. (2004). Dimensions of transformational leadership: conceptual and empirical extensions. Leadership Quarterly, 15, 329-354. Daft, R.L. (2004). Organization theory and design. Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western. Kaplan, R.S., & Norton, D.P. (1992). The balanced scorecard - measures that drive performance. Harvard Business Review, 70(1),71-80. Kotter, J.P. (1996). Leading change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. e.g., Kantabutra, S., & Avery, G.C. (2002). Proposed model for investigating relationships between vision components and business unit performance. Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management, 8, 22-39; Kantabutra, S., & Avery, G.C. (2005). Essence of shared vision: empirical investigation. New Zealand Journal of Human Resources Management, 5, 1-28. Daft, R.L. (2004). Organization theory and design. Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western.


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Kaplan, R.S., & Norton, D.P. (1996). The balanced scorecard. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Kotter, 1996, op. cit. For example, some students in a team may have taken a relevant course such as Leadership and Team Development or Organization Development and Change, or may have completed the PBL module on Organizational Change. These students would bring useful prior knowledge to this module that could be shared and used by the group. However, the design of the project does not make assumptions that students have this particular knowledge. Kantabutra, S. (2006). Identifying effective vision components and vision realization factors in Thai apparel stores. Unpublished paper. College of Management, Mahidol University.


CHAPTER 14 EMPLOYEE SELECTION ABSTRACT This chapter presents the design and use of a problem-based learning project on the topic of Employee Selection. The PBL project is organized around a problem that challenges students to design and implement a selection process for hiring a new shift supervisor for a branch of Starbucks (Thailand). Students engage in all tasks in the selection process starting with screening resumes for a vacancy that has been posted. Student teams design selection tools including resume screening, an interview schedule, and a work sample activity. They then use their selection tools in a role played scenario with live candidates culminating in a selection decision. The chapter describes this process and discusses design considerations.1

INTRODUCTION Recognition of the need to create and maintain a quality workforce has taken on a new urgency over the past 15 years in organizations throughout the world. Emergence of the “knowledge economy” has highlighted the importance of an organization’s human capital to its sustainable, long-term success. Hiring and keeping the people with “the right stuff” has become an imperative in a globally competitive economically.2

This imperative is no less urgent in Asia than in the United States or Europe, though the nature of the challenge is somewhat different. Asian organizations face the challenge of meeting increasing international standards that are, in many cases, higher than traditional local benchmarks. Moreover, organizations in Asia have traditionally viewed human resource management as a personnel processing function rather than from a strategic perspective. Asian organizations increasingly compete in a global marketplace with firms from more developed economies with access to a more educated workforce. Thus, Asian organizations are seeking a workforce with quite different qualifications from the past. They need staff with IT literacy, strong English language capability, decision-making and problem-solving skills, and up-to-date knowledge in their field of work. Finding and hiring the right people has become a priority for Asian organizations operating in a global economy.3 At the same time, however, competition for quality employees has become fierce in local labor markets. Staff with desirable capabilities jump from company to company seeking better pay and benefits. The organization’s investment in selection and training is lost each time a valued employee leaves.4

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If this is the emerging context in which Asian organizations are operating, how can managers create and maintain a quality work force? The answer to this important question is multi-faceted. Managers need to mount a comprehensive approach to the problem that addresses recruitment, selection, induction and socialization of new hires, and on-going job skill and career development. Although this project emphasizes only one aspect of this approach, namely, selection, it is important for the manager to consider these other issues as well. The effectiveness of any selection process depends in part on the quantity and quality of the applicant pool. Hiring mistakes are much more likely when there is a high selection ratio (that is, the organization is forced to hire from a small applicant pool). To increase the size and quality of the applicant pool, managers should treat recruitment as a marketing problem. Marketing specialists identify the consumers' needs (in this instance the applicant is a potential consumer) and then proceed to show how the product or service (in this instance the organization represents the product or service) will satisfy their needs. The marketing specialist realizes that consumers continue to buy the product only if the product or service delivers on its promises. Once the applicant is hired, the organization needs to create conditions under which successful performance is most likely to emerge and be sustained. The quality of employee performance is affected by several factors. The most obvious determinants are competence and motivation. Less obvious are the level of difficulty of the work assignment, the level and type of support the new employee receives, and resources that the organization provides to help carry out his/her role. Unfortunately, most new hires do not work under conditions that are conducive to success. Compared with more experienced staff, the newcomer often has more tasks but fewer resources to meet these demands. To maximize the possibility that newcomers will be effective and find their role satisfying, managers should strive to create more favorable working conditions for new hires. If newcomers are to succeed and to experience job satisfaction, they should receive an assignment with a reasonable level of difficulty, sufficient resources to meet the demands, and also social-emotional support. It is the manager's responsibility to create these conditions. Even if conditions are conducive to effective performance, the new staff member may fail to meet the organization’s standards of performance. Hiring mistakes are inevitable because there are no fool-proof selection procedures or tools. The probationary period offers the manager an opportunity to verify whether the newcomer is fully competent and deserves full contractual status. It is virtually impossible for an organization to create and maintain a quality work force unless these decisions are sound ones. Few managers relish the thought of having to dismiss someone after they’ve been hired – either at the end of probation or later on. They much prefer to hire new staff members that have “the right stuff.” Managers are in a much better position to improve their percentage of successful hires if they are familiar with what research has to say about various selection tools and approaches. They also are more likely to make a sound hiring decision if they can overcome the human tendency to focus only on individual behavior while failing to consider the context in which this


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behavior will be conducted. Organizational fit if often as important to employee success as job fit.5 As Stevens and colleagues have observed: Given this range in types of organization, the tasks performed by first-line managers (supervisors) vary widely. While a first-line manager in a traditional organization may spend most of his or her time directing and controlling, the same manager in an organization with a more participative culture may spend most of his or her time facilitating, coaching, or consulting. Likewise, the tasks performed by rank-and-file workers within an industry will vary widely depending on the way that organizations have structured work. While a worker in a traditional organization may not participate in the planning and organizing of his or her work and has a narrowly defined job, the same worker in an organization with a more participative culture may be empowered to make planning and organizing decisions and may have a broadly defined job.6

In designing the selection process, managers need to realize that they are attempting to predict how an applicant will behave in their context. Accuracy increases if two conditions are met. x First, the selection process is structured to elicit the behaviors that one is trying to predict. x Second, the context in which the behavior is being observed resembles the context in which the person will subsequently perform. Managers also need to realize that the selection process entails a choice by the applicant, as well as the organization. Individuals who are treated poorly during the recruitment and selection phase may decline an offer of employment. To increase the chances that a candidate who is ultimately offered a position will accept, managers should structure the process in a way that reflects a concern for the individual. Moreover, the offer of employment should be personalized and exhibit a willingness to assist the individual in making the transition to the organization. In this project student teams begin with a problem of selecting a new shift supervisor for a branch at Starbucks (Thailand). The branch has been experiencing increasing turnover due to problems arising from its location in a neighborhood with a highly multi-cultural clientele. The teams begin the selection process at the point of screening resumes that have been provided by corporate HR. Each team of students must then design the process and tools to be used for candidate selection. The teams then execute their selection processes with live candidates, after which they make and communicate their selection decisions to the HR Manager as well as to the candidates. LEARNING OBJECTIVES This project provides students with an opportunity to learn about and develop skills in executing the following features of the employee selection process. 1. To be able to design an integrated process that increases the likelihood that you will hire the right person for the right job.


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290 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

To understand the purposes of different selection tools and research about the effectiveness of each of them. To be able to design and use systematic tools to gather information on candidates and make selection decisions. To know how employee selection links to and impacts business objectives, employee satisfaction and productivity. To understand how to develop and execute a means of evaluating and selecting job candidates on clear defensible criteria. To understand how employee selection can provide a sound foundation for staff entry and socialization into the organization.

In our College, most students who study this project will have completed Principles of Management and Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management. We assume that students will have gained the following pre-requisite knowledge and skills prior to studying this project: x Team management skills including meeting management, problemsolving, and decision-making; x Memo writing, including elements of format, style, and communicating to achieve a purpose; x Understanding of relevant OB concepts concerning human motivation, emotional intelligence, personality type, job satisfaction, goal-setting, values, job design, and corporate culture. The project challenges students to apply and integrate these management skills and OB/HR concepts with new knowledge about employee selection. The Employee Selection project was originally conceived to appeal to students in our Human Resource Management and General Management Master Degree programs. As time has passed, however, the project has also become popular among students in Entrepreneurship Management as well. These students are often working in small and medium sized enterprises in which human resource staffing is often limited in size, capability, and scope of work. Thus, in these enterprises it is even more important for line managers to become involved in the hiring process. THE PROBLEM As suggested above, companies in Thailand are plagued with a problem of high turnover. This saps the productivity of organizations whether they are local or multinational, public or private sector, large, medium or small in size. Of course, effective selection strategies alone will not bring about a sustainable reduction in employee turnover. They need to be integrated into a system of well-designed induction, reward, career development, and talent management strategies. Nonetheless, we believe the focal problem in this project gives it both high impact and wide relevance to the current and future work of our Master Degree students. This project was originally designed by Edwin Bridges as a project on Teacher Selection.7 We adapted his project for use in our business management curriculum and have since designed several versions. Here we focus on the version of the PBL project that focuses on the selection of a Shift Supervisor for Starbucks (Thailand).


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Later in the chapter we will discuss design considerations concerning adaptation of the Teacher Selection project as well as our use of alternate versions. Employee Selection at Starbucks (Thailand) The reader will note that the “presented problem” in this project is neither “messy” nor do significant value dilemmas come into play. While we want students to investigate relevant business issues impacting on hiring at Starbucks, the main focus in this project is on implementation of a solution to the selection problem. In the Starbucks version of the project, we convey the problem through a combination of video and text. In order to provide a rich introduction to the problem environment, we produced a videotape with the Country Manager of Starbucks (Thailand). In this 20 minute videotape, he discusses a range of issues relevant to the problem and tasks that the student teams will face. These include: x Vision, mission and guiding principles of Starbucks, x Corporate culture at Starbucks (Thailand), x Human resource policies, norms and practices at Starbucks. The supplementary text presentation of the problem is straightforward (see below). Employee Selection at Starbucks (Thailand) You are employed as a middle level manager at Starbucks (Thailand). Assume that a vacancy has arisen for a new Shift Supervisor, an entry level supervisory position in the company at its Tong Lor site in Bangkok. The site is an especially high volume location but has been experiencing a troubling trend of customer complaints in recent months. Concurrent with the rising number of customer complaints has been an increase in staff turnover. The customers at this upscale location include a high percentage of foreigners of many nationalities, Austral-Asian, European and North American. There is an especially high concentration of Japanese customers. Meeting their needs with efficiency and a strong service orientation and focus is essential to the site’s success. This position will require someone with a variety of organizational, interpersonal, and technical skills. You have been appointed to the Selection Committee to hire for this position. One individual in your team will serve as the chair of the selection committee. Starbucks (Thailand) HR policy requires that selection committees use two methods in its selection process: x A personal job interview. x A work sample involving job tasks to be performed by the employee. Your selection team will be responsible for planning and implementing the full selection process including each of these selection tools. Your sixweek project can be divided into several phases.


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Phase One: Planning First, your team must develop a project plan for the relevant tasks and timelines for their completion. Over the next three weeks you will then design the selection process and procedures you will use for: x Understanding the job requirements; x Method of screening candidate resumes; x Interview of the candidates (including type of interview, interview questions and method of assessing interview responses); x Work sample used to assess other competencies; x Method of integrating your data for the purpose of decision-making; Along with the process you will need to provide a description of the details of the procedures your committee will follow when implementing each method. Then explain why you intend to use these procedures. Be sure that your procedures are legally defensible. Phase Two: Implement your Procedures Three individuals have volunteered to participate in the selection process as applicants for the vacant shift supervisor position at Starbucks (Thailand). Your instructor will supply the names and phone numbers of these individuals. You will need to make all the necessary arrangements with them except scheduling for the selection process. x They will first have to supply you with resumes. x Then they will role-play the candidates as you implement the procedures that you have outlined in your selection process. You will use the interview and work sample that you design with each of the candidates according to the schedule provided by your instructor. x After gathering data on the candidates from the resumes, interviews and work samples, you will analyze the results. x Finally, you will select the candidate whom you recommend to hire in a memo to the HR Manager. Phase Three: Provide Feedback to Each Applicant As a condition of participating in this simulation, each candidate wants to know what suggestions your committee might have for helping the person to improve, regardless of whether they are selected for the position. You will also be expected to provide each candidate with feedback regarding perceived their strengths and areas in need of improvement. This information should be communicated in writing.

LEARNING PROCESS This project requires a high degree of monitoring and coordination by the instructor and TA in order to complete required tasks in six weeks. Our students study the project in six three-hour class sessions. They are also expected to complete a substantial portion of the project work outside of class time. We operate this project with a maximum class size of 24 students organized in teams consisting of four to six students. Relative to team size in some other projects, we use large teams in this project. We note several reasons.


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x x x

The amount of required and suggested reading is substantial and much of it must be completed in the first three weeks. Students do not have the luxury of reading (or procrastinating) for several weeks before starting the reading. Even using a jigsaw strategy to distribute the reading, much must be done up-front concurrent with other tasks. The scope of work products designed by the teams is substantial and continuous with deadlines to be met throughout the project. The time frame for completion of products prior to the role play in the 4th week is a major constraint in successful execution of the project. The instructor must do a large amount of assessment in a short time.

Work Flow of the Project We use the first three weeks to prepare students for their role play in the 4th week. During each of the first three weeks the instructor conducts mini-lectures ranging from 20 to 45 minutes on scheduled topics. However, the large majority of class time is devoted to the teams working on: x Weekly instructor-designed activities, x Student-facilitated meetings in which they allocate roles, plan and delegate responsibilities, discuss the problem and develop solutions; x Intra-team, jigsaw sharing of reading among members, x Student work on the design of selection tools (e.g., interview questions in Week Two and Work Sample Activities in the 3rd week). The basic work flow of the module is shown in Table 1. Table 1. Employee Selection Project Work Flow Week Topic 1 Introduction Resume Screen

Reading Employee Selection Project Billsberry, Chapters 3 & 4 Starbucks Competencies Job Profile: Shift Supervisor

Assignment Due

2

Job Competencies Billsberry, Chapter 6 (128-145) Project Plan Interviews Dinteman, Chapter 8, 9, 13

3

Interviewing LeTendre Work Samples Edenborough, Chapters 2 & 3 Knowledge Review

Selection Matrix Draft Selection Tools

4

Role Play

Billsberry, Chapter 7

Selection Tools Analysis Matrix

5

Student Presentations

Billlsberry, Chapter 9

Interview & Work Sample Summary VCD of Role Play

6

Exam

Supervision, 15-17

Memos


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Lehman-Smith et al., 55-57

Peer Evaluations

In the 1st week we orient students to the module including a presentation of the problem and our expectations of how they will work during the six-week period. The students break into teams and organize themselves. They review project materials including the videotape that supplements the text version of the problem. At this time we also alert them to some key issues and questions they will face in the project. These are encompassed in the Guiding Questions that we provide. These do not need to be answered, but they orient students to the nature of the tasks they will conduct in the coming weeks. Examples of Guiding Questions include: x How do the business environment and public perceptions of the company impact on recruitment and selection? x What information will you be seeking? Why have you chosen to gather this information? What tools will you use to gather it? x Which selection tools are most suitable and defensible in light of research? x What are some of the purposes, other than choosing the person with the right stuff, for which the interview and work sample can be used? x How can you design the selection process to increase the likelihood that the employees that you select will accept your job offer? We also introduce an activity that addresses the concept of a job profile link this to the task of resume screening. We end the class by specifying two products to be completed for the next class session: a resume sorting activity and a project plan using MS Project for the 2nd week. In the 2nd week, the teams turn in project plans for our review. They hold team meetings to review their understanding of the problem and to share what they learned from their readings. We use about one hour of the session to debrief the resume screening homework activity and for a mini-lecture on the role of interviews in the selection process. The mini-lecture is intentionally brief and does not provide an in-depth knowledge of interview strategies. We expect them to gain that knowledge from their readings. In the 3rd week we ask the teams to conduct a Qualification Identification. The Qualification Identification is an analysis of job fit and organizational fit and describes what they are looking for in the job candidate (i.e., key job competencies, knowledge, skills, and attitudes). This must be linked to a Selection Tools Matrix which shows how they plan to gather data to assess the candidates on their qualifications (see Table 2). For the 3rd week they must also submit a draft of interview questions. Note that students develop the above products using their analysis of the problem, the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s job profile (i.e., position description), and the corporate job competencies.


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Table 2. Sample Selection Tools Matrix

In the 3rd week, the teams use class time for discussion of their draft interview questions as well as brainstorming and refinement of possible work sample activities. The instructor uses class time to review draft products, check the teams’ project plans, and provide coaching as needed. The instructor also provides a minilecture on work samples and alerts the teams to the issue of how they will actually assess the responses of the candidates. We share examples of assessment rubrics and their purpose. We also demonstrate how assessment rubrics can easily be constructed by using the corporate competencies. For the 4th week the teams will have prepared all of their selection tools as well as an agenda for their use of the time allocated for their candidates. We provide them with the candidates’ resumes in advance. The teams coordinate with the TA concerning preparation for videotaping the sessions. The role play with live candidates takes place in the 4th week.8 The instructor arranges for live candidates to come for interviews scheduled during the three-hour block of classroom time. If the instructor is working with four teams, we arrange for six “candidates” to participate in the role plays. Each of the candidates goes through the selection process with two different teams. The teams conduct 45 minute sessions that include both the interview and work sample sessions with each of their three candidates. These are made to be as real and lifelike as possible. The students often dress up in Starbucks aprons and arrange the location for the work sample to be as true as possible to the real context—all without instructor prompting. These sessions are videotaped and converted into video CD’s for later viewing by the students and the instructor. Following the conclusion of each interview session, we ask the candidate to complete a rating form concerning the efficiency and professionalism of the


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interview team (see the section on Student Assessment later in this chapter). Data from this form are integrated into the instructor’s team feedback at the end of the project. Between the 4th and 5th weeks, teams analyze data gathered during the interviews in order to rank the candidates and make their selection decision. For the 5th class session each team makes a short presentation in which they present: x The tools they developed and the rationale for their design; x How they used those tools in the selection process; x A summary of the data they gathered; x Their selection decision and rationale. During the first few terms in which this project was used, we did not require these presentations. However, in their absence, we felt that students lost the benefit of learning about and from the experience of the other teams. During the 6th week, the teams turn in a one-page memo written to the HR Manager in which they communicate their selection decision. The final class session is devoted to instructor feedback and the final exam. Facilitating the Learning Process: Role of the Instructor Staffing for the project includes an instructor and one teaching assistant per class section. We would characterize the key role for the instructor in this project as “light coaching.” The teams have many tasks to be completed in a short period of time. In the early days of this project, we provided very little direction for the students and the results were rather disappointing. As time passed we increased the amount of structure somewhat and the results have improved. There is a