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Teaching Tip: Seven Ways to Improve OM Class Discussions

October 4, 2015

Would students describe your OM lectures as “transient instructional events?”  If they are asked about the lecture a few days later, are most hard-pressed to remember anything beyond what they themselves might have said?  Faculty Focuscollege (Sept. 30, 2015) offers some simple suggestions for increasing the impact of the discussions that occur in our courses.

  1. Be more focused and for less time – The EOQ model may be fascinating to you, having taken a whole course on the topic. But after 10-15 minutes, your students zone out. They do better with short discussions—focused and specific.
  2. Use better hooks to launch the discussion –  A pithy quotation, a short scenario that requires content application, a hypothetical case or situation, a synopsis of a relevant Wall Street Journal article—all of these can jump-start a discussion.
  3. Pause – Stop the discussion and ask students to think about what’s been said so far, or ask them to write down what struck them as important. Think short pauses, 30-60 seconds.
  4. Have note takers – Ask whether there are 2 or 3 students who’d be willing to take notes during the discussion. Then post their notes on the course website or distribute them. This could count as class participation.
  5. Talk less – Too many classroom discussions are still dominated by our talk.  Encourage students to speak. Point out good comments that merit response. Do everything you can to make it a good student discussion.
  6. End with something definitive – Return to the hook that launched the discussion. Ask students to write a 1-sentence summary of the discussion. Use what students have written to help them bring closure to the discussion.
  7. Use the discussion – “Remember that discussion we had about global supply chains? What did we conclude?” Refer to individual comments made during the discussion. “Paula had an interesting insight. Who remembers what she said?” And if you really want students to listen up and take discussions seriously, use a comment made in the discussion as a  question on the next quiz. 
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