A Problem-based Approach by srirammadhav

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


Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand


Stanford University, CA, U.S.A.

with contributions by

Kamontip Snidvongs
Randall Shannon
Vichita Vathanophas
Sooksan Kantabutra
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.


Printed on acid-free paper

All Rights Reserved
© 2007 Springer
No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted
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                       TABLE OF CONTENTS

About the Authors                                                   vii
Foreword                                                            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

vi                                 TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

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
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

viii                              ABOUT THE AUTHORS

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
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.
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.
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.
                                ABOUT THE AUTHORS                              ix

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.

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 problem-
based 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’
    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.

xii                                      FOREWORD

    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
    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 socio-
         cultural context. We contend that management education has an obligation
                                          FOREWORD                                       xiii

         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.
    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

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
    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:
             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;
             To provide curricula that not only draw upon global knowledge
             resources about management, but also place that knowledge in a local
             organizational context;
             To offer programs that enable graduates to learn how to use and
             manage technologies as an integrated feature of management practice;
             To develop graduates with the capacity to engage and reflect
             productively on the emotional and moral dimensions of leading people;
             To inspire graduates with the motivation and skills to embrace life-
             long 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 problem-
based 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

xvi                                    PREFACE

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:
              Why should I consider the use of problem-based learning in the
              development of managers, leaders, or other professionals?
              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?
              What is the best approach by which I could develop PBL materials and
              how would I use this method in my own classroom?
              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?
              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.
                                           PREFACE                                       xvii

     The purposes of this section are as follows.
              To provide the reader with a clear picture of what PBL projects look
              like in terms of format and content;
              To offer insight into how different instructors organize and use PBL in
              their classrooms;
              To explicate a variety of practical issues involved in materials design
              and classroom implementation;
              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);
              To model some of the ways in which technology has been integrated
              into PBL projects;
              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.


    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,

2                              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
                                     INTRODUCTION TO PART I                                   3

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
    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.

    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


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.

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
    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:

6                         PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

              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
    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


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.
              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.
                          PREPARING ‘MANAGERS FOR ACTION’                             7

             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
     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:
               Many MBA students enter their programs with an insufficient base of
             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
             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.”
8                          PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

              Graduates are, therefore, often ill prepared for the predominant ‘work of
              managers’ which involves solving messy, value-laden, ambiguous problems
              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
         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
                          PREPARING ‘MANAGERS FOR ACTION’                           9

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.
              Growth and integration of a global, increasingly free-market economy
              has raised the standard of competition in all sectors that provide goods
              and services.
              Greater openness of political systems among nation states has
              increased access to global information and facilitated cross-border
              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:
             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
             Organizations have undertaken redesign in response to more open
             competition, increasingly adopting more diverse organizational
             There has been an increased emphasis on entrepreneurship as an
             engine of global economic growth.16
             Technology has become an enabling force, allowing organizations to
             manage and exploit information more effectively and
             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
             There has been an increased emphasis on linking corporate goals with
             human resource practices, especially through the use of performance
             measurement and management.19
             Knowledge has come to be viewed as a key currency of organizations,
             one that requires proactive management.20
             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
10                        PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

management curriculum. The first area of adaptation concerns program goals. In our
view, today’s management curriculum must address the following:
             Problem-solving skills and attitudes: Confidence to take on problems
             as opportunities, as well as the ability to think systematically,
             analytically, critically, and creatively.
             Global perspective: A broad perspective based on an understanding of
             issues and opportunities in both the local and global environments.
             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.
             Management competencies: Ability to use skills in managing projects,
             resources and business processes to achieve results efficiently.
             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.
             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.
             Communication: Ability to communicate effectively, orally and in
             writing, in working with culturally diverse audiences.
             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.
             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
                           PREPARING ‘MANAGERS FOR ACTION’                           11

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.

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:
               Analyze and define problems thoroughly and systematically;
               Search for knowledge that is relevant to the problem from formal and
               informal sources;
               Consider the contextual conditions that impact on the use of that
               Identify and develop solutions that are well-informed, practical, and
               justifiable in light of the information and assumptions provided;
               Enact their solutions and experience the consequences;
12                        PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

              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:
               Placing students in self-managing project teams through which they
               are able to experience a variety of leadership and team member roles;
               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;
               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;
               Requiring students to implement, to the greatest extent possible, the
               conclusions and recommendations that they draw from their problem
    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 e-
marketing 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
                          PREPARING ‘MANAGERS FOR ACTION’                          13

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:
              Incorrectly translating the theoretical solution into a decision;
              Mistaking the nature of the management action that is implied by the
              theoretically-informed conclusion;
              Writing in an academic style rather than getting to the point;
              Writing from the point of view of the writer rather than the reader,
              thereby emphasizing the wrong points;
              Failing to consider contextual and psychological factors that will
              impact on the supervisor’s acceptance of the recommended decision;
              Failing to show the supervisor how an otherwise excellent
              recommendation will be feasible and practical;
              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
14                       PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

‘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.
             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.
             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
             Some schools have used one of the above models in concert with on-
             line learning.
             Some programs have been delivered 100% on-line using the internet,
             books and supplementary CD ROMs (e.g., Herriott Watt Business
             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
                          PREPARING ‘MANAGERS FOR ACTION’                          15

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
             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.
             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
    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?
16                        PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

   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
    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
         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
                          PREPARING ‘MANAGERS FOR ACTION’                          17

    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
    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 goal-
setting, 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
18                       PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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 self-
reflection. 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
    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, customer-
driven 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
                            PREPARING ‘MANAGERS FOR ACTION’                            19

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:
              Identifying the information needs of the organization,
              Developing an awareness of IT tools available for information
              management and decision-making,
              Using analytical tools to explore and obtain insights from data,
              Synthesizing facts into meaningful answers to a wide range of
              problems that impede organizations from achieving their goals,
              Appreciating the need for and able to contribute to technology
    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
    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
20                         PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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.

The purpose of this book is to provide an in-depth examination of how problem-
based 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.’


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.
                            PREPARING ‘MANAGERS FOR ACTION’                               21

    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.
    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.
    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 problem-
    based learning. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.
    Saphier, J., & Gower, R. (1997). The skillful teacher: Building your teaching skills. San
    Francisco: Jossey Bass.
    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.
    Bok, op. cit. For in-depth discussion 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.
22                          PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

     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.
     Mintzberg, op. cit.
     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/
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/
     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.
     Naisbitt, op cit.; Ohmae, op. cit.
15   Mintzberg, H. (2002). Managers, not M.B.A.s. Ohmae, op cit.
     Drucker, P. (1995). Managing in a time of great change. New York: Talley House,
     Drucker, P. (1998). The next information revolution. Forbes, 62(4), 47.
     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.
     Kaplan, R. (2004). Strategy maps: Converting intangible assets into tangible outcomes.
     Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
     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.
     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.
     Ohmae, K. (1995). The end of the nation state: The rise of regional economies. New
     York: Free Press.
     Bridges, op. cit.
24   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.),
                             PREPARING ‘MANAGERS FOR ACTION’                              23

     Cognitive perspectives on educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press, 88-
26   Bransford et al., op. cit.
27   Mintzberg, op. cit.
28   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.
     Brown, M. (1990). Working ethics. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
     March, J. G. (1978). American public school administration: A short analysis. The School
     Review, 86(2), 224.
     Ibid., 223-224.
     Bridges, op. cit.
36   Ibid.
     Mintzberg, op. cit.
     Quoted in Cone, op. cit., p. 1.
                                    CHAPTER 2

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

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
    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.

26                         PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
         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.
                PBL: A PROMISING APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT EDUCATION                  27

    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
          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
    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
         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
         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
28                       PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
    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
                PBL: A PROMISING APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT EDUCATION                  29

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
          5. Provides an opportunity to create workplace-like products. Most PBL
              projects conclude with a real-world product (for example, a memo to
30                       PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

              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.
         6.   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
                PBL: A PROMISING APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT EDUCATION                  31

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


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
32                       PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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.

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
        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
                 PBL: A PROMISING APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT EDUCATION                   33

              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.
         7.   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.
         8.   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.

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
    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.
34                       PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
    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.

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.
                 PBL: A PROMISING APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT EDUCATION                    35

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, problem-
framing, 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
36                          PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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

                       Criteria                            PBL             Case Method

Problem-centered                                            X                  X

Student-led teams                                           X
Emphasis on analysis                                        X                  X

Class time is managed by students                           X

Basis unit of instruction is a project                      X

Emphasis on implementation and experiencing

Teacher-led discussion                                                         X

Problem is a starting point for learning new content        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
Emphasizes life-long learning skills                        X

Emphasizes problem-solving skills                           X                  X

Emphasizes meeting management skills                        X

Emphasizes project-management skills                        X
Concern for emotional aspects of leadership
and getting results through others

    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,
    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
                 PBL: A PROMISING APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT EDUCATION                    37

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.
38                         PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
         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
                 PBL: A PROMISING APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT EDUCATION                      39

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 problem-
relevant 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 meaning-
               oriented 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
40                      PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

              proficiency and clinical competence, but the performance differences
              were small.
        3.    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
    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.
             In general, the effect of PBL differs according to the levels of the
             knowledge structure being measured.
             Students in PBL programs performed at least as well as students in
             conventional programs when assessed on their understanding of
             PBL had the most positive effects at level two, understanding of
             At the third level, application of knowledge, PBL had more positive
             effects, but the results were not statistically significant.
             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,
                PBL: A PROMISING APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT EDUCATION                        41

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
        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

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
42                           PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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.

     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.
     Jonas, H., Etzel, S., & Barzansky, B. (1989). Undergraduate Medical Education. JAMA,
     262, 8, 1011-1019.
     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.
     Ibid. p. 12.
     Godden, D., & Baddeley, A. (1975). Context-dependent memory in two natural
     environments: On land and underwater. British Journal of Psychology, 66, 325-32.
     Prawat, R. (1989). Promoting access to knowledge, strategies, and disposition in students:
     A research synthesis, Review of Educational Research, 59(1), 1-41.
     Good, T., & Brophy, J. (1987). Motivation. In T. Good & J. Brophy (Eds.), Looking in
     classrooms (4th ed.), New York, NY: Harper & Row, 173-215.
     Ibid. pp. 180-185.
     Ibid. pp. 182-189.
     Bridges, E. (1977). The nature of leadership. In L. Cunningham, W. Hack, & R. Nystrand
     (Eds.), Educational administration: The developing decades. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan,
     Burke, K. (1935). Revolutionary symbolism in America. In Henry Hart (Ed.), American
     Writers’ Congress. New York: International Publishers, 87-94.
     The length and format for delivery of a PBL project can vary widely, depending on the
     nature of an instructional context.
     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.
     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.
     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.
     Bridges & Hallinger, 1992, op. cit.
19   Bridges & Hallinger, 1992, op cit., p. 70.
                  PBL: A PROMISING APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT EDUCATION                      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, 542-
     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


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.

Whenever we discuss PBL with potential users, the conversation at some point turns
to the issue of instructional materials. Common questions include:
              Are projects available in my area of teaching?
              Do projects take a long time to develop?
              Are they difficult to develop?
              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
   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:
             Designing our own PBL materials from scratch;
             Converting existing “case problems” into PBL projects;
             Constructing PBL projects out of problems arising from consulting and
             research projects in which we or our colleagues were engaged;
             Guiding master and doctoral students in the design of PBL materials
             within the scope of thesis projects and graduate courses;
             Assisting colleagues in the design of PBL materials;
             Reviewing and evaluating PBL projects for publication.

46                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

We hope the chapter will assist readers by reducing the time and effort needed to
design their own successful PBL projects.2

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
                               DEVELOPING PBL MATERIALS                              47

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
    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: problem-
stimulated 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.
48                      PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

    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          Student-Centered
                                       Projects                   Projects

     Introduction                          X                         X
     Problem                               X                         X
     Learning objectives                   X
     Resources                             X
     Product specifications                X                         X
     Guiding questions                     X
     Assessment exercises                  X                         X

     Time constraints                      X                         X
                               DEVELOPING PBL MATERIALS                               49

    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
    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 problem-
stimulated 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.

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
50                      PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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),
                               DEVELOPING PBL MATERIALS                                51

   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:
               Thinking systemically,
               Learning individually and collectively,
               Adapting to change,
               Improving stakeholder satisfaction,
               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!

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:
              The swamp, consisting of a complex problem that contains numerous
              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.
              The routine problem, one that most managers encounter regularly in
              their work.
              The implementation problem, in which the manager must figure out
              how to ensure the successful implementation of a new policy or
    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
52                      PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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:
                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.
                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
                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:
                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.
                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

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.
                               DEVELOPING PBL MATERIALS                                 53

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

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
    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:

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
54                     PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
    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

                                Sample: Product Specifications
     1.   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.
     2.    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.
     3.   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.
                               DEVELOPING PBL MATERIALS                                     55

Guiding Questions
With each PBL project, we provide several guiding questions. These questions serve
several purposes:
             To direct students to key concepts,
             To assist students in thinking through the problem, and
             To stimulate students to view the problem from alternative
    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.   What are the positions and interests of the various actors in this situation?
             2.   How do the problems presented by individuals affect the dynamics of
                  their social groups and organizational units?
             3.   What are the main obstacles to systemic change in this company?
             4.   As a project team, which activities will assist you in developing a system-
                  wide view of problems?
             5.   How does the collection and analysis of data assist in fostering your
                  change effort?
             6.   What roles do people in the organization play in fostering system-wide
             7.   How do different sources of power affect the implementation of change?
             8.   Who do you need to include in activities in order for the activity to be
             9.   What happens if you don’t obtain participation from all stakeholder

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:
            To contribute to the revision of projects to make them more productive
            and meaningful learning experiences for students,
            To promote retention, transfer, and application of student learning,
            To foster introspection and reflection,
            To cultivate the appropriate use of knowledge and skills, and
            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
56                    PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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:
               Student understanding of the core change theories,
               Student ability to think analytically and to apply change theories to the
               design and implementation of systemic change strategies,
               Student teamwork,
               Student perceptions of their own learning,
               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
                                DEVELOPING PBL MATERIALS                                 57

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
   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

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 sub-
problems. 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
58                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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.

                                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
    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.
                               DEVELOPING PBL MATERIALS                             59

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.

                             Features of Distinctive Products
          Forces students to go beyond analysis to solution implementation
          Mirrors the form of problem resolution and expression in the real
          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:
             Primary products should be authentic, similar to ones a manager would
             actually create or engage in when resolving the problem.
             Products should enable students to use knowledge and skills learned in
             the current as well as previous projects.
             Product specifications should require students to take action and to
             grapple with issues of implementation.
             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.
             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
60                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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:
              What knowledge, drawn from theory, research, practice, is most directly
              pertinent to the core issues in the problematic situation?
              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.

                         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
                               DEVELOPING PBL MATERIALS                                61

    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.

                                  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

                              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

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
62                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

“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:
              What principles or approaches have you learned in working with this
              problem that will help as you work on future problems with similar
              What new information did you acquire that changed your knowledge
              and understanding of this problem?
              Is it possible for you to construct an outline, model, or generalization
              about the processes involved in dealing with this problem?
              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?
              What did you learn about yourself, your ability as a leader, and your
              participation in a management team as you worked on this project?
              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?
              What strongly held personal views, beliefs, or opinions have been
              changed during this project?
              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

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
                              DEVELOPING PBL MATERIALS                               63

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.

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
               Describes how and in what form this issue arises the current
               organizational context
               Indicates why this issue is salient to administrators
               Suggests how the knowledge and skills included in the project are
               useful in dealing with this issue
               Engages the reader
               Uses active voice and straightforward, intelligible language
               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

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:
64                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

“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:
               Students experienced the problem or the product as contrived.
               We overlooked some critical knowledge or skills students needed to
               complete the project successfully.
               The instructions or guidelines that we gave the persons providing the
               feedback were inadequate or unclear.
               We either underestimated or overestimated the time required to
               complete the project.
               We included too many resources.
               Some of our resources were either poorly written or of little value in
               dealing with the problem or preparing the product.
               Our guidelines for the product were too ambiguous.
               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
    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
                               DEVELOPING PBL MATERIALS                              65

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
    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
66                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
              The new design incorporated all major features of the Teacher
              Selection project template: type of problem, learning process, products,
              and assessment.
                                DEVELOPING PBL MATERIALS                                  67

              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
              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 “ready-
made 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.

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 front-
loading of time and effort inherent in PBL is well worth it.


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.
68                     PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

     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.
     Ibid. See Chapter Five which describes this in detail.
     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.
     Duck, J. (1993, Nov.-Dec.). Managing change: The art of balancing. Harvard Business
     Review, 109-118.
     Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning
     organization. New York: Doubleday.
     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.
     Leithwood, K., & Stager, M. (1989). Expertise in principals' problem-solving.
     Educational Administration Quarterly, 25(2), 126-151.
     Senge, op cit.
     Bransford, et al 1989, op. cit., pp. 470-475.
     Bransford, et al. 1989, op. cit., p. 484.
     Bridges, E., with Hallinger, P. (1992). Problem-based learning for administrators.
     Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse for Educational Management, 98.
     Ibid., pp. 66-67.
     March 1995, Personal Communication to Professor Hallinger from B. Habschmidt
                                      CHAPTER 4

              IN THE CLASSROOM

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
instructor roles, attitudes, tasks and behaviors that will lead to desired outcomes for students.

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 problem-
based learning is, its rationale in theory and research, and how it operates in the
    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

70                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
    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
                            IMPLEMENTING PBL IN THE CLASSROOM                         71

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.
              The use of PBL at Stanford and Mahidol was programmatic and
              largely implemented via a PBL track; at Vanderbilt it was non-
              programmatic and simply incorporated into the instructor’s class.
              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.
              The American students at Stanford and Vanderbilt, though
              unaccustomed to PBL, were familiar with other modes of student-
              centered 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:
              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).
              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).

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
72                    PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

behavior and, in a sense, represent prerequisites for successful problem-based

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.

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.

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 student-
directed 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.”
74                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
      [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
    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.

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
              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
                             IMPLEMENTING PBL IN THE CLASSROOM                           75

      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.
76                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

    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 non-
judgmental, 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
                            IMPLEMENTING PBL IN THE CLASSROOM                       77

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
    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
78                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
    In the following sections of this chapter, we discuss the instructional decision-
making 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.

                     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
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
    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
80                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
              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.
              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
    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.
                            IMPLEMENTING PBL IN THE CLASSROOM                        81

    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.

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 well-
designed 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
82                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

the next section of the chapter, we discuss the types of instructional decision-making
that characterize the teacher’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
                            IMPLEMENTING PBL IN THE CLASSROOM                         83

    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
84                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
                             IMPLEMENTING PBL IN THE CLASSROOM                          85

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.

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,
86                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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 problem-
focused 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
                           IMPLEMENTING PBL IN THE CLASSROOM                       87

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.

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 action-
oriented, 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.

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
88                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
    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
    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
                               IMPLEMENTING PBL IN THE CLASSROOM                          89

          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

In this chapter we have tried to convey the nature of the instructor’s role in problem-
based 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 self-
directed 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.

    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.
    Wilkerson, L. & Hundert, E. (1991). Becoming a problem-based tutor: Increasing self-
    awareness through faculty development. In D. Boud & G. Feletti (Eds.), The challenge of
    problem-based learning, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 159-172.
    Hall, M. (1994). Constructivist educational theory in practice: An analysis of problem-
    based learning in the classroom. Unpublished paper. Nashville, TN: Peabody College, 5.
    Doyle, M., & Strauss, D. (1993). How to make meetings work. New York: Jove Books.
    Hall, op. cit., p. 6.
    Bohstedt, J. (1994). Reflective essay submitted to the author.
    Hall, op. cit., p. 12.
    Bridges, E. (1977). The nature of leadership. In L. Cunningham, W. Hack, & R. Nystrand
    (Eds.), Educational administration: The developing decades. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan.
    Hall, op. cit., p. 7.
90                     PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

     Keirsey, D. & Bates, M. (2004). Please understand me II. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus
     Bridges, E. (1994). The work of the principal: Creating a vision and the time to achieve
     it. Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse.
     Hall, op. cit., p. 7.
     Hall, op. cit., p. 7.
     Bohstedt, J. (1994). Reflective essay submitted to the author.
     Hall, op. cit., p. 15.
                                    CHAPTER 5


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:
                Enhancing the reality of the problem scenario,
                Providing input of domain-specific knowledge,
                Enabling a more sophisticated modeling of the problem-solution process,
                Offering tools for problem-formulation, analysis, and solving,,
                Providing tools for creating the product of the PBL project.

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
    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.

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:
             multi-media technologies such as digitized video clips or videotapes,
             software application programs such as word processors, spreadsheets,
             database, and statistical programs,

92                    PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

                computer simulation programs that have been designed for teaching
                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

                                        Simulate a
  Problem              Input of                            Problem        Product
Representation       Information                         Solving Tools    Creation
     Use video to     By access to     To simulate a        Tool for      Technology
     provide rich     domain-          working              analyzing     is used to
     information      specific         process related      info for      create
     about the        knowledge        to the problem       finding,      and/or
     problem                                                analyzing,    convey the
                      By system of     To model a           and solving   product
                      info retrieval   dynamic              a problem
                      Use video to     process
                      reflection and
                      To provide
                      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.
                                   INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY AND PBL                       93

                         Table 2: Technology Usage in PBL Projects

   Problem              Input of        Simulate a         Problem           Product
 Representation       Information     Working Process    Solving Tools       Creation
   Reorganize        Improving          Organizational    Data to           Data to
   for               Student            Change            Intelligence      Intelligence
   Competition       Success                              (advanced
                     Simulation         Learning          spreadsheet)      New Product
   Retail to                            Organizations                       Positioning
   e-Tail            Employee                             New Product
                     Evaluation         Strategies for    Positioning       Retail to
   Employee                             Success           (statistics)      e-Tail
   Selection         Corporate
                     Culture and        Markstrat2        Retail to         A Problem at
   Organizational    Change                          3    e-Tail            Organization
   Change                               PharmaSim                           X
   Learning                                               Projects and      Cross
   Organizations                                          People            Cultural
                                                          (project          Conflict
   Cross Cultural
   Conflict                                               manage.)          Employee
                                                          A Problem at      Selection
                                                          Organization      Meeting
                                                          X (video          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.

                      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 domain-
specific 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,
94                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

we seek to develop both their skills in problem solving as well as their domain-
specific 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
    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

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
                                INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY AND PBL                    95

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
96                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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:
              Accessing the best available knowledge that is relevant to solving the
              types of problems they will encounter in professional practice.
              Learning how to apply that knowledge in their local contexts.
              Understanding the limitations of extant knowledge
              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
98                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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:
              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.
              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
    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 domain-
specific 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:
               Write a reflective essay about their personal or team performance;
               Evaluate their performance using an instructor-provided rubric;
               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
100                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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:
               What are the key features of the problem as you see it in this case?
               Why are those features so important?
               How would you think about the solution of this problem in practice?
               Please think aloud.
               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.

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
We remind the reader of key characteristics of PBL as delineated in Chapter Two:
            The problem comes first in the learning process.
            Learning is usually conducted in teams.
            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.
102                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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 Talk-
back 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
    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:
              Useful for developing my thinking process,
              New way of thinking and analyzing problems,
              Effectiveness of teamwork,
              Learning to think more systematically,
              Learn how and where to look for information before making decisions,
              Makes me realize that getting people to change is not easy, but if I can
              succeed there is a big return,
              How to develop a strategy using low cost and high effectiveness,
              I can apply the same strategies in my real job,
              Improve myself in facing the changing world,
              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
    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).

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:
             e-mail, which is ubiquitous today, had been adopted by few
             organizations internationally.
             The World Wide Web had just launched the previous year.
             E-commerce had yet to come into existence.
             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.
             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
104                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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:
              Spreadsheet software for managing and analyzing information,
              Database programs for managing complex information,
              Statistical package for analysis of market data,
              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 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:
              Several projects require students to use presentation design software
              for creating and conducting presentations.
              The Retail to e-Tail project requires students to use website
              development software to create websites.
              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 E-
         Commerce sector often depends upon the integration of sound
106                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

         management principles with innovative thinking and skilful use of
         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 e-
         Marketing 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 on-
line. 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:
              Organize in a team of five or six students.
              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.
              Develop a research approach that incorporates video interviews to
              collect data from the perspectives of different organizational members
              related to the problem.
              Identify relevant theory to inform your understanding of the problem
              as well as to design interview questions.
              Plan and execute your data collection strategy to deepen your
              understanding of the problem.
              Integrate your data along with your theory theoretical framework to
              analyze what you found and draw conclusions.
              Develop practical recommendations that flow from your analysis and
              conclusions for addressing the problem.
              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.
                                  INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY AND PBL                        107

    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

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.
             We believe that it accelerates our students’ skill in finding problems,
             recognizing patterns in problematic situations, and designing
             appropriate solutions.27
             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
             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.

    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.
    For more information see http://www.stratxsimulations.com/markstrat_online_home.htm
    Kinnear, T. PharmaSim. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan. See also
    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.
    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.
    Leithwood & Stager, op. cit.
108                      PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

      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.
      Branford et al., 1989, op. cit.
      Bransford et al., 1989, op. cit., Leithwood & Stager, op. cit., Wagner & Sternberg, op. cit.
      Bridges, E., & Hallinger, P. (1995). Problem-based leadership development. Eugene,
      OR: ERIC.
      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.
      This PBL project was designed at the College of Management by Dr. Jun Onishi and
      Hallinger, P. & McCary, M. (1990). Developing the strategic thinking of instructional
      leaders. Elementary School Journal, 91(2), 90-108.
      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.
      Kotter, J. (2002). The heart of change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
      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.
      Hallinger & McCary, op. cit.
      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.
      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.
      See www.forio.com
      Resnick, M. (1994). Turtles, termites, and traffic jams: Explorations in massively parallel
      microworlds. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
      Hallinger et al., 2000, op. cit.
      Bridges & Hallinger, 1995, op. cit.
      Hallinger et al., 2000, op. cit.
      Bransford et al., 1986, 1989, op. cit.
      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


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
program management.

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,

110                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
                       STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT                      111

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
112                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

assessments, we deem it important to cultivate habits of self-evaluation and
    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
    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:
               Making a formal presentation to a client (e.g., see Chapters, Ten,
               Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fifteen),
               Designing and implementing a set of procedures for choosing among
               three candidates for a staff position (e.g., see Chapter Fourteen),
               Designing an e-marketing strategy and associated website for an
               organization (e.g., see Chapter Twelve),
               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),
               Developing and implementing – through a simulation – a change
               strategy for implementing a new IT system at an organization (e.g., see
               Chapter Nine),
               Designing a strategy for the positioning of a new product (e.g., see
               Chapter Eleven),
                      STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT                     113

             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

                      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 (instructor-
structured 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
114                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
                      STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT                     115

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:
             Clarifying the process for dealing with each topic on the agenda,
             Managing the meeting time efficiently,
             Maintaining a neutral stance during the meeting,
             Promoting the participation of all team members,
             Resolving conflict,
             Focusing the group on the purpose of the meeting,
             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:
              Here’s what we see…
              Here’s why it concerns us…
              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 –
116                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
    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 action-
oriented 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
                         STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT                    117

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:
              To reveal what individual students have learned concerning the
              problem and relevant domain specific knowledge,
              To assess students’ mastery of basic knowledge underlying solution of
              the project problem,
              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
   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:
              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
    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:

             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
                      STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT                     119

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, knowledge-
review 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

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
         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?
                        STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT                         121

    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
    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

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
122                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
                        STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT                       123

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
124                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
    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

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:
              Collaborates with colleagues
              Always comes to meetings well-prepared
              Displays positive, supportive attitudes.
              Contributes to the team's goals
              Came to meetings on time
              Displayed initiative and leadership
              Collaborated in solving problems
              Was a good listener
              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
                       STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT                       125

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
    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.

              Figure 2. Sample Analytical Rubric for Team Participation


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:
              Project Reports,
              Team Participation,
              Reflective Essays,
              Other Written Reports,
              Memo Writing,
                       STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT                      127

             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
    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
128                   PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
     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
         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
                       STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT                     129

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
    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
130                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
    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:
             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.
             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

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.
                        STUDENT ASSESSMENT IN A PBL ENVIRONMENT                         131

    This chapter has been adapted from material included in Chapter Four in Bridges, E., &
    Hallinger, P. (1995). Problem-based leadership development. Eugene, OR: ERIC.
2   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.
    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.
6   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


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.

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 ill-
equipped 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

134                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

and application, and selecting projects in line with alternatives chosen for
implementing PBL in order to maximize subsequent use of the content.

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
                PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING AS A CURRICULUM APPROACH                        135

(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

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

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 program-
wide rubrics for student assessment further strengthens the cumulative effects of
learning as students both understand and seek to achieve standards on which their

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

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.).
             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.
             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 decision-
             making approaches, use of MS Project).
             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 self-
authored 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
138                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
    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
                PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING AS A CURRICULUM APPROACH                      139

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.
140                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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:
            Individual professors using PBL in a single class;
            Several professors using PBL either separately or in some coordinated
            but non-programmatic fashion;
            Incorporation of PBL projects as a Capstone option in a program;
            Design of PBL projects as a form of Thesis;
            A PBL program track that students may elect in place of the traditional
            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
                PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING AS A CURRICULUM APPROACH                    141

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).
142                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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:
               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).
               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.
               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:
              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.
              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 open-
ended 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
          1. The extent to which the project is focused on development and testing
              of a PBL project versus answering research questions that relate to
144                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

              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.
         2.   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.
         3.   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
    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.

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 “stand-
alone 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.
146                     PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

    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.

      Bridges, E. (1977). The nature of leadership. In L. Cunningham, W. Hack, & R. Nystrand,
      Educational administration: The developing decades. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan,
      See Mintzberg, H. (2004). Managers not MBAs: A hard look at the soft practice of
      managing and management development. San Francisco: Berrett Kohler.
      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. 23-
      See Bridges, E., & Hallinger, P. (1995). Problem-based leadership development. Eugene,
      OR: ERIC, Chapter Five.
      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.
      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


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

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

148                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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 broad-
scale 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.
              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.
              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.
              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
              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.
              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.
               IMPLEMENTING PBL IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS                    149

    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 part-
time 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 teacher-
directed 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, state-
of-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
150                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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.
              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
              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.
              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.
              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.
              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.
              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.
              An analysis of classroom instruction revealed that very little
              instructional time was intentionally allocated to student-centered
               IMPLEMENTING PBL IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS                      151

             learning. The vast majority of in-class time was used in teacher-
             directed instruction with occasional, sporadic cases.
   After deliberating on the results of the quality audit, CMMU’s managers drew
several conclusions:
             Curriculum and instructional practice in the College was not aligned
             with the College’s stated vision and philosophy.
             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.
             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
    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
152                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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 (full-
time 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
    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, two-
term course already approved, but never used, entitled Consultant Internship.
                IMPLEMENTING PBL IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS                      153

    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.
              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
              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.
              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.
              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.
              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
154                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

administrative support, inadequate resources, inappropriate teaching facilities, large
    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 double-
edged 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
               IMPLEMENTING PBL IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS                      155

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 performance-
based 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

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.

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:
             Clarification of what problems and disciplines the projects would focus
             upon, what they would have to do, and how they would be assessed;
             The relative amount of work compared with IS, which was also a six-
             Who would be teaching the PBL projects;
             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.
                IMPLEMENTING PBL IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS                      157

   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:
            Lack of clarity of instructor roles;
            Lack of clarity in student roles;
            Uncertainty about product expectations among students;
            Poor timing of project activities and duration;
            Overly ambitious product requirements;
            Imbalance between group and individual assessment;
            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
158                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
    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.
               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).
               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”
               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.
               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
               IMPLEMENTING PBL IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS                      159

             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
    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
160                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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.
              Most students achieved a Pass on the Capstone.
              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.
              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
    We also continued to fine-tune our assessments. Specific issues that continued to
trouble us included the following.
              We felt that too much weight being given to group “products” in the
              assessment scheme. Although we also placed a high value on the
                IMPLEMENTING PBL IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS                      161

             “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
             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

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
                IMPLEMENTING PBL IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS                      163

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.

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.
               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.
               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.
               Finally, the reader should remain cognizant that this PBL curriculum
               implementation was taking place in Thailand where traditional lecture-
               based 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.
164                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

    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
            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.
            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).
            Evaluations of the individual projects reflected similar consistency in
            results at a high level.
            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
    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
    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.
                IMPLEMENTING PBL IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS                       165

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:
              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.
               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.
              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
              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.
166                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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:
              Lack of feedback (i.e., only giving a simple grade) from instructors on
              student products;
              Poorly framed feedback (i.e., feedback that does not stimulate correct
              Lack of reliable grading from instructors across sections of the same
              project module;
              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:
              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.
              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.
              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
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 on-
going 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:

             The insights they gain from seeing and hearing how students are
             thinking about and engaging the academic content.
             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.
             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
168                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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
                IMPLEMENTING PBL IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS                      169

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:
              Students must practice the skills in time management and other
              management skills that they have learned (e.g., prioritizing,
              Under the pressure created by the time constraint, students experience
              the “emotional side” of group leadership and membership.
              Student experience and reflect upon the constraints and imperfect
              conditions under they will need to put knowledge into use in real

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
170                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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:
              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;
              Highly competent, strongly motivated faculty members eager to take
              on this challenge and to put in extra effort to achieve success;
              Relatively small class sizes that enabled the necessary instructor-
              student interaction (class size never exceeded 36 at any point in time);
              Facilities that supported the team-based learning that is central to PBL;
              A college culture that valued and supported innovation;
              Internal staff resources deeply steeped in the use of PBL;
              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:
             Time frame,
             Scope of implementation (e.g., extent of the curriculum, number of
             projects to be signed and implemented);
             Scale of implementation (e.g., number of students, classes, faculty
             Management support (e.g., Senior Managers, Board of Trustees);
             Resource availability (e.g., facility, knowledge, PBL materials, class
             size, funding).
                 IMPLEMENTING PBL IN HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS                         171

    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.

1   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.
4   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 problem-
    based 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,
    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 in-
depth 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:
               Introduction of the project topic and its relevance to the work of
               The Problem Scenario around which the PBL project has been
               The Learning Objectives that the project seeks to achieve in terms of
               the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of the learners;
               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;
               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);
               Learning Resources that are included in the project to support student
               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;
               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
               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

174                  PHILIP HALLINGER & EDWIN M. BRIDGES

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 problem-
solving 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.
                          INTRODUCTION TO PART II                                  175

    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
    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.

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 problem-
solving, data analysis and interpretation, conclusions and recommendations.
                                      CHAPTER 9

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

         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
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;

178                            PHILIP HALLINGER

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
    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.”
                           LEADING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE                             179

    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-of-
         Service 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
180                           PHILIP HALLINGER

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
    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
    While computers have been used increasingly in this business over the past half-
dozen 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.
                          LEADING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE                           181

    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.   You will have three years to implement the new IT system in the
             selected business units;
        2.   You will move people through the stages of change by choosing
             activities designed to inform, interest and prepare them to use IT 2020.
        3.   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.
        4.   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.
        5.   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.
        6.   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 mini-
lectures 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:
182                            PHILIP HALLINGER

         Class Session #1
             Introduction to the Making Change Happen simulation
             Complete one year of the simulation with instructor debriefing in class
             Homework: Read Kotter (Heart of Change) chapters two, three, four
             Play all three years at least one time on your own or with a partner outside
         Class Session #2
             Mini-lecture: Goal-setting, strategy, resistance, adopter types
             Complete two years of the Simulation with instructor debriefing in class
             Homework: Read Kotter (Heart of Change) chapters five and six
             Practice the simulation outside class and increase your level of mastery
         Class Session #3
             Complete three years of the Simulation outside class
             Instructor debriefing of simulation in class for year three
             Mini-lecture: Kotter’s 8 Stages of Implementing Change
             Homework: Read Kotter (Heart of Change) chapters seven and eight
             Write your Strategy Analysis on Making Change Happen
         Class Session #4
             Strategy Analysis of Making Change Happen due in class
             Student-led debriefing of change factors, obstacles, strategies
             Read Bridges & on-line resources on Change Transitions and Case Study
         Class Session #5
             Mini-lecture: Introduce Change Transitions Framework
             In class case analysis on Change Transitions
             Finish reading Bridges and on-line resources on Change Transitions
         Class Session #6
             Personal Case Paper due in class
             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 left-
hand 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.
                          LEADING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE                           183

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
184                                PHILIP HALLINGER

   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
                           LEADING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE                             185

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:
              The cost of the activity is deducted from their budget.
              The pieces representing staff members involved in the activity move.
              Bennies, if any accrue from the activity, are recorded on the screen.
              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.
186                              PHILIP HALLINGER

         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:
              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.
              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.
              The goal of learning through the PBL simulation is to understand how
              to apply the analytical principles that underlie effective change
    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
                            LEADING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE                              187

the simulation is supported both by practical experience as well as by change
    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
         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.
188                            PHILIP HALLINGER

    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:
              Raise awareness among staff in the pilot branches and create a sense of
              urgency towards the IT 2020 implementation effort;
              Create a guiding team possessing position power, influence and
              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 on-
screen 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
                          LEADING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE                            189

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
    This PBL project draws upon several complementary conceptual models related
to organizational change:
              Roger’s adopter types;16
              Kotter’s eight strategic stages in the change process;17
              Hall and Hord’s Concerns-Based Adoption Model;18
              Bridges’ change transitions; 19
              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:
              Resistance to change is natural.
              Change is a process, not an event.
              Change is a highly personal experience; people will respond differently
              to the same change.
190                            PHILIP HALLINGER

             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.
              Think big, but start small.
              Change is an evolutionary process. Learn and adapt as you proceed.
              Focus on understanding the causes of resistance rather than on the
              symptoms of resistance.
              Adapt your change strategy to meet people's needs.
              Both pressure and support are necessary to foster change.
              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.

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:
             To foster and demonstrate team learning;
             To demonstrate individual student mastery of objectives related to
             understanding change theories and application of change strategies;
             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.
                          LEADING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE                            191

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
    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.
               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.
               The personal case assignment fosters transfer of learning and allows us
               to assess the depth of student understanding, application, analysis, and
               As noted, the simulation “test” on exam day stimulates and rewards
192                            PHILIP HALLINGER

             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.

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
                          LEADING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE                           193

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.
              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.
              The change team must pay greater attention to leading change as a
              group process and drawing on group resources.
              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:
             Revision of the descriptions of text descriptions and activity feedback;
             Revision of the actual change activities;
             Revision of the decision rules underlying player movement through
             stages of the change process and in the Bennies accruing from
    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
    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
194                              PHILIP HALLINGER

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
         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
         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.
                           LEADING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE                           195

        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
        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

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 student-
led 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.
              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.
              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.
              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.
196                                 PHILIP HALLINGER

                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.

      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.
      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
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.
      See Kotter, op. cit. O’Toole, J. (1995). Leading change. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
      Drucker, op. cit. Evans, R. (1996). The human side of school change. San Francisco:
      Jossey Bass.
      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:
      The NETWORK Inc. (1997). Making Change Happen. The NETWORK Inc., Rowley,
      MA. (info@thenetworkinc.org).
      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.
      The Nation. (1995, August 30). Thai banks come under pressure to change. The Nation, p.
      Hall, G. & Hord, S. (2001). Implementing change: Patterns, principles, and potholes.
      Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
      Rogers, E. (1971). Diffusion of innovations. New York, NY: The Free Press.
      Hall & Hord, op. cit., Fullan, op. cit., Kotter, op. cit.
      Kotter, op. cit.
                             LEADING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE                                197

     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.
     Rogers, op. cit.
     Kotter, op. cit. Kotter, J. (2002). The heart of change. Boston: Harvard Business School
     Hall & Hord, op. cit.
     Bridges, W. (2003). Managing transitions: Making the most of change. New York:
     Perseus Books.
     Senge, op. cit.
     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.
     Hofstede, G. (1991), Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind, McGraw-Hill
     Books, Berkshire, England.
                                   CHAPTER 10

                       DATA TO INTELLIGENCE

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

         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

200                              KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

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:
              Data: facts (which may be numerical or otherwise);
              Information: understandable message interpreted from data;
              Knowledge: synthesized information, or the combining of separate
              elements of information and insights into a coherent whole;
              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 non-
    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.
                            DATA TO INTELLIGENCE                                  201

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
         5. To be able to design and deliver logically structured, powerful
              presentations that use business intelligence to communicate and
              persuade the audience.
   Students need a number of pre-requisite skills in order to conduct and
successfully 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:
             A description of the background of the organization;
             An indication of the current problems or opportunities that the
             organization’s management currently wants to address;
202                            KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

             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 problem-
finding as well as problem-solving.

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:
             To identify improvement areas for individual instructors;
             To identify College-wide areas of teaching and learning in need of
             To support instructor selection decisions;
             To identify areas in need of policy revision;
             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
                            DATA TO INTELLIGENCE                                203

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
             Academic Year and Term: e.g., 03-3, 04-2
             Course Number
             Course Category: Core, Foundation, Specialization, Foundation and
             Specialization, Research, Consulting and Consulting Practice (PBL)
             Course Section
             Instructor Number
             Instructor Nationality: Thai, Foreign
             Number of Students in Course
             Number of Responses to Questionnaire
             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:
              4.25 + Excellent
              4.00 - 4.25 Superior
              3.75 – 4.00 Good to Very Good
              3.50 – 3.75 Acceptable
              3.25 – 3.50 Below Standard: Needs improvement
              < 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:
              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?
204                             KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

              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
              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:
                             DATA TO INTELLIGENCE                                  205

             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 problem-
solving 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
206                            KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

significant amount of class time to a combination of team practice and instructor
    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.
                             DATA TO INTELLIGENCE                                   207

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
    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
208                            KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

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

                                Product changes?            Changes in pricing?

                Internal        Reduced production          Changes in taste or look
               causes of        levels in products?         of products?
                                Changes in product mix?      Any reduction in # of
Why have
                                                             distributors by type?
   sales                        Distribution changes?
declined in                                                  Change in regional focus
 Q2 2002                                                     of distribution?
versus the                     Changes in competitive
                               environment?                  New competitors in market?
quarter last                    Changes in consumer          Changes in product range of
               External                                      competitors?
  year?                         tastes?
               causes of
                decline?       Changes in behavior           Any distributors stopped
                               of distributors?              carrying the products?
                               Changes in macro-             Changes in how
                               economic environment?         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 problem-
solving 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.
                               DATA TO INTELLIGENCE                                          209

    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


                    Q2 2002


                                                               Hazel Nut Cookie
                                     0   200    400      600       800     1000   1200

                                               Q2 2001

                                     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.
210                                  KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

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



               Q2 2002
               sales in   600

               Baht 000   400

                                                              Hazel Nut Cookie
                                 0       200    400     600      800       1000   1200
                                               Q2 2001 sales in Baht 000

                  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

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
                             DATA TO INTELLIGENCE                                  211

“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
    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-by-
slide 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.
                    Firstly, organizations interpret information about the
                    environment in order to construct meaning about what is
                            DATA TO INTELLIGENCE                                    213

                 happening to the organization and what the organization is
                 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 problem-
solving 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:
              A brief background of the College of Management, Mahidol
              University, with a focus on our approach to quality instruction.
              Description of CMMU’s Instructor Evaluation and the standard used to
              classify instructor’s performance levels
              Guiding questions indicating the management’s current areas of
              interest in conducting instructor evaluations
              Copy of the Instructor Evaluation Form
214                            KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

             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
    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.

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.
                             DATA TO INTELLIGENCE                                  215

                  Table 1. Assessment Products
             Team Product
                 1. Consulting Report            40%
             Individual Products
                  2. Presentation Skills         10%
                  3. Final Examination           40%
                  4. Team Participation          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
    Our rubrics assess the consulting report on the following characteristics:
              Value to the business in terms of provision of actionable
              recommendations for the business problems; convincing rationale;
              accuracy, depth, and breadth of analyses.
              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:
216                            KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

             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
             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:
               The answer addresses the decision directly and is a synthesis of the
               information incorporating all the facts derivable from the given data.
               The conclusion is convincing, clearly supported by facts with a good
               flow of logical arguments.
               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.
               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.
                             DATA TO INTELLIGENCE                                   217

                               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
    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:
              “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.
              “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”).
              “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
218                            KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

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.

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 student’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 – 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 instructor’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
    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 problem-
solving 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

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
                            DATA TO INTELLIGENCE                                  219

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.
             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.
             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.
             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.
             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:
              Conclusions concerning the performance of first-time instructors led to
              changing our selection process to include teaching a sample lesson.
              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.
              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.
              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
220                            KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

               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.”

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:
              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.
              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.
              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
                               DATA TO INTELLIGENCE                                        221

              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.

    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,
    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.
222                               KAMONTIP SNIDVONGS

      Choo, C.W. (1998). The knowing organization: How organizations use information to
      construct meaning, create knowledge, and make decisions. London: Oxford University
      Rasiel, E. M. (1999). The McKinsey way: Using the techniques of the world’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 world’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

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


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

224                               RANDALL SHANNON

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
                            NEW PRODUCT POSITIONING                              225

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 “local” 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 company’s potential customers. The
students would analyze the data set and synthesize their understanding of the
226                                RANDALL SHANNON

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
instructor’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
    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 product’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
                            NEW PRODUCT POSITIONING                                227

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
    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
228                                RANDALL SHANNON

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 “their product” 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.
                            NEW PRODUCT POSITIONING                               229

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
    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
doesn’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
230                                RANDALL SHANNON

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:
              Students’ perception of the problem’s relevance;
              Perceived meaningfulness of the skills, tasks and products;
              The instructor’s tactical interventions with individuals and teams;
              Accountability measures used in the project (i.e., quizzes, products);
                             NEW PRODUCT POSITIONING                                 231

              Peer pressure from student colleagues.
    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
    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
232                               RANDALL SHANNON

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.

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 one’s own market knowledge or feelings, and is highly
    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
                             NEW PRODUCT POSITIONING                                233

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 – 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 Paper’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.
234                                RANDALL SHANNON

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:
               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.
               For each motivation, how would you measure it?
               Can you develop questions that will measure these constructs? Do the
               questions make sense? Will people understand them?
               Upon running factor analysis, do the items seem to be measuring the
               same thing? Do the statistical factors make sense conceptually?
               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:
             Mini-lectures delivered by the instructor;
             PowerPoint lecture handouts are provided to the students;
             Video clips are provided to illustrate the creation of a data entry file, as
             well as running factor analysis;
             Johnson Wax case;4
             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.
                               NEW PRODUCT POSITIONING                                  235

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.

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.    Brainstorming activity of potential motivations (group)         5%
             2.    Questionnaire draft (group)                                    10%
             3.    Quiz 1: survey design (individual)                             30%
             4.    Quiz 2: factor analysis (individual)                           30%
             5.    Project presentation, report, data file, output file (group)   25%

Student Products
As noted in Table One, student teams are responsible for several deliverables in this
project consisting of performances and products.

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 team’s rationale
for their choice.
236                               RANDALL SHANNON

                          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
                             NEW PRODUCT POSITIONING                                    237

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:
              Screening questions to find qualified respondents,
              A limited number of general questions,
              Scaled response attitude questions about motivations,
              An intention to buy question,
              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.

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.
238                               RANDALL SHANNON

   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

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

Figure 4. Overview of Assessments
240                               RANDALL SHANNON

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.

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
    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.
                             NEW PRODUCT POSITIONING                                 241

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 hands-
on 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.”

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
242                              RANDALL SHANNON

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.

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
             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
             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.
             Instructor role: The amount and nature of the instructor’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.
                              NEW PRODUCT POSITIONING                                  243

    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: Computer-
    assisted marketing analysis and planning (Revised 2nd edition ). Victoria, Canada, 283-
    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
    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

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 company’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.

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 – current and future small business owners,

246                              VICHITA VATHANOPHAS

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 business-
owners 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

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:
              To keep it fresh for the instructors, each of whom may teach the project
              once or twice each term;
              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;
                                  RETAIL TO e-TAIL                                   247

              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 multi-
media 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.
               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.
248                             VICHITA VATHANOPHAS

             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
             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.
                                RETAIL TO e-TAIL                                 249

    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
    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;
250                             VICHITA VATHANOPHAS

         3.   Formulate an e-marketing strategy based on the relevant characteristics
              of a specific business;
         4.   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.    Project management,
        2.    Team collaboration, delegation, and leadership,
        3.    Group problem-solving and decision-making,
        4.    Locating and analyzing information,
        5.    Time management, and
        6.    Oral communication and presentation.

                              LEARNING PROCESS
Unlike in a traditional classroom environment, students in this PBL context control
much of their learning process.
              They determine how to plan the project, organize themselves, allocate
              roles, and delegate responsibilities.
              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).
              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).
              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.
                                RETAIL TO e-TAIL                                   251

 Session One      Mission Possible
                  Situational Analysis of the client.
                  Business Models/Planning Process
 Session Two      Web Design for e-Business
                  Leveraging e-Technologies
 Session Three    Progress Report Due
                  Creating e-Market Momentum and Realization of Customer Promise
 Session Four     Web Project Cycle
                  User Case Analysis
 Session Five     Examination
                  Creating Effective Websites
 Session Six      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 company’s problem:
               Conduct a situational analysis of the company, its products, and its
               Use the results of the situational analysis and other company data to
               develop an e-marketing strategy that is aligned to the company’s
               mission, products, services, and business environment;
               Design a prototype website that implements the e-marketing strategy;
               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 company’s problems and opportunities and starting their situational
    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.
252                             VICHITA VATHANOPHAS

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 company’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 instructor’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.
                                   RETAIL TO e-TAIL                                   253

   The instructor specifies three products to be submitted for the next session: an e-
Marketing 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.
254                             VICHITA VATHANOPHAS

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, e-
marketing strategy, business objectives, implementation plan, budget, and evaluation
    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
    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:
               Context: site layout and design;
               Content: text, pictures, sound and video that web page contains;
               Commerce: site’s capability to enable commercial transactions;
                                 RETAIL TO e-TAIL                                    255

             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
   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.

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:
              Worksheet Activities;
              Project Progress Report;
              e-Marketing Plan;
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.
256                             VICHITA VATHANOPHAS

    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 team’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
                                  RETAIL TO e-TAIL                                   257

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
    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 team’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;
258                              VICHITA VATHANOPHAS

        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.

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                % of Grade               Type of Assessment
e-Marketing Plan                       40%                         Group
Prototype Website                      15%                         Group
Presentation                           10%                    Individual/Group
Reflective Essay                       10%                       Individual
Knowledge Exam                         25%                       Individual
Team Performance Assessment          Ungraded                    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
                                   RETAIL TO e-TAIL                                      259

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 team’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

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.
              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 “e-tail is not only a website.” 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.
260                               VICHITA VATHANOPHAS

             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.
             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.
             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.

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.

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:
                                     RETAIL TO e-TAIL                                       261

               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
               Implementation focus: Many cases would ask students to analyze a
               problem and describe “what you would do to resolve this situa-
               tion.” 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.

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.
262                                  VICHITA VATHANOPHAS

     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/
     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
     Sample deliverables and rubrics can be viewed at http://www.cmmu.net/pbl/r2e
                                   CHAPTER 13


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 ‘client’. 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.


Today’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

264                             SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA

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
                        REORGANIZING FOR COMPETITIVENESS                            265

Economy in the Global Context. Therefore, we assume that students have gained the
following pre-requisite knowledge and skills prior to studying this project:
             Understanding of how the changing global economy impacts economic
             development, business opportunities, and national, firm and industry
             Understanding of relevant Organizational Behavior concepts
             concerning human motivation, organization structure, job and
             customer satisfaction, leadership, goal-setting, values, and corporate
             Knowledge of Five Forces and Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities,
             and Threats (SWOT) analyses;
             Surface exposure to the concepts of key performance indicators and
             Balanced Scorecard;
             Team management skills including meeting management, problem-
             solving, and decision-making;
             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
266                             SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA

    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 self-
supporting 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
                        REORGANIZING FOR COMPETITIVENESS                               267

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

                                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:
             Providing timely, useful feedback to students;
             Monitoring team progress in relation to their project plans;
             Ensuring that the teams understand instructor’s expectations;
             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:
             Introduce the SME case
             Conduct Porter’s Five Forces and SWOT analyses
             Prepare an organizational diagnostic report
    Session Two:
             Preliminary presentation of the organization diagnostic report
             Work on developing a “vision” for the organization
             Roundtable consultation with instructor on “vision” development
    Session Three:
             Individual Vision Reports returned to students
             Work in team on vision development and organizational structure
             Roundtable consultation with instructor on proposed organizational structure
    Session Four:
             Interim presentation of “vision” and organizational structure for feedback
             Finalize organizational structure and work on job roles and measures
             Roundtable consultation with instructor and work on final presentation
268                                 SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA

      Session Five:
               Final presentation
               Start working on final consulting report
      Session Six:
               Final consulting report due
               Cross-assessed individual contributions
               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…
              become more competitive?
              nurture innovation?
              bring about cost reduction?
              produce consistently high quality of products and services?
              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).
270                             SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA

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:
             How does an unclear strategic direction impact cost?
             How does a top-down management approach impact innovation?
             How does hierarchical structure impact organizational adaptation to
             environment change?
             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 customer-
focus, 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:
             The relationship between their Five-Forces and SWOT analyses and
             vision development;
             The relationship between the team’s vision for INMU and the selected
             organizational structure;
             How these changes will impact INMU’s ability to compete in the
    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.
              What would be your advice if I want to implement only the Balanced
              Scorecard without changing the new organization structure?
              I think the existing structure, which emphasizes a top-down approach,
              is already suitable because my people are not self-directed and well-
              informed. Why should I change my structure?
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             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
    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.

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:
               Design of incentive systems;
               Way that jobs are structured and allocated among workgroups;
               Choice of people to head the teams; and
               Goals and expectations they associate with each organizational unit.15
    Together, vision and context help direct people’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 organization’s specific competitive environment in
identifying an innovative competitive position in the industry. Students are also
274                             SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA

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:
              Input from the instructor;
              The “Thailand on the World Trade Stage” video;
              The introductory video of INMU;
              The interview video of INMU top management, employees and
              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:
            Input from the instructor;
            A set of printed vision articles24 and online articles in our e-learning
            and electronic journal database;
            A video clip on organizational structure and design;
            Organization Theory and Design by Daft25;
            The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action by Kaplan
            and Norton;26
            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.

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
276                                SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA

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 Five-
Forces 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 turn-
around 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
    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
    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 customer-
focus 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
278                            SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA

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

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

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

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:
              Focus on a relevant problem of concern to students across different
              program disciplines;
              The opportunity for students to learn from each other, including from
              the efforts of other teams;
              Multiple opportunities to refine their products with corrective
              Assessment that enhances their understanding and rewards their
              A successful balance between instructor-structured and student-
              directed activities;
              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.”
280                             SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA

    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:
              Invite outside “consultants” to class and provide students with the
              opportunity to ask them questions.
              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 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.
                       REORGANIZING FOR COMPETITIVENESS                           281

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 Western-
derived 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
282                              SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA

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.
              Unlike in their Western counterparts, the workers in Thai SMEs tend
              not to be well educated.
              The expectations of Thai workers – at all levels of the organization –
              have been shaped by a national culture that emphasizes the importance
              and legitimacy of differences in status, position, and hierarchy.
              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
                        REORGANIZING FOR COMPETITIVENESS                            283

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.

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:
              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.
              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?”
              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
284                               SOOKSAN KANTABUTRA

              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’

    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.
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