SMU's Teaching Pedagogy
Dave Montgomery used a phrase that I like a great deal, I think captures a great deal. There ought to be balanced excellence between research and teaching. That the research at least in part, not completely should be integrated into the teaching, that you should try to provide students opportunities to the extent you can. When you get four, five, six thousand students, you can't do that every time, to everybody, but you try to do it as much as you can. My sense is you want to balance the sort of theory, methodology part with practice, but you don't want purely practice, because you want students to be continually looking at existing practice and saying, Why? Why is it that way, why couldn't it be this way? And if they aren't why-ers all the time, and but if-ers all the time, they're likely not going to be particularly good leaders or managers.
So we wanted to build a capacity to make decisions on the part of the students. We also wanted a climate that would increase their self-confidence. Because again, my impressions which may be wrong as an outsider is that the family structure in Singapore is students, or children seen but not heard is going too far but fairly passive in their relative roles, and in business fairly passive in junior positions. We wanted to create a bunch of non-passive, creative human beings who would ask the but ifs and whys of Mum and Dad, and of their bosses, tactfully and politely, but would have something to say that might be a better idea. We wanted to encourage it in them.
One way to do that is the case method. Using cases and using the design of the classrooms to get the students used to learning from each other, and talking to each other, and finding out that they too could think through a problem without somebody called a faculty member taking them step-by-step through that problem and they were capable of exercising that muscle and doing a decent job, even though, heaven forbid, they were undergraduates. So that the classrooms, not only was class-size [important], but the more important thing in those classrooms for me is they're U-shaped and they're banked. Which means, if you design it right, anyone in a given chair in a classroom, by pivoting the chair, can go eyeball-to-eyeball with any other student. If the acoustics are right, no matter where the faculty member is, no matter where anybody else is that's speaking, everybody else can hear at the same level. If you want to have that kind of peer-learning, you need those architectural and acoustic characteristics, and you need a pedagogy, a teaching style, that encourages the kind of behaviour you're after.