New Lessons from Bingham McCutchen Case Study

HLS case study “Bingham McCutchen: Combinatorial Mathematics” made the news recently, as law firm Bingham McCutchen faces challenges following a series of partner departures. Citing the case study for its depiction of Bingham’s growth trajectory, the Am Law Daily reports that Bingham posted its worst financial performance in 2013, which some at the firm attribute to contracts guaranteed to attorneys in connection with a 2009 merger with McKee Nelson. According to the Am Law article, guaranteed contracts had succeeded in previous mergers that Bingham pursued, but met opposition when Bingham honored McKee’s closed compensation system for the duration of the guarantees. As financial performance dipped, legacy Bingham attorneys reportedly wanted more transparency about compensation guaranteed to attorneys brought in from McKee. A wave of departures ensued.

The Bingham case study, authored by former HLS Professor Ashish Nanda, chronicles the firm’s series of “combinations,” or mergers, that transformed Bingham from a “middle-of-the-downtown-pack” Boston law firm in the early 1990s to a preeminent international law firm by 2010. While these mergers led to phenomenal growth for Bingham, they also had downsides: there was some attrition, gripes about cultural change, and a nagging difficulty attracting lateral hires. The case ends with the McKee Nelson deal, the tenth merger that managing partner Jay Zimmerman pursued since his election in 1994.

Now, looking back five years, the case is an opportunity to reflect critically on the past and consider strategies for damage control at present. What about the 2013 guarantees was problematic? What risks from its growth strategy surfaced recently and how might Bingham have better addressed these concerns?

Moreover, on June 1, 2014, Zimmerman relinquished day-to-day management of Bingham, ending what one Bingham employee called a “benevolent dictatorship.” How might the firm manage the leadership transition and its institutional culture? Was Bingham’s success a one-man operation, or might this be the change that Bingham needs to survive?

“Bingham McCutchen: Combinatorial Mathematics” is available from the HLS Case Studies website. Free educator copies are available for faculty and staff at non-profit institutions. For more information, or to discuss how to adapt the case study for your academic or professional education needs, contact Lisa Brem, Case Studies Program Manager, at lbrem@law.harvard.edu

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Summer Reading: Crash Course on Flipped Classrooms

Biologists at the University of Washington recently released the findings of a meta-analysis on active learning in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classes: students in lecture classes, across every discipline, are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in active learning classes, involving discussion and in-class activities.

Similar results, albeit on a smaller scale, have been documented for legal education (see, for example, St. Thomas University). Law schools are experimenting with flipped classrooms: creating online video lectures for students to watch at home and filling class time with interactive, experiential activities. Last week we shared Aaron Dewald’s top five tips for creating online videos. For those considering or planning to flip a course, we rounded up the web’s best lessons about flipped classrooms. While most are not specific legal education, we feel that the lessons learned can be transferred:

Believe It

If you’re not sold on the concept, math professor Robert Talbert counters miscellaneous “flipped learning skepticism”: can flipped classrooms work if students lack access to technology or educators lack technological skill?; is flipped learning just self-teaching?; can students really learn on their own?; and do students want lectures? Likewise, TeachThought’s “10 Common Misconceptions about the Flipped Classroom” shatters the stereotype of STEM teachers creating their own “talking-head” videos because it’s trendy.

Eric Mazur

Eric Mazur

In “Confessions of a Converted Lecturer,” Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur gives a humorous and insightful presentation on his own misconceptions about lecturing and his classroom experience that changed his mind about the value of interactive activities. Mazur developed an early form of active learning known as peer instruction (see page 8) when he realized the shortcomings of the lecture format.

Study It

Recommended by Aaron Dewald, the flipped-classroom guru featured in last week’s post, Richard Meyer’s Multimedia Learning presents 12 principles of learning, abridged here, that can guide educators to craft effective videos. For instance, did you know that “people learn better [from multimedia presentations] when cues… highlight the organization of the essential material”?  To create online videos that meet a foundational level of learning, such as remembering and understanding, Dewald also consults “Bloom’s taxonomy,” which classifies learning into different cognitive processes.

7095644699_bf3dcfc0ea_z

Bloom’s taxonomy

Rethink It

It seems that nearly every professor who has flipped a classroom has shared a cautionary tale on the web; thanks to them, nascent flippers can avoid the oversights that cause flipped classrooms to fail. Reflecting on their own first flips, Robert Talbert has a better appreciation of time management, communication, “marketing” the teaching method to students, while French teacher April Lynn Burton learned to establish buy-in, emphasize active listening, and keep herself present in the virtual classroom.

Design It

Kelly Walsh of EmergingEdTech.com has published Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book, a teacher’s guide, complete with exercises, that walks educators through the flipping process (see the Table of Contents here). On his blog, Walsh explains how to repurpose for flipped classrooms some tech tools you use in other settings, find a screencasting tool that fits, and borrow existing educational content for your own class.

Similarly, the University of Central Florida has a soup-to-nuts Blended Learning Toolkit, a website full of information on process and effective practices, model courses, evaluation resources, and more.

Lest we forget, flipped classrooms aren’t just about the online videos. Classroom time needs to be designed thoughtfully to dovetail with online videos and develop the faculties higher up in Bloom’s taxonomy, such as applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, a trainer and consultant in Whole Brain Thinking and Learning, explains how to cater to different types of learners, designing a course with a variety of interactive exercises.

Case studies and role plays make a great in-class addition to any flipped course. Want your students to debate the merits of online education? We have a FREE case study for that: MOOCs and Consequences for the Future of Education. Looking for negotiation videos that students can watch outside of class? Consider putting Critical Decisions in Negotiation 3-DVD Set on reserve at your institution.

Posted in Case Study Program Blog Posts, Legal News and Debate | Leave a comment

Aaron Dewald’s Top Five Tips for Flipping Classrooms

Lessons from CALIcon14 @ HLS

Aaron Dewald has online modules for law school down to a science—literally. Dewald is the Associate Director of the Center for Innovation and Legal Education at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. He works on TheFirstYear Project, an effort to develop online videos for the 1L curriculum. He’s also a Ph.D. candidate in learning science, and knows the potential and the pitfalls of blended learning. Dewald says, “Knowing a few simple things about what blended learning can and cannot do, as well as how to properly design the online portion, can lead to a very successful blended course.”

Many educators tell us that there’s never enough time in their courses to use case studies – too many cases to review, too much information to deliver. Using Dewald’s blended learning approach, you can be more efficient with how you transfer information to students, providing them with well-thought-out, replayable lectures that help ensure that your students get a well-structured baseline of knowledge.  This may free up classroom time for more participant-centered learning, like case studies and problem solving workshops.

imagesLast month, I sat in on Dewald’s presentation at CALIcon, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction’s annual meeting of the minds. Here are Dewald’s tips for creating online modules that work:

  1. Combine the verbal with visual. With more retrieval cues, students are more likely to remember the information due to a more robust “encoding.”
  2. Less is more. Text and talking use the same “verbal” channel of processing information, straining the students’ cognitive load. With voiceovers, it’s better to minimize the words on-screen. Likewise, superfluous content or attention-grabbing animations can distract from the key information.
  3. 10 minutes, max. Short videos encourage brevity, minimize distractions, and hold students’ attention; often they’re easier to produce as well. Break complex lessons into multiple short videos.
  4. Write a script. Many educators lecture off the cuff, but multimedia presentations need scripts to be coordinated, concrete, thoughtful, and concise. According to Dewald, novices need these features to build a strong, stable knowledge base.
  5. Talk like Toy Story. Online lectures need animated narrators, so use more inflection. Don’t worry, says Dewald, the finished product sounds less ridiculous than one might think. Learners can tell when you’re bored, reading, or both.

A version of Dewald’s CALI presentation, an example of online learning in its own right, is available on YouTube. Dewald also explains the learning science behind effective presentations and the project timeline for creating online modules.

TheFirstYear.org is looking for law school professors who want online modules for their first-year courses. You write the script, and TheFirstYear Project will create the video. Email aaron.dewald [at] law.utah.edu for more information.

Posted in Legal News and Debate, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Problem Solving Workshop: A Video Introduction

by Lisa Brem, Case Studies Program Manager

The Problem Solving Workshop (PSW)—a mandatory first-year course at Harvard Law School—has been successfully integrated into the curriculum for five years. The course is a major departure from the rest of the first-year doctrinal courses, focusing instead on hands-on participation from students and community practitioner volunteers, team projects producing legal work product, and playing various legal roles.  The course expands students’ ideas of what it means to be a lawyer. Students consistently report that they appreciate the opportunity for hands-on work and meeting with active practitioners.

The Case Studies Program has produced a short video featuring Professors Todd Rakoff and Joe Singer, authors of several PSW case studies and creators of the course in its current iteration. Professors Rakoff and Singer discuss how PSW came to be, how it addresses shortcomings in legal education, their experience teaching the course, and insights about their favorite case studies, such as Landlord’s Dilemma and Medical Stent. The video also includes interviews with students about their experience in the course and footage from PSW classrooms.

The PSW format has inspired other HLS professors, including Jonathan Zittrain, John Palfrey, Charles Nesson, and Susan Crawford, to expand into “advanced” problem solving courses in Internet and Society, Intellectual Property, and Cyberlaw.

PSW case studies are very low cost or free and available to the public on our website: Harvard Law School | The Case Studies. Look for them under “Workshop-Based Case Studies.”

Posted in Problem Solving Workshop Blog Posts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

3 New Teaching Notes Available, In Time for Fall Classes

Looking to teach decision making, leadership, copyright, or problem solving this fall? We just released three new teaching notes, free for educators, for-profit trainers, and staff at non-profit or educational institutions:

Richard Goldstone

Richard Goldstone

Reputation, Credibility, and the Goldstone Report (A) and (B), a discussion-based case study from Professor Philip Heymann, teaches students how to lead and discern truth during controversy. The protagonist, Jewish South African jurist Richard Goldstone, was tasked with investigating human rights violations of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to the scrutiny of the international community. The teaching note outlines four “discussion pastures”: the boundaries between law and politics in international conflict, the intentions behind intervention, Goldstone’s fact-finding process and judgment, and the ways a leader navigates stakeholder groups and competing objectives. Ultimately, participants consider: can fact-finding ever be objective?

Goldstone Teacher’s Manual:

For Educators/Non-Profits

For For-Profit Trainers

DSK

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Cyrus Vance and Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Dilemmas in a High-Profile Prosecution (A), (B), and (C), a discussion-based case study also by Professor Heymann, chronicles the prosecutor’s challenges during the sexual assault allegations against Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. The teaching note explores discretion and the politics of prosecution, the repercussions of prosecutorial decisions, and the method of gathering evidence and hypotheses. Can prosecutions be unbiased? Should they be? And how should prosecutors judge themselves ethically? The discussion questions posed in the teacher’s manual not only allow participants to consider and articulate their own ethical standards, but also walk through procedural strategies for building a strong case.

DSK Teacher’s Manual:

For Educators/Non-Profits

For For-Profit Trainers

JoelM_copyrightChing Pow: Far East Yardies!! is an advanced problem solving workshop case study from Professor Charles Nesson. The case itself is about a filmmaker’s international quest to legally use an orphan work, but the teaching note outlines activities for a two-day or four-day workshop exploring the possibilities around a public realm registry of orphan digital works, with the Creative Commons framework as a potential model. The teaching note provides discussion questions about derivative works, the protagonist’s options, stakeholders in the copyright regime, and the relationship between U.S. and international copyright law; research assignments about Creative Commons and international orphan works statutes; policy assignments proposing new models for copyright law; and an in-class activity to build consensus around the class’ different policy recommendations.

Ching Pow Teacher’s Manual:

For Educators/Non-Profits

For For-Profit Trainers

Posted in Problem Solving Workshop Blog Posts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Crossing the Line: The Dos and Don’ts of a Cross-Deputization Agreement

New Product: The Case of Cross-Deputization

Professor Joseph Singer’s new problem solving workshop case, “The Case of Cross-Deputization” teaches first-year law students the basics of planning transactions and resolving controversy. In the simulated case, the conflict between the legal authority of the Spokane Tribe and of neighboring Lincoln County has made law enforcement difficult on the reservation’s borders, particularly when it comes to stopping drunk drivers. Tribal officers cannot pursue drunk drivers once they leave the reservation, and thus would like the authority to engage in “hot pursuit.”

Participants adopt the positions of either the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Counsel or Tribal Counsel to negotiate a cross-deputization agreement. The parties must reach a compromise regarding hot pursuit off of the reservation, ancillary areas of shared law enforcement, and the related costs and waivers that such a partnership entails. There is significant pressure to reach an agreement: a Washington state statute mandates an arbitrated cross-deputization if the parties cannot agree. However, the tribe has sovereign immunity, and cannot be forced into an arbitrated agreement without its consent.

Professor Singer wrote the case to fill a need in the HLS Problem Solving Workshop curriculum. “The case involves a contract negotiation between sovereigns, something that is in some ways similar and in other ways very different from business or family contracts,” said Singer. “It also involved settlement, not of a lawsuit, but of a problem created by applicable law setting baselines in a manner that interfered with law enforcement goals of both sovereigns. It also shows how negotiation can be an exercise, rather than alimitation, on sovereignty.

Like all Problem Solving Workshop cases, The Case of Cross-Deputization involves client interactions. “The case gives students the opportunity to present the agreement to the client and explain how it meets the client’s goals, what was worth giving up to achieve those goals, and what goals could not be attained. It put the students in a role as government lawyers advising clients, who have obligations to promote the public welfare, rather than lawyers who serve private clients, whose goals are somewhat different.”

The case teaches participants the fundamental best practices for a negotiation:

  • DO consider substance, process, and relationship. Skilled negotiators take as much care with the logistics of the negotiation as they do with the outcomes–especially when negotiating a partnership. By establishing fair norms and a problem-solving, cooperative dynamic with the other side, the negotiating parties foster impartiality, legitimacy, and buy-in.
  • DON’T just focus on the best agreement for your party. DO focus on the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). Novice negotiators may not appreciate the power of failing to compromise. There is no need for a party to settle for less, if it could walk away to a more attractive outcome.
  • DO respect authority. Autonomy and status are among the core concerns that negotiating parties seek to protect; conflict arises when this basic humanity is disregarded. In The Case of Cross-Deputization, participants learn the importance of respecting tribal sovereignty. “The case study makes students aware of a ‘third sovereign’ or set of sovereigns that coexist with the state and federal governments but about which many students are unaware,” said Professor Singer. “The case ensures that the students do not emerge from law school ignorant of the government-to-government relationship that exists under federal law between federally-recognized Indian nations and the United States as well as the complicated jurisdictional relationships between Indian nations and state governments.”
  • DON’T judge the other side by its cover. Focusing on first impressions can ruin a negotiation. The positions each party brings to the table reflect a set of interests—usually the most obvious demands that would meet a set of underlying interests. The interests are the underlying needs, wants, goals, and worries. When parties focus on their different positions, it can seem like there is little common ground to work with; however, when parties understand their different interests, they can craft creative solutions that dovetail differences.

Through this role play exercise, students integrate these lessons and apply them to future negotiations. “The Case of Cross-Deputization” and related teaching materials are available on the Case Studies website.

Posted in Problem Solving Workshop Blog Posts | Leave a comment

Negotiating Value: What is Art Worth?

New Product: Set Sale!

by Amanda Reilly

The new role play Set Sale! debuted this spring in the HLS Negotiation Workshop, receiving an enthusiastic response.  Chad Carr, author and lecturer on law at HLS, reported, “Students really seemed to enjoy negotiating the case.  There was a lot of energy in the room and students were very animated in their assessments of the climbing or plummeting value of the artwork, depending upon the side they represented.”

Carr wrote Set Sale!  to be the inaugural exercise in the Spring Negotiation Workshop. It exposes students to core concepts in negotiation theory and negotiation role-playing techniques and provides a foundation for the rest of the essential skills taught during the Workshop.

In determining the current context for the case, Carr explained, “In both law school and executive education settings, I wanted the case to have a relatable context. That was part of the reason for writing about art.  The sale of art looks largely the same around the globe.”  Set Sale! involves a law firm that is downsizing its physical space and as a result selling some of its art works. One piece in particular has recently received media attention because it was widely adopted as an emblem of solidarity and hope following a terrorist attack off the shore of Massachusetts.

Zone of Possible Agreement

Zone of Possible Agreement

One of the main learning goals is to understand the difference between value creation and value distribution.  The ambiguity of the value of the art creates “a large zone of possible agreement (ZOPA) between the parties making distribution a key challenge,” said Carr. “However, there are also opportunities for both parties to create value in the deal, rather than just distribute value.  Those opportunities include the allocation of transportation and art storage fees, as well as finding ways for the museum to help promote the law firm’s new brand.”

Carr also added, “We want student-negotiator pairs to come to agreement on a variety of outcomes.  Seeing that there is a range of potential outcomes does two things.  It primes students to think about what constitutes a good outcome.  It also forces them to challenge their assumptions—for example, ‘Was I really in a weak position?’ or ‘What were the factors limiting my counterpart?’”

Set Sale! also allows students to experience firsthand the principal-agent problem. During the negotiations, students must disentangle their client’s best interests from their own goals and needs.   Carr reflected, “Students on both sides of the case take on the role of attorneys representing a client.  Since this is a law school, we want students to start engaging with some of the principal-agent tensions that arise in any representation.”

Posted in Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program Blog Posts | 1 Comment

Do Prosecutorial Tactics Optimize Justice? Reconsidering Discretion in Charging and Plea Bargaining

New Product: “Prosecutorial Discretion in Charging and Plea Bargaining: The Aaron Swartz Case

In January 2011, an Assistant United States Attorney in Massachusetts’ Internet and Computer Crimes Unit was assigned a case from MIT. For months, a guest on the MIT computer network had been downloading much of the online journal database JSTOR; the magnitude and speed of downloading had disrupted JSTOR servers and caused MIT to lose access to the database for three days. Suspecting cybercrime, MIT police had asked for assistance from local authorities. It had become a federal case.

Aaron_Swartz

Aaron Swartz

The suspect had been traced and apprehended. The man was 24-year-old Aaron Swartz, an Internet prodigy who had worked on the web feed known as RSS 1.0, the social news website Reddit, and other tech projects since his early teens.

The prosecution offered a plea bargain involving three months imprisonment, but Swartz refused to plead guilty to any felony counts. Pre-trial negotiations intensified when the prosecution learned of the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, authored in part by Swartz, which declared that “we need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world.” In July 2011, Swartz was charged with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer; the maximum sentence was 35 years in prison, but sentencing guidelines suggested that Swartz would face either probation or five to six years in prison.

A year later, a superseding indictment increased the counts. Other plea bargains were offered; the defense came back with different proposals; the negotiations reached a stalemate. Both parties had played the bargaining game and failed. Swartz would go to trial, a prospect costly for each side, and if Swartz were found guilty, the judge might issue a sentence that failed to meet the objectives of either side.

Then, two years after Swartz’s arrest, months before the trial proceedings would begin, Swartz committed suicide.

***

Swartz’s family said of his death, “It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz responded to these claims. “There is little I can say to abate the anger felt by those who believe that this office’s prosecution of Mr. Swartz was unwarranted and somehow led to the tragic result of him taking his own life,” she said. “I must, however, make clear that this office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case. [The prosecutors] took on the difficult task of enforcing a law they had taken an oath to uphold, and did so reasonably.”

Did the prosecutors make the best decisions they could have at the time? When their plea bargain strategy failed and a suboptimal deal seemed likely, should the prosecution have changed course? What would have been the repercussions of drastically changing their strategy?

The case study “Prosecutorial Discretion in Charging and Plea Bargaining: The Aaron Swartz Case” explores the logic behind the controversial prosecutorial discretion in Swartz’s case. Participants discuss prosecutorial decisions at five turning points: the initial charges, the pre-indictment plea offer, the indictment, subsequent plea offers, and the superseding indictment.

Professors Adriaan Lanni and Carol Steiker, who developed this case for their Adjudication course at HLS, chose to teach charging and plea bargaining with the case study method because of the reflection and perspective that narratives provide. By taking participants through the decisions in the order and context in which they occurred, the case study sidesteps hindsight opinions. Participants do not merely cast judgment on the decisions made—they are asked to inhabit the pressured environment facing the prosecution and think through how they would make those difficult decisions themselves.

The Aaron Swartz case study affords law students a lasting example to guide their philosophy of prosecution. At the end of the class discussion, participants consider if there are systemic flaws in our nation’s criminal justice, and what place prosecutorial discretion should have in that system, or if it perhaps had no place here.

“Prosecutorial Discretion in Charging and Plea Bargaining: The Aaron Swartz Case” and related teaching materials are available free of charge through the Case Studies website.

Elizabeth Moroney is the Case Studies Program Editorial Assistant and an author of the case.

Posted in Case Study Program Blog Posts | Leave a comment

Case Studies around the University: Training Med Students to Negotiate Acceptable Health Outcomes

Last week, we discussed the origins of case-based learning at Harvard Medical School, a curriculum that teaches medical students a new methodology: how to learn what they don’t know.

In 2001, HMS turned to case studies to address another gap in the medical curriculum: culturally competent care. Physicians must tailor their care to the way that patients understand authority, family dynamics, communication, gender and sexuality, spirituality, and the role of the physician—a task that requires not rote knowledge, but strategic thinking, sensitivity, and social awareness.

The Culturally Competent Care Education Committee culturally-competent-doctorscreated case studies to bring these skills to instructors, residents, and students. These case studies narrate a patient’s medical history and ask students to apply their medical knowledge, but also have a latent cultural dimension. For instance, in “A Pain in the Knee,” students are asked to identify the cultural issues that exacerbated the pain of a cancer patient from the Bronx. The doctors in the case study failed to provide the patient sufficient palliative medicine because of his history of drug addiction, and overlooked the race-based problem of access in New York City: the patient could not fill his prescription, because many pharmacies in “predominantly non-white neighborhoods” understock pain medications.

Doctors, like lawyers, need to be competent interviewers and negotiators. Ultimately, says the CCCEC, “a physician should engage in negotiation with the patient to try to achieve the best possible outcome.” The case studies give students a space to think about cultural issues before their clinical practicums, when the actual negotiations will take place. Medical students can imagine how they might negotiate their own standards of acceptable care while working around obstacles in access and communication.

The case studies illustrate the moral hazard of hard bargaining—these are scenarios where the alternatives to a negotiated agreement could be deadly. As such, the CCCEC acknowledges that sometimes successful negotiations achieve “acceptable,” rather than “optimal,” health standards. This lesson is one familiar to legal negotiators. If a patient fails to trust the doctor or see the process as fair, the healthcare system becomes illegitimate. It is better to adopt a realistic healthcare recommendation rather than compromise the doctor-patient relationship.

Click here to read more about how law schools can learn from the medical school model. If you are interested in case studies about culturally competent lawyering, see our teaching unit on “Mediating Value-Based Conflict.”

Posted in Case Study Program Blog Posts | Leave a comment

Case Studies around the University: Training Med Students to Think with Authority

Medical schools have traditionally trained doctors through a combination of cramming and clinicals. But Harvard Medical School, like Harvard Law School, has recognized the value of the problem solving pedagogy and participatory learning. Since 1985, HMS has incorporated case-based tutorials into the “New Pathway” curriculum.

Harvard Medical School

The tutorials at HMS are ungraded discussion groups that analyze patient stories as they unfold, explains HBS Professor David A. Garvin in his review of case-based learning at Harvard. The multi-part cases systematically review symptoms, physical examinations, lab tests, diagnosis, treatment, and the patient’s health over time. For each part, students work together to fill in knowledge gaps and set learning goals that lead them closer to answers. Ultimately, students present their findings in a group discussion before moving to the next part of the case.

Tutors ensure that the learning comes from the students, asking students to articulate their logic, consider substantive dimensions, and investigate further. Tutors do not manage, steer, or orchestrate, says Garvin; instead, tutors redirect conversation during points of confusion.

The teaching philosophy at HMS is a case study in its own right, offering to educators a healthy caveat against overly sculpted lesson plans and micromanaged discussion. Preliminary studies suggest that the New Pathway curriculum meets its objective to “foster a true spirit of inquiry.”

One study of HMS students showed that compared to traditional lecture- and lab-based education, the New Pathway curriculum encouraged more students to pursue primary care or psychiatry. New Pathway students felt better prepared to practice “humanistic medicine” and handle “psychosocial problems,” said the report.

In another study, New Pathway students reported more engagement with the material and stronger relationships with faculty, but found it stressful to navigate tutorial relationships and the vast body of medical knowledge. The authors of the report concluded, “These experiences are similar to challenges that successful clinicians must overcome during their professional socialization. Uncomfortable though these experiences may be, students exposed to them during medical school may arguably be better prepared for life-long learning and the strains of teamwork.”

Despite the stress of uncertainty, New Pathway students rivaled students of traditional medical education on measures of problem solving skill and biomedical knowledge. Self-directed learning, it seems, can adequately prepare students for the medical profession. And the value of the problem solving approach lies not in a competitive edge, but in the culture it produces: a fulfilling, emboldening learning environment realistic about the challenges ahead.

For a history of case-based learning across the university, see “Making the Case” in Harvard Magazine. Written in 2003, this article shows how the cross-pollination of ideas transformed the case method, which, years later, returned to Harvard Law School as the case study method our program uses today. Click here to read more about how law schools can learn from the medical school model.

Posted in Case Study Program Blog Posts | Leave a comment