Friday, November 16, 2012

Five Things I've Learned from Teaching in China, Part 3

[This post is the third of a five-part series on what I have learned from teaching in China.]

In my classes at the Beijing International MBA program, students are separated into small groups of four or five, with each member playing a specific role (e.g., CEO, COO, CFO) in a fictitious start-up business whose job is to deliver a persuasive presentation to a group of venture capitalists (their fellow classmates). The youngest student in the room (let's call him Chris) talked about how he and his teammates practiced fielding difficult questions in preparation of their team presentation. "We thought of the holes in our argument and came up with responses to questions that might come our way about those weaknesses," he explained.

Chris's point made me think of the recently concluded United States presidential debates, for which the candidates assigned a member of his party to play his opponent in practice debates. The idea behind this tactic was to get the candidate comfortable in the presence of a harsh critique and to practice responding to attacks, counterattacks, and difficult questions. I regularly told my students to think of challenges they might receive from a difficult audience, but never did I tell them to rehearse their presentation by playing the role of that difficult audience. Thanks to Chris, I will make future groups practice by determining the toughest questions they might get and crafting responses to them.