"The classroom"

A place for pedagogical collaboration!

Fun Team Building Exercise

Hey everyone,

I pilot tested a new fun team building exercise last month in my Management Skills class. The aim of the exercise was to help the students work through a creative problem solving game. Below is a briefly summary of the directions. The debrief was specifically related to our textbook concepts. I would recommend adapting the game for any course that involves the development of management skills (e.g., conflict management, creative problem solving, interpersonal communication, etc.). The students LOVED the game.


Enron: The creative problem solving game.


•Enron (also called Mafia or Werewolf) is a group role playing game of strategy, survival, and the ability to spot a whistleblower.
•The imaginary setting is a large international corporation named Enron where the corrupt employees and a handful of whistleblowers are in an all out battle for survival. A deck of cards is arranged in advance. Each player should get one card. There should be at least one King, Queen, Ace, and Joker. The rest of the cards should be hearts and another suit. There should be about a 4 to 1 ratio of hearts to all the other cards passed out.
These are the specific roles:
•The King=Jeff Schilling
•Queen=Ken Lay
•Ace=Andy Fastow
•Joker=President of Arthur Anderson
We  played “external and internal review cycle” rounds until either the whistleblowers had been eliminated or the number of whistleblowers and employees is equal. The game begins with an external review cycle
External review cycle
•Step 1: Everyone closes their eyes and puts their heads down
•Step 2: Dr. Banks then instructed the whistleblowers to wake up and silently choose a victim by pointing (being very quiet and still). They informed Dr. Banks who their victim was and then Dr. Banks told the whistleblowers to go back to sleep.
•Step 3: Dr. Banks instructed the Jeff Schilling to wake up. Mr. Schilling pointed to one person he/she suspected to be a whistleblower. Dr. Banks silently indicated (through a thumbs up or thumbs down) whether or not that person was a whistleblower. If correct, the whistleblower is “silenced.” If incorrect, Mr. Schilling knew it was someone he/she could trust.
•Step 4: Ken Lay was then instructed to wake up and choose an employee to save. Mr. Lay silently pointed to one person to save. He/she could also choose to save him or herself (as the real Ken Lay would have done). If wrong, the employee was sent to jail for the rest of the game.
Internal review cycle
•Step 1: Dr. Banks then instructs everyone to wake up except the participants eliminated.
•Step 2: Hold discussions: The employees (this includes Mr. Schilling, Mr. Lay, and the whistleblowers) discussed recent events. Nobody was allowed to show their cards (including the eliminated participants who were now watching), although they could try to convince others that they were a certain role. Once the discussion had evolved to a point where somebody had a suspicion, play proceeded to accusations.
•Step 3: Make accusations: At this point, someone made an accusation against another player. Accusations needed to be seconded for a vote to be taken.  More than one person could be accused, but we only voted on 1 person.
•Step 4: Next we voted! No anonymous vote.
•Step 5: If there was a majority vote, the accused was eliminated (but does not show his or her card). If there was no majority vote, the accusation round began again.

The participant who played the Andy Fastow role could save 1 employee that had been eliminated during the External Review cycle.

Other roles

•The participant who played the Andy Fastow role could save 1 employee that has been eliminated during the External Review cycle.
•The participant who plays the President of Arthur Andersen could “wake up” during 1 external review cycle (except the 1st cycle) and identify who the whistleblowers were. The President could then elect to identify one of the whistleblowers during the internal review cycle. However, the president is then no longer able to participate in the game.
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The Honest Truth About Dishonesty You Tube video

Below is the link to a You Tube video based on the awesome book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. The video is short and very interesting!

This is a wonderful book. The description is below. We assigned this to our MBA students. If you liked this book, you should also check out Dan Ariely’s other books: Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality.


Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and the New York Times bestselling author of The Upside of Irrationality and Predictably Irrational, examines the contradictory forces that drive us to cheat and keep us honest, in this groundbreaking look at the way we behave: The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. From ticket-fixing in our police departments to test-score scandals in our schools, from our elected leaders’ extra-marital affairs to the Ponzi schemes undermining our economy, cheating and dishonesty are ubiquitous parts of our national news cycle—and inescapable parts of the human condition. Drawing on original experiments and research, in the vein of FreakonomicsThe Tipping Point, and Survival of the Sickest, Ariely reveals—honestly—what motivates these irrational, but entirely human, behaviors.

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Teaching naked…

Longwood University recently had a teaching institute. The guest speaker was José Antonio Bowen author of the book “Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning.” I wanted to recommend the book to everyone because it was such a great read! It reviews the challenges presented to traditional brick and mortar institutions, such as (1) the possibility of a shrinking applicant pool; (2) the challenge of creating a good cost/benefit ratio for students; (3) the potential for competition from massive open online courses (MOOCs); (4) dealing with graduation rates and finally, (5) assessment of learning. Besides talking about theses issues at a high-level, we learned lots of little tools for improving our delivery of content in the classroom on a daily basis. I highly recommend reading the book and the book description is below.

Book description:

Introducing a new way to think about higher education, learning, and technology that prioritizes the benefits of the human dimension. José Bowen recognizes that technology is profoundly changing education and that if students are going to continue to pay enormous sums for campus classes, colleges will need to provide more than what can be found online and maximize “naked” face-to-face contact with faculty. Here, he illustrates how technology is most powerfully used outside the classroom, and, when used effectively, how it can ensure that students arrive to class more prepared for meaningful interaction with faculty. Bowen offers practical advice for faculty and administrators on how to engage students with new technology while restructuring classes into more active learning environments.

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Uncommon bonds

The bonds that form between Longwood faculty members and students are one of our university’s most distinctive characteristics. These connections often endure well beyond commencement exercises, and the spirit that inspires them has cemented Longwood’s reputation not only as a place of higher education but also of genuine collaboration between professor and student.
Dr. George Banks & Darrell Christensen ’13

Dr. George Banks & Darrell Christensen ’13

Darrell Christensen is glad he switched his major from accounting to management. “That was a blessing. Otherwise I wouldn’t have met Dr. Banks,” he said.

Christensen became friends with Dr. George Banks, assistant professor of management, when he took Banks’ business ethics class last fall. It was Banks’ first semester at Longwood, and he and Christensen hit it off. They often continued class conversations after class, and Christensen was a frequent visitor at Banks’ office.

Even though the two don’t have a class together this semester, the visits have continued, and Christensen sometimes brings along his girlfriend. One frequent topic is the Washington Redskins, the favorite football team for all three.

“We talk about anything and everything,” said Christensen ’13, from King George. “I’ve come to look at him as a mentor. I could come to him about anything, even if it’s not related to my schooling, and I know he would give me good advice.”

Banks calls Christensen “Dedicated Darrell”—the nickname Christensen gave himself when Banks, to help himself remember students’ names, asked each student for an alliterative adjective about themselves.

“Darrell represents what people told me about Longwood students when I came here—that they’re engaged and interested and care about their education, instead of just caring about a grade,” said Banks. “He is nice and hard-working—he really is dedicated.”

Due to a learning disability [short-term memory deficit, resulting from mild cerebral palsy], Christensen takes all of his exams at the Testing Center in the Office of Disability Resources. “That gives me extended test time and a quiet place to take a test,” said Christensen, who will graduate in December. “I’m 99 percent certain I will have this disability for the rest of my life. It just means I will have to work a little harder.”

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This past Spring semester I introduced a new class assignment which I think was very successful. The assignment was called “Ethics-in-the-news” and is the type of assignment that can be applied to a lot of other topics (e.g., HR-in-the-news). The aim of the assignment was to (1) help students see the real world application of ethics topics and (2) to practice oral presentation skills.

Students had to contribute to classroom discussion 3 ethics-in-the-news presentations during the semester. Students presented material from articles that came from established online or printed outlets (e.g., New York Times; Washington Post; Wall Street Journal). The presentations only took 2-3 minutes per student and students were asked to submit their slides to me the day before so that I could have all the slides loaded on the computer when class began. Although it seems like it might have been time consuming, the activity only took about 10 minutes of class each day and always gave us lots of material for discussion as the class period went on.

Presentation grades largely depended on the delivery of the content (e.g., the speaker has good voice control, volume, eye contact, and physical demeanor) as well as the actual content delivered (e.g., the topic is explained in appropriate detail, the speaker demonstrates an understanding of the topic and effectively communicates that knowledge to the audience). Each student received feedback from me on how to improve their presentation skills and they were expected to improve from one presentation to the next. I thought that this would be a superior design compared to simply having the students give one presentation at the end of the semester with no feedback or expectation that they improve their skills from one presentation to the next.

Overall, despite some initial hesitation  the students very much liked this assignment and I received good feedback about it at the end of the semester. I highly recommend incorporating such an activity into your future courses.

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Phrase Express

Hello everyone,

I hope your semesters are wrapping up well. I know this is a busy time of the semester so I just wanted to share a cool tip for grading and providing comments on students’ papers.

A friend of mine who is a literacy specialist told me about a free software for providing comments in students’ papers. Initially I was skeptical because (1) I am old fashioned and like to write hand written comments on students’ papers that they can’t read because I have bad handwriting and (2) it sounded complicated. However, because I needed to grade about 50 rough drafts, I thought it would be worth a try.

The software is called Phrase Express (Download: http://www.phraseexpress.com/download.php). It’s compatible with Microsoft Word.

(1) I asked my students to submit their papers electronically.
(2) I then read the 1st 5 papers and created “phrases” which were basically comments I saw regarding re-occurring errors in their papers. With each phrase you create a hot key like “transition” with a period that precedes it. In the actual paper you type this into a comment and hit enter and the following phrase appears:

“Add a transition sentence here. You should double check each paragraph in your paper to ensure that the paragraph begins and ends with transitions that facilitate the flow from each previous and following paragraph. You can summarize your key points in these sentences.”

(3) After the 1st 5 papers I had about 30 comments that I could use as I read the next 45 papers.

By my estimates, I saved about 8 hours reading papers from this activity last semester. Also, the quality of the comments improved due to consistency and a reduced cognitive demand (I also had the time and energy to add more customized comments). As my students are submitting a final draft, I simply turned on “tracked changes” and asked students to re-submit their papers with my comments and their changes tracked. I hoping this will improve the quality of the papers and simultaneously reduce the amount of time needed to grade. I also think that this iterative process of paper writing will provide a better teaching experience and better reflect what students will experience on the job when revising reports etc.

I’d be happy to show anyone who is interested how to use Phrase Express.

Have a great day,


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Hey everyone,

Very exciting news… Our new Faculty-in-Residence program kicked off last week and was a big success here at Longwood University. We received sponsorship for the new program from the College of Business and Economics as well as the Center for Faculty Enrichment. Our 1st Spring event was composed of a symposium on best practices in higher education. We had 7 faculty members each present for about 10 minutes on a recent teaching initiative that they had introduced. We then opened the floor up for discussion.

The presenters and topics were:

  • How to invert your classroom: Dr. Scott Wentland will provide an overview of how he has used video lectures to invert his MBA classroom. He will discuss some broader applications to undergrad education and the future of asynchronous lectures at Longwood.
  • How to encourage critical thinking: Dr. Charles White will discuss recent initiatives for encouraging critical thinking in the classroom.
  • How to develop oral communication skills: Dr. Linda Wright and Dr. Cheryl Adkins will present recent initiatives which are meant to develop students’ oral communication and to reduce anxiety about oral communication.
  • How to developing marketable skills: Dr. Randy Boyle will review student approaches for gaining knowledge, applying knowledge in hands on projects (skills), adding valued skills to a resume, and then searching for highly paid jobs that are looking for those skills.
  • How to use copyrighted materials in the classroom: Dr. George Jackson will address the possibilities for classroom use of copyrighted materials.  The issue is particularly relevant to students and faculty at Longwood University in light of (1) the 2012 federal court decision in Cambridge v. Becker, which broadly interprets the “fair use” doctrine, and (2) Longwood’s newspapers on campus programs, which make available to students on a daily basis the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.
  • How to implement a student peer-review process: Dr. George Banks will discuss how to introduce a peer-review process in the classroom for student papers. The peer-review process gives students the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills, the ability to practice giving positive and constructive feedback, as well as a chance to better improve their written communication skills.

Overall, the event was a big success as we had a good turn out of faculty and administrators from across campus including the University President. I definitely think that the format of the event allowed for audience members to hear tips and suggestions regarding a wide range of topics. We hope to continue this program in the Fall and also introduce a research symposium!

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Interactive online lectures

Hello everyone!

I hope you’re having a fun week so far. A recent teaching tip came to mind that I wanted to share:

In the process of improving my online MBA class, I have been designing video lectures. Video lectures, however, while they can add to the audio/visual experience of your students, are still limited in interaction. While this may seem intuitive, I found that the videos have actually been more interesting to record and listen to when I record the lecture with a “classroom guest.” Thus, when recording my online lectures (which are typically 5-15 minutes at a time), I’ve asked someone to sit in with me and participate with me during appropriate discussion points (they give their perspective and share ideas).

In my opinion this has improved the video lectures by making them more conversational and the feedback I’ve received from my students is that this approach is in fact effective.

I just wanted to make a quick note to share this idea. Have a wonderful day!

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Professor Banks’ giraffes

Hey everyone!

I had a fun idea the other day when I was at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) conference last week in Atlanta. Someone suggested an idea for a faculty award called the “giraffe award.” The award would be given to faculty members who “stuck their neck out” when speaking their mind. I thought the idea was a little silly at first…faculty members usually have no problem speaking their minds!

Then I realized that an award could in fact be given to students for speaking their minds in class. Consequently, I decided to implement an award in each of my classes. At the end of the semester, I plan to have my students vote for one of their peers to win the award. Award winners would be recognized not only for how many times they spoke up in class, but also for the quality of their comments. I thought this would be a neat way to receive recognition from their peers that they had enriched their learning experience. Award winners will likely receive something fun, such as a certificate, perhaps a gift card, and their picture could be taken with me and placed on a wall in my office titled “Professor Banks’ giraffes!”

Anyhow, I just thought this was a fun idea and wanted to share it! Have a great day!

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Students complete peer-reviews

Hello everyone,

I hope the Fall semester is wrapping up well for you. Despite the crazy end to the semester, I thought I might take a break from grading to write a blog post about a neat new activity I tried this semester. Like in many other classes, my students were asked to work on a paper throughout the course of the semester. I gave various minor assignments building up to the deadline for the final paper, such as a reference list, an outline, and a rough draft due to me for feedback.

Prior to submitting their rough draft to me though, I assigned the students to work in pairs. They were asked to give a copy of their rough draft to their matched peer. Students then read their peer’s paper and were asked to provide positive and constructive comments. To participate in the activity, student papers had to meet basic criteria (e.g., page length, acceptable grammar and spelling, etc.).

There were several benefits for doing this activity. Students were able to have two individuals (their peer and myself) provide comments prior to submitting the final paper. It can be particularly useful to go through two cycles of revisions, especially when the feedback is coming from two different sources. Additionally, students were able to observer strengths and weaknesses in their peers’ papers. Consequently, using their critical thinking skills to evaluate someone’s paper, students are able to gain a unique perspective when revising their own papers. Finally, because students had to submit a peer-review “report” to me, their grades were largely based on the feedback they provided. Thus, after a in-class lecture and discussion, students were given the chance to practice reviewing and commenting on their peer’s writing.

Overall, the feedback I received from the students was that this activity was very helpful. The students appreciated having a peer to provide them with feedback. They also enjoyed the opportunity to read a peer’s paper and provide suggestions.

In sum, I thought it was a cool idea to have students participate in a peer-review process. The students seemed to enjoy it. I would recommend this activity to anyone who is planning on assigning course papers in the future!

Good luck with the rest of your semester!

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