Harvard Business School: 3 qualities of the learning environment


Harvard Business School Classroom

Harvard Business School (HBS) is consistently ranked among the best B schools in the world. It’s for good reason. Since 1908, HBS’s mission has been to train and educate leaders who make a difference in the world. This requires an environment of trust and mutual respect, freedom of expression and research, and a commitment to lifelong learning. Every aspect of the HBS environment – from approach to learning to content – is carefully thought out to ensure students have the most effective learning experience.

Katie Kirsch, an MBA candidate at HBS, recently discussed some of the features that really set the HBS learning environment apart.

“I feel part-student, part-researcher, both experiencing and studying the value of traditional MBA programs – still among the most hands-on, exclusive and expensive yet transformational learning experiences,” Kirsch writes. “My hope is to find out what works best at HBS that could be transferred and expanded to many other schools, programs, and spaces.”


According to Kirsch, one of the main differentiators of the HBS environment is people.

“HBS starts by bringing together the right people – an extremely talented, diverse, and driven cohort – to lay the foundation for learning,” Kirsch writes. “From there, HBS offers specific programming, materials and teachers to provoke and unleash the potential of the group. No class, section or conversation could ever be the same, as it is uniquely defined by learners. »


Bringing together talented people is only the first step. At HBS, students are encouraged to actively engage with each other in discussion through its renowned Case Study Method, a teaching style that emphasizes intense, real-time discussion.

“There’s a sense of spontaneity in the air – any comment could steer the conversation in an unexpected new direction,” Kirsch writes. When a teacher starts class with a cold call, the room holds its breath. Since students typically speak once per class (or every other class), comments carry weight and are written carefully. When a student shares a controversial opinion, the hands shoot up to counter. The professors embrace the banter, allowing the dialogue to bounce back and forth between opposing sides several times before it opens up to the crowd again. Although I may not physically build as much with my hands, learning at HBS is definitely ‘hands on’. »


The HBS curriculum includes content that spans a number of sectors and industries. The variety of content, says Kirsch, is what makes the learning environment unique.

“This past semester alone, we’ve covered more than 100 cases across healthcare, fashion, education, agriculture, and beyond,” Kirsch writes. “This breadth strategically allows first-year students to develop their fluency in all areas and learn to speak a common language within their section before diving deeper into a particular area.”

Sources: Katie KirschP&Q, HBS

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