A letter I just wrote to my Marketing 520 professor (the tree idea was cribbed from Charlie Munger, but the Xmas tree was all me):
If we applied theory by working more cases, I'd get more out of the class. Knowledge of a discipline (for me) is like a tree. There is a core idea or set of axioms that form the main trunk. Off of this trunk are large branches, the main theories. The smaller branches are the minor theories, and the leaves are facts which have been understood in the context of the tree. To grow, it needs plenty of good soil, which comes from the consistent application of the theories. With each application, the tree grows and more leaves pop up. Now I get to sit in the shade of this huge tree. Some courses are structured in a way which runs counter to this, and the student ends up growing a different kind of tree. The student doesn't fully understand the core idea or axioms, so the main trunk is very skinny. Because of this malnourished main trunk, the main theories are also impoverished and weak, or else the student duct-taped them on. If the student didn't/couldn't apply the theories, the soil wasn't very fertile, so the tree didn't grow very tall or grow many leaves. Now we're at the end of the semester, the student freaks out, runs outside, cuts down the tree, brings it inside, puts it in a cup of water, and proceeds to carefully balance tinsel and ornamental knowledge on this poor, weak tree. The student then runs and quickly shows people what has been created. Two weeks later, the tree dies. Although I didn't do as well as I would have liked on the last exam, I did like its structure, as it forced us to start building good trees. But, in order to grow my tree, I need fertile cases which work their way through the core ideas to the main theories, to finally blossom as an understood situation. To improve the class for me, I'd move the chapter review into the cases. The class could then proceed as follows: Quiz or Quiz Discussion? Q&A session for chapter material Work case Review answers from perspective of chapter and previous chapters More cases as time allows Unfortunately, this is just my perspective. I can only hope that all the other kids said exactly the same thing. Thanks again for asking, Patrick.