Harvard Business School: 3 qualities of the learning environment



Harvard Business School Classroom

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

Katie Kirsch, MBA candidate at HBS, recently discussed some of the traits that make the HBS learning environment really stand out.

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


One of the main differentiators of the HBS environment, according to Kirsch, is the people.

“HBS begins by bringing together the right people – an extremely talented, diverse and motivated 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 because it is uniquely defined by learners.


Bringing together talented people is only the first step. At HBS, students are encouraged to actively engage in discussion through its famous case study method, a teaching style that emphasizes intense, real-time discussion.

“There’s a sense of spontaneity in the air – any comment could point the conversation in an unexpected new direction,” Kirsch writes. When a teacher cold calls a lesson, the room holds its breath. Since students usually speak once per class (or every other class), comments carry weight and are carefully drafted. When a student shares a controversial opinion, the hands shoot in the air to counter. Professors embrace jokes, allowing dialogue to bounce back and forth between opposing sides several times before opening up to the crowd again. While I might not be building so many things with my hands, learning at HBS is clearly “hands on”.


The HBS curriculum includes content that covers 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 over 100 cases across health, fashion, education, agriculture and beyond,” Kirsch writes. “This scope 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 Kirsch, P&Q, HBS

Next page: Achieve New Year’s Goals



About Author

Comments are closed.