Professor Fiona Scott Morton
Professor of Economics
The students have to know the abstract concept, and then apply the abstract concept to something real and concrete. Once you can pull the theory out of the particular example, you can talk about it much more articulately.
I'm a "chalk and talk" kind of lecturer. I don't do multimedia much at all. I don't use overheads. My students laugh a fair bit in my class, but I don't prepare the jokes — I rely on the students for material.
I teach Competitive Strategy. We use economics as a way to talk about particular concepts that are central to strategy. Typically, for any given day, there's a reading out of the textbook that has a theory attached to it. And then, the case that we do for that day is an application of that theory. So, the students have to know the abstract concept, and then apply the abstract concept to something real and concrete. Once you can pull the theory out of the particular example, you can talk about it much more articulately.
I think one danger that is present in a lot of MBA programs is that students are taught by example, and only by example: Let's do a case about GM in 2006 and then let's do Hewlett-Packard in 2004. In contrast, here at Yale we have particular concepts that we're trying to teach the students. It might be differentiation—what's the difference in competing when you have a differentiated product versus a homogeneous product? We talk about the scope of the firm. Should I own the plant or the operation that provides the input into my process?
In my class, there's a right answer and there's a wrong answer. Students get very clear feedback on what we're after. I cold-call people. If they're not prepared, I remark upon it because you aren't going to all learn together if some students come to class unprepared. So you have to set high standards. We work hard in my class. But we learn a lot, too, which is why we’re here.
Interviewed spring 2007.