Transitions provide the connective tissue that links individual discussion segments ("pastures") together to create a coherent whole. They are typically used by the instructor to provide intermediate closure and frame the subsequent discussion pasture. The length of the transition may vary significantly depending on instructor style, the inherent logic of the discussion flow, and the duration, complexity, and degree of consensus achieved in the preceding discussion segment. In crafting the transition, the instructor must balance the benefits of intermediate reflection and expectations-setting against the costs of reduced student discovery and classroom energy.

Case instructors often signal a transition in advance to avoid either of two extremes: (1) an abrupt shift in the discussion flow or (2) a shift so seamless that students are unaware that the discussion has moved on. The instructor, for example, may employ verbal cues such as "let's take one more comment before moving on" or "let's step back for a moment and reflect on what we've done." Non-verbal cues, including the raising of a board or the physical movement of the instructor to the center of the room, may also be used to signal the close of the discussion pasture and the transition to a new one.

When using mini-summaries as part of a transition, experienced instructors often reference comments made by students during the preceding discussion pasture. This approach helps ground the transition in the participants' own contributions and resonates more powerfully with students than a pre-scripted summary prepared in advance by the instructor.

Signaling a Transition

Professor Garvin explains three techniques that signal, “we are done and it's time to move on.”

Using Summaries To Transition

Professor Garvin uses "running summaries" to wrap up individual segments within a discussion.


Ashish Nanda
Professor Nanda explains how he uses comments from his students to segue from one topic to another, while noting that sometimes it's appropriate not to veer away from a topic.