Teaching Philosophy

Bright students do great work not in spite of its demands and challenges, but because of them. Class discussion should both challenge and encourage, discovering and recognizing each student’s unique perspective. I believe in treating high expectations as a given. My advice to my peers has been to give their students more than they think they can handle, because I have always found that they rise to the task as long as they feel safe taking risks. If given a clear problem to solve, support and camaraderie, and individual ownership, my experience has been that students reveal a higher level of ingenuity and critical thought than even they expected of themselves. I am generous with encouragement and humor, and have no tolerance for dishonesty.

My classroom style is informed by my experiences working in advertising and as a theater actress, both of which taught me how to be engaging, persuasive, and adapt to an audience. I gained additional experience training my prior company’s labor union clients in using our programs, and tutoring high school students in math while in college.

In designing a course, I set three kinds of teaching objectives: (1) what material to cover (2) what skills to teach, including observation, analytical thinking, and practical techniques, and (3) what positions students must be persuaded to adopt in order to internalize what they learn. Of the latter, one of the most important positions deals with the status of “right answers.”

“There Are No Right Answers”

Business school instructors must be masters of paradox. On the one hand, we need simplified models to teach an empirically complex subjects. But on the other hand, over-simplifying the complexity only contributes to the temptation to rely on intuition and biases when it comes to understanding social and psychological phenomena.

My explicit goal is to teach students what is known (data) and thought (theory) about a given issue and to understand any contradictions in the research. I want them to complete my class accepting that while we do not know everything about human behavior, but we do know some things – and to be sensitive between the difference between these levels of certainty. I aim to demonstrate that while many answers sound right not all of them are; some answers are right more often thanothers, and the questions of when, why, and how they are right can be addressed empirically. I do this by combining case discussions with research-driven lectures and practical application (team projects and in-class exercises). I have succeeded when my students maintain – not resolve – this tension of educated uncertainty.

On Being Available, Being Productive, and Being Technologically Savvy

Teaching and research can and should be complementary ambitions. However it is undeniable that teaching can easily consume all of your writing and research time with exorbitant amounts of email and hasty administratia.

As my students’ evaluations attest, I believe in making myself as available as possible to my students, so that even the most unsure or skeptical can get personal attention. However my syllabus shows how I manage to do this and still remain productive: I set clear norms at the onset, and use a variety of technologies (in person office hours, virtual office hours, phone availability, bspace, class and team wikis, and clear email guidelines) to ensure that communication is both efficient and individualized.

I am the first to admit that I am a technophile, but the value of any tool is in how it is used. In the next few years I believe the concept of technological savvy will favor etiquette and economy over speed and proliferation. Real limits to attention will force businesses to demand considerate communication habits. I consider this lesson an important responsibility as a business school instructor in an always-on world, and I emphasize it throughout my course through my behavior and expectations, and through research, theory, and guest speakers on the topic (previously from LinkedIn, Google, and Deloitte). My experience has been that students appreciate the time saved and develop an increased sensitivity to effects of the medium on the message.

Teaching Experience

Organizational Behavior

I love teaching and am confident in front of undergraduates, MBAs, and executives. I am the only student from the doctoral program to have independently designed and taught Organizational Behavior, an undergraduate course covering perception; bias and decision making; personality and values; creativity and design thinking; team dynamics; organizational culture; leadership; power and politics; negotiation; networking; and managing oneself. The class involved a team project where user-centered design was used to discover and resolve a real organization’s issues, which were diagnosed and analyzed using theoretical frameworks from the class. Syllabus and teaching evaluations follow.


I was a graduate student instructor for Professor Barbara Mellers’s MBA Negotiations course. The purpose of the course was to develop students’ expertise in managing transactional and dispute resolution negotiations that occur in a variety of business settings. It used several DRRC cases and exercises, and focused on integrative bargaining techniques and iterative feedback reports, which I developed and analyzed. I also taught the class multiple times, leading case discussions and negotiation debriefs.


I was a graduate student instructor for four sections of the core Leadership course lead by Professors Pino Audia and Jennifer Chatman. The course revolved around 360-degree feedback by which students receive ratings on key leadership behaviors and traits from a range of former co-workers including supervisors, peers, and subordinates. The key task of the GSIs was to manage the communication of the feedback so that students’ receptivity to the feedback was maximized. I lead four teams of eight students (one team per class section) in the interpretation and cross-instrument analysis of these feedback reports. I learned many coaching techniques to ensure that those being evaluated were open to the feedback they received, and fostered a team environment that was both safe and critical of potential biases in either the data or the individual’s interpretation of it. I held well-attended weekly office hours, graded projects, and gave extensive feedback on writing assignments.

New Product Development

This is a team project based course on new product development and the user- centered design process, taught and developed by Sara Beckman, one of Haas’s most awarded instructors. Students work on small interdisciplinary product development teams to generate new ideas, conduct primary research on user needs, do a competitive market analysis, and integrate what they learn in a step- by-step process of moving from concept to prototype. Many of the products developed in the class have gone on to patent and market their products.

While I was not a graduate student instructor for the course, I studied the class intensely for two years, developing a rich dataset which I am using for my dissertation and at least three other projects. I closely followed three sections at Berkeley and two sections at MIT. I collected students’ assignments, sketchbooks, and project-related documents; conducted four surveys per semester; interviewed each team (62 in all); and observed teams at work. I got to know the course material very well. I was also a guest lecturer in this course, presenting research and theory about how cognitive style affects teamwork and how knowledge of one’s teammates’ cognitive styles can be used to maximize team performance.

Service Innovation

I was a guest lecturer in Haas’s elective course on Service Innovation, which focused on competing in business through the strategic design of new business models and services. The professor was Henry Chesborough, who invited me to run a case discussion based on the article “Innovation in Services: Corporate Culture and Investment Banking”, which I co-authored with Rich Lyons and Jennifer Chatman in 2007.

Research Mentorship

One of my most fulfilling experiences has been mentoring a team of undergraduate and graduate research assistants. Working with RAs are certainly part of any productive scholar’s toolkit, but I find that their value is often under-utilized. By investing a lot in their selection and education on the front one, research assistants can be to be a continual source of critical feedback, ingenuity, and new ideas – as well as providing a loyal and supportive team. I am deeply invested in their success, and each of them has such different strengths and ambitions that we all feel fortunate to have found each other. What seemed like an indulgently enjoyable investment up front has been shown to pay off more and more each year.

I have been asked by students and professors inside and outside of my department to explain how I managed to build a team of RAs like this, which has helped clarify my philosophy.  Many of my RAs have worked with me for up to three years. Helping them develop as researchers continually inspires and energizes me.

Quotes from Teaching Evaluations

  • Truly cares that students learn; not just material but useful tips for the future careers; she’s very fair in grading and very helpful outside of class
  • Caneel was engaging and kept me invested in the course material. She was also very approachable
  • Good explanation techniques; lots of examples; open participation in class; relevance to the real world
  • Ability to engage class; very knowledgeable about subject matter, obviously prepared for class lectures, open to feedback
  • Confident; explained well, did not beat around the bush and did chapters that would best help us in the future
  • Enthusiastic and fun; gives great advice for future/life
  • She answered all questions well; helped a lot in and out of class; she knew her material and set clear goals and expectations of what she wanted us to do and how to do it
  • Organized and approachable; the slides posted were so precise and perfect; she related so many things to a topic to develop an overall understanding
  • Stresses that memorization is not the way to go. She inspires, more than lectures in the class, which is great; by solely attending all her class one can generally get a fairly good grade; very hardworking individual
  • Approachable, understanding; very knowledgeable about topics and gave applicable examples
  • Extremely articulate; clear explanations; helpful during office hours
  • Very good presenter and she did a lot to contribute to our learning; put a lot of effort into this
  • Sparking discussion; public speaking, captured attention
  • Caneel was very knowledgeable, approachable and enthusiastic about the material. This made it easier to stay committed and engaged
  • Encouraged discussion, creates an environment for study and learning
  • She is friendly and is always willing to help her students. She has great skills in explaining new material – that really helped as we had to cover huge amount of material
  • Always energetic, motivates students, great presentation, willingness to help, available to students most of the time; asks for feedback

Applied Innovation

I facilitated rapid innovation teams for clients including Cisco Systems, LAM Research, the Walt Disney Corporation, Panasonic, Wells Fargo, and SunPower. Haas@Work is an applied innovation program that sends teams of Berkeley MBAs to work with top executives at a client firm. For three weeks, each team researches a competitive challenge faced by the firm and develops potential innovative solutions using a variety of structured brainstorming and idea development techniques lead by a facilitator, which was my role. Ideas are refined, selected, and pitched onsite in a one-day final workshop. The best proposals are selected by senior executives, and a core team is often chosen to implement the strongest solution at the firm.

This summer I proposed the addition of new curriculum on my observation that at the final proposal, many of the best ideas were not conveyed in a way that enabled them to be embraced and implemented. This lead to my development of a new pre-requisite about inspiring innovation, pitching ideas, and driving ideas through organizations.

My students’ ideas have met much success and I have received very positive reviews, a few of which are below. I have since been invited to help several past Haas@Work students by leading sessions of brainstorming, leadership team building, and strategic goal-setting sessions for MBA student organizations (e.g., NetImpact, the Big Ideas at Berkeley Initiative, and the Energy & Environmental Innovation Competition).

Reviews from Applied Innovation program

“Caneel has been an excellent facilitator for our newly established Haas@Work program. She has been very effective at leading groups of Haas students and client employees in generating out of the box solutions to complex opportunities facing our clients.” March 6, 2008

– Adam Berman, Executive Director, Curriculum Innovation, Haas School of Business

“As a participant in the Haas@Work program, I experienced Caneel’s innovative brainstorming frameworks and team building skills. Her energy, out-of-the-box thinking and tremendous leadership enabled our team to exploit everyone’s potential in a very short time frame. Her brainstorming techniques were highly effective and I would consider Caneel’s expertise outside of the Haas@Work program to help on other business issues.” April 7, 2008

–  Sebastien Trolez, Haas MBA, Product Marketing Manager, Hewlett-Packard Company

“Caneel did a great job facilitating a group of students and employees at SunPower’s Haas@Work day. The group she led was large and she deftly navigated our way through a lot of material. She is clearly a gifted listener and can add structure to an unwieldy brainstorming process, without being heavy-handed. I would definitely hire Caneel again.” March 12, 2008

– Executive team member, Josie Taylor Gaillard, SunPower Corporation

“Caneel did a great job leading a brainstorming group for SunPower. Our group was well directed, we knew what we were doing and why, and we understood that it was our responsibility to deliver. The team’s performance was significantly enhanced by her facilitation. We really generated a lot of ideas!” March 5, 2008

– Executive team member, Jim Dawe, SunPower Corporation