Client consulting projects on the block: Understanding sources of tension

  • Lora Louise Broady Colorado College
  • Christina Rader Colorado Collete
Keywords: Block model, teaching and learning, consulting, pedagogical innovation, professional experience


In this article, we consider client consulting projects embedded in a course on the block, with a particular focus on the tensions inherent in teaching and learning with such projects. Client consulting projects offer a unique pedagogical approach that tasks student teams with helping a client solve a current problem. Such approaches merit study for the block plan because other research on the semester-basis shows that consulting projects contain elements known to increase student learning outcomes; the block plan is likely to offer added benefits as well as unique challenges and tensions. Using a mixed-methods approach centered on reflective case writing about two different courses that offer client consulting projects and supplemented by data from students and clients, we investigated the benefits, challenges, tensions, and key success factors in client consulting projects on the block. Overall, the major stakeholders – faculty, students, and clients – agreed that the benefits outweighed the challenges. Especially salient were the benefits to students of real-world experience, increased motivation and sense of meaningfulness, and the chance to deepen their learning by applying course concepts. Challenges include the stress involved for the students and faculty with fitting the project into the block and pleasing the client, plus the time invested by faculty to make the projects happen. Most importantly, client consulting projects on the block present five tensions: the dual-evaluation nature of the project (both the professor and client are evaluating), the level of client engagement and alignment, scheduling and pacing, the level of professor guidance, and the degree of emphasis on traditional course content vs. the project. Keys to success include setting expectations, building trust, having clear structure and organization, and developing teamwork skills and roles. The understanding of tensions gained through this research will position faculty for greater success with client consulting projects on the block.

How to Cite
Broady L. L., & Rader C. (2024). Client consulting projects on the block: Understanding sources of tension. Journal of Block and Intensive Learning and Teaching, 2(1), 22-40.