11.914 | Spring 2007 | Graduate

Planning Communication


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 2 hours / session


This three-week module, centered on a focal case, represents the second part of the Department’s introduction to the challenges of reflection and action in professional planning practice. As such, it builds on the concepts and tools in 11.201 and 11.202 in the fall semester. Working in teams, students will deliver a 20-minute oral briefing, with an additional 10 minutes for questions and comments, in the week of Ses #5 and Ses #6 (as detailed on the assignment and posted course schedule). The teams will brief invited guests (“briefees”) taking the roles of decision makers. DUSP faculty and fellow students may also be in attendance.

The course has several main objectives:

  • To enhance skills in oral communication, supported by effective analysis, under real-world time constraints and professional expectations
  • To enhance skills for working effectively in teams, including designing a division of labor, coordinating that labor effectively, managing relationships, and managing self; and
  • To strengthen students’ skills for understanding and working with the competing objectives and the political, ethical, and economic challenges that confront decision makers who are handling complex planning problems.


The course includes four main class meetings (over two weeks), a day for dry-run briefings, and several evenings of final briefings. Students who have completed their final briefings are welcome to attend the briefings delivered by other teams. We will provide food and drink for each of the class meetings, plus some snacks and drinks at the final briefings.


Students will work in teams of five or six members, of whom one will be a point of contact for the teaching team. Each team is free to organize its work and assign roles as it thinks appropriate. Functioning effectively within teams, and helping to lead teams to high levels of performance, is increasingly vital in professional life worldwide. The course includes an overview of teamwork concepts and team self-assessment materials developed by faculty at the MIT Leadership Center, who are helping to shape an important field of professional development.

Teaching Team Roles

The faculty role is to design and deliver the main course content, lead coaching at the dry runs, clarify expectations throughout, and evaluate all student work. The teaching assistant provides support on the content design, organization of teams, and course logistics. Each of the coaches–MCP2s who have all been through the team briefing experience–will work with a set of student teams to make them more effective, advising on how to approach the work, understand course expectations from the student perspective, and stay sane (!).

Requirements, Evaluation, and Feedback

Students are expected to participate actively in class activities and to contribute consistently to their team’s preparation of the dry-run and final briefings. The class meetings will be professionally video taped and streamed to the Web within about 24 hours (to serve as a reference), but should you need to miss a class meeting because of an academic conflict or personal emergency, inform your team and make special arrangements, as needed, to complete your part of the team’s work.

We will provide feedback on your dry-run briefing to help you make needed changes. Only the final briefing will be graded. It constitutes 100% of your course grade. You and your team will participate in a debrief session to review your final briefing video with course faculty. Soon afterward, you will receive a detailed memo conveying feedback on your team’s performance (see sample online). Lastly, you will be asked to evaluate the course.

Course Materials

Required reading for the main class meetings is minimal but important, including:

  1. the course assignment and this syllabus and schedule, covering logistics and expectations;
  2. a primer on preparing and delivering an oral briefing for decisionmakers;
  3. a sample student briefing (video);
  4. sample feedback memos on student briefings (names removed); and
  5. brief primers on making teams work, enhancing creativity in teams, and team self-assessment.

Groupwork should be focused on the case materials online, which encompass case-specific plans and background analyses plus broader concepts of urban redevelopment and placemaking. There is no need for every team member to print or review these lengthy reference documents. In fact, you may not need to print them at all.

Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Presentation Assignments