The Case Method
What is The Case Method?
In contrast to many other teaching methods, The Case Method anchors the classroom experience by discussing and solving complex business situations through group discussion and placing students in the role of the decision maker.
A case is a description of an actual situation, commonly involving a decision, a challenge, an opportunity, a problem or an issue faced by a person (or persons) in an organisation. A case allows you to step figuratively into the position of a particular decision maker, describing real situations with the actual data available to the decision makers at the time. Released after the organisation has validated the information is correct and has permitted the case for educational use, cases are the product of a carefully thought-out process. After analysing the information presented, students rely on the relevant theory and their own individual experiences to draw conclusions through group discussion and collaborative learning. This highly successful method of experiential learning is used extensively in business studies, but is also common in law, medicine, psychology, and many other disciplines where graduates are be faced with daily problems that require understanding complicated situations.
How are the skills developed?
Sound individual preparation is the foundation of learning with cases and is the essential prerequisite for subsequent small and large group learning. Students should prepare in three parts:
- Individual Case Size-Up
- Reading The Case
- Case Analysis & Decision
These key stages will equip students with a solid initial perspective and focus surrounding the case problem. By highlighting key information, making notes, summarising ideas, preparing questions, recording observations and listing key concepts that come to mind, the student will have a strong grasp of the key issues to facilitate effective group discussions (and further learning).
Provides the key link between individual preparation and large group (or class) discussion. Small groups, which may also be referred to as study groups, learning teams, or break-out groups, give every member an opportunity to discuss his or her insights to the case
These small discussions form a vital part of learning, as collective effort will surpass individual preparation; increasing an individual’s understanding to a higher level of learning
The discussion process varies depending on class objectives, the subject matter, the type of case, previous classes, or other relevant course factors; and can often appear to be disorderly and lacking in substance to a casual observer
But the purpose of the large (or class) discussion is for students to share their individual and small group learnings with others, allowing them to be evaluated and validated by peers and instructors. The goal is not only to consider alternate perspective in pursuit of an optimal solution, but to improve understanding of the tools and theories in the field, and their connection to practice
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The Case Method: Implementation & Outcome
Students prepare a case before stepping into the classroom, individually or in small learning teams, and identify key problem areas of the case, hypothesise alternative solutions , strategically evaluate these alternatives to reach a complete group consensus. The classroom facilitator completes the same style of preparation, often more intensively with elaboration on the various alternatives and the associated pro’s and con’s for a number of different solutions. In the case classroom, the case teacher and students both play an active role. The teacher facilitates, probes, guides, and scribes the discussion in a productive way, whilst students discuss, analyse, debate, and make decisions pertinent to the case. The students are thus active participants in their own learning.
The ability to analyse real business problems is integral to good business education, and ensures that the curriculum is industry-relevant and the students are job-ready. By collaborating with peers, sharing their decisions and arguments, the student often teach their own peers – an essential leadership quality in the competitive business landscape. Professional organisations along with the Australian Business Dean’s Council have found business school to have great competencies and technical skills, but consistently find significant weaknesses in decision making, problem solving and communication skills, including a lack of engagement with real-world business problems.
The Case Method aims to address this by forcing students to solve real world business problems and work with them to develop the skills necessary to effectively decide the best approach in dealing with a problem, and how to best communicate that to others.
The case method: around the world
Leading universities all around the world apply The Case Method to their classrooms, and are experiencing world-class results in student performance and the perception of learning gains. See how Harvard Business School applies The Case Method in their classrooms to best prepare students for the challenges of leadership
Adopting the case method in a course means that cases form a significant proportion of one’s course material, and that a significant proportion of classroom time is being devoted to the discussion and solving of cases. Similarly, an entire curriculum (like a Masters of Business Accounting) can be viewed as a case-based curriculum if a significant proportion of the courses are case-based. In the latter case, the complexity of the decisions will evolve as students move from introductory to advanced courses.
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