The case study method of teaching used in management education is quite different from most of the methods of teaching used at the school and undergraduate course levels. Unlike traditional lecture-based teaching where student participation in the classroom is minimal, the case method is an active learning method, which requires participation and involvement from the student in the classroom. For students who have been exposed only to the traditional teaching methods, this calls for a major change in their approach to learning. This introduction is intended to provide students with some basic information about the case method, and guidelines about what they must do to gain the maximum benefit from the method. We begin by taking a brief look at what case studies are, and how they are used in the classroom. Then we discuss what the student needs to do to prepare for a class, and what she can expect during the case discussion. We also explain how student performance is evaluated in a case study based course. Finally, we describe the benefits a student of management can expect to gain through the use of the case method.
WHAT IS A CASE STUDY?
There is no universally accepted definition for a case study, and the case method means different things to different people. Consequently, all case studies are not structured similarly, and variations abound in terms of style, structure and approach. Case material ranges from small caselets (a few paragraphs to one-two pages) to short cases (four to six pages) and from 10 to 18 page case studies to the longer versions (25 pages and above). A case is usually 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 organization.”1 In learning with case studies, the student must deal with the situation described in the case, in the role of the manager or decision maker facing the situation. An important point to be emphasized here is that a case is not a problem. A problem usually has a unique, correct solution. On the other hand, a decision-maker faced with the situation described in a case can choose between several alternative courses of action, and each of these alternatives may plausibly be supported by logical argument. To put it simply, there is no unique, correct answer in the case study method. The case study method usually involves three stages: individual preparation, small group discussion, and large group or class discussion. While both the instructor and the student start with the same information, their roles are clearly different in each of these stages, as shown in Table 1.
Michiel R. Leeenders, Louise A. Mauffette-Launders and James Erskine, Writing Cases, (Ivey Publishing, 4th edition) 3.
l Learning with Cases
Table 1 Teacher and Student Roles in a Regular Case Class
When Before Class Teacher Assigns case and often readings Prepares for class May consult colleagues During Class After Class Deals with readings Leads case discussion Evaluates and records student participation Evaluates materials and updates teaching note Student or Participant Receives case and assignment Prepares individually Discusses case in small group Raises questions regarding readings Participates in discussion Compares personal analysis with colleagues’ analysis. Reviews class discussion for major concepts learned.
Source: Michiel R. Leeenders, Louise A. Mauffette-Launders and James Erskine, Writing Cases, (Ivey Publishing 4th edition) 3.
CASE STUDIES IN THE CLASSROOM
Case studies are usually discussed in class, in a large group. However, sometimes, instructors may require individuals or groups of students to provide a written analysis of a case study, or make an oral presentation on the case study in the classroom.
Preparing for a Case Discussion
Unlike lecture-based teaching, the case method requires intensive preparation by the students,...