The value of case studies

Students Interacting.jpg

My regular readers will know how often I cite the beneficial impact of the case method on student engagement with learning. Here’s something that suggests that case studies can help teaching-focused business schools provide better value for money for students, and an impactful intellectual output for faculty.

A new study by Professor Keith Houghton and Nancy Bagranoff suggests that:

  1. Students at research-intensive business schools receive only about 75 percent of the academic attention enjoyed by students at schools predominantly focused on teaching.
  2. Students meeting the higher fees at big name schools are likely to be paying extra simply to support higher academic salaries or cross-subsidise research in other disciplines.
  3. Students at research-intensive schools are more likely to be taught by a doctoral student rather than a tenured faculty member.
  4. Many more business school academics are involved in scholarly activities, than have research published in journals. Case studies, says Bagranoff, have ‘a lot of value’ in business research.

You can read a more detailed account of the study on the Times Higher Education website here, and the full paper will be presented at the American Accounting Association conference, August 2019.

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Diversity in case studies

That is the question asked in a recent article by FINDMBA following the ongoing criticism of the of lack of diversity among case protagonists and authors (see my previous blog on the topic).

The argument in favour of diversity is unanswerable but we should be careful to differentiate between criticism of cases, and the case method itself.

I find there are four common criticisms of cases that sometimes appear to argue against the continued use of the case method, and I think there are ways of counteracting them.

The too difficult argument. Cases are difficult to teach and require significant effort and skills development.  This is true.  Significant effort is demanded of faculty, but the rewards are greater still and of all professions surely teachers are open to lifelong learning? Why not make use of our Case Writing & Teaching Exchange LinkedIn Group, take advantage of some of the many free support materials available on our website, apply to our Case Writing Scholarships programme, or consider one of our workshops?

D9bk3SpWsAAch5d.jpgThe best before argument. While the world moves on, cases go out of date. Refresh your curriculum by choosing new cases. Some 600 new cases are added to our collection every month. Why not subscribe to our new free case update service?

The lacking diversity argument. The overwhelming majority of case protagonists are old, stale, male, and western. We are working to counteract this by encouraging and supporting diversity in case writing wherever we can, and there are welcome signs of this working. Case writing in business schools outside of Europe and North America increasingly reflects the lived realities of business and social culture in their region. Why not try some cases from our diverse collections? They range from multimedia to compact (five pages or fewer) to Reaching Out MBA, which deals with LGBT issues.

The ‘we need to be online’ argument. Cases and the case method don’t and can’t work online. Now, that’s an interesting one, and one that is resisted by the many case exponents teaching successfully online. But that’s for a future blog, coming soon.

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