Monthly Archives: March 2016

Road testing your cases

collection_000000983930Cases submitted to The Case Centre’s collection must have been taught at least twice in the classroom, and we suggest that the sessions be reviewed by a peer. I’m sometimes asked why this is necessary.

Refine and improve

The reason is that this gives every author an opportunity to refine and improve the case in light of how it performs in the classroom, using his or her own experience in teaching it, combined with feedback through peer observation. We ask authors to share with us their feedback and how it has impacted on improving the case.

Using feedback

In relation to this, I’ve been following with great interest a discussion among educational developers on how peer and student observation can be used by teachers. I thought I’d share some of their conclusions as the techniques could be used to review a newly-written case as well as by anyone wishing to improve their case teaching.handup_IMG_1910-3 (1)

Students as consultants

Professor Mick Healey of the University of Gloucestershire, UK, highlights that more attention is being given to teachers using students as ‘consultants’ (observers/commentators). Professor Healey suggests inviting a student that you do not teach, preferably from a different department (personally, I would suggest a different business discipline), to come into a teaching/learning session and ask them to notice how the students are performing.

Revealing

The advice is to then talk to them afterwards in a relaxed setting, such as a coffee bar. This approach often reveals things that students on your course would not tell you directly.

engagement_through_partnershipI think this is an excellent idea that would work well in combination with the peer classroom observation we recommend to case authors, as well as for case teaching.

If you’d like to read more about this approach, Professor Healey has written a case study based on the work of Alison Cook-Sather at Bryn Mawr College.

 

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Case conversion

RMcAboutWhen I became Director of The Case Centre six years ago I was unfamiliar with cases and how they are used in business education. I read some cases, researched the topic and became a little sceptical.

It seemed hard to believe that students could gain much benefit from studying these cases; some seemed bland and uninspiring in style and I doubted that universally applicable learning outcomes could be derived from them. Perhaps, I conjectured, they might even lead students to believe that management problems could be easily solved like crossword puzzles. I could not have been more wrong.

Revelation

My conversion came when I first watched a case being taught: it was a revelation. In the classroom, the case method becomes more than the sum of its parts, and in the hands of a skilful teacher the atmosphere becomes electric.

Students find their most fundamental beliefs and assertions being challenged as they learn to think differently and more students_21060005effectively, taking on board new ideas and concepts almost by collective osmosis. A successful case method session is a thrilling spectacle.

No wonder so many case teachers report hearing from students years after graduation who still remember the cases and case method sessions that provided the philosophical, theoretical and practical bedrock for their subsequent management careers.

Vital skills

Students can gain so much from the case method; within the context of real-life decision-making they can learn business and management theory while at the same time developing a wide range of vital skills. These include negotiation, analysis, defending and challenging viewpoints, team and lone working, and the ability to guard against making decisions based on too little information.smallgroup29350014

Preferred solutions

The case method both harnesses and challenges the wisdom of the collective. Students find there is rarely a single answer, although a number of preferred solutions can be established. The best outcome is the best one possible in the circumstances – although, as in real life, rarely perfect.

The case method enables the application and testing of theory, challenges accepted practice, and enables vital dialogue and cross-pollination between business practitioners and academics. There is no place for ivory towers here.

Flexible and adaptable

students_IMG_1927It is true that we are dealing with an entirely new, although no less intelligent, breed of student in the 21st century. Some observers may lament their apparently short attention spans and almost physiological connection to the online world, but these are not going to change. However, the case method can, and this is its beauty.

Its flexibility and adaptability is unparalleled as a teaching and learning tool; it is able to constantly evolve, easily keeping pace with the rapidly changing demands and expectations of students and adapting with ease to exploit new technologies as they emerge and develop.

Endlessly inventive

The case method is endlessly inventive, uniquely able to recreate itself and emerge strengthened and renewed in the face of rapid and irreversible change. As such, it remains an irreplaceable cornerstone of management education in business schools across the globe.

In our technology-saturated world, it’s instructive to recall that the case method, in all its current guises, has its roots in antiquity, calling on the ancient techniques of Socratic dialogue, or ‘questioning’ used to prove the falsity of an assumption, as well as Aristotelian logic and the method of argument and counter-argument. Its longevity has already been proven, and I believe its future remains secure.download

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