In this introductory guide to teaching with cases we'll ask why teach with cases, explore how to preparing for case teaching, and introduce some tools and techniques.
Why teach with cases?
The case method combines the power of storytelling with critical discussion, shared experiences, and rigorous academic practice and theory.
Students find their most fundamental beliefs and assertions being challenged as they learn to think differently and more effectively. They will take on board new ideas and concepts, developing the philosophical, theoretical and practical bedrock for their subsequent management careers.
The case method is well-known for being used on postgraduate and executive programmes, but it also increases student engagement and develops a wide range of vital professional and life skills for students at other levels, for example on high school and undergraduate programmes.
Choosing a case
Choose a case that meets your learning objectives and is suitable for the experience and knowledge of your class.
We provide a range of tools to help you select the right case for your teaching needs, including free online educator preview copies and instructor materials.
Preparing to teach
Abraham Lincoln said: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." You can never quite predict what will happen during a teaching session, but careful preparation is key.
You must be clear about the learning objectives, know the case inside-out, and have at least some idea of who your students will be, both as individuals and as a group. How old are they? How experienced? From what cultural backgrounds?
Many cases will have an accompanying teaching note and other materials for instructors. These can be a great help when preparing to teach the case, so make the most of them.
Starting the discussion
A lively discussion can be started in a number of ways. An individual student can be ‘cold-called’, or a general question can be asked of the whole class – for example, ‘What would you do next?’ or ‘What is the problem here?’.
Students can be asked to vote on an issue, and then find out if their views have changed by the end of the session. Alternatively, all the students can be asked to jot down their thoughts with a few invited to share their ideas with the class.
Tools and techniques
A successful case teaching session often involves a range of different activities, helping to maintain interest and appeal to different learning styles. These can include role play, group discussion, breakout sessions, and student presentations while in character as the case protagonist.
Multimedia can help to engage and inspire students – particularly those resistant to traditional written cases. Online discussion groups, virtual worlds, social media, video clips, and web-based cases can all be introduced as part of the mix.
The possibilities are endless – from live tweeting during a case session to pre-class online discussion. With a little thought and imagination you can transform your case teaching sessions.
Online case teaching
One of the key benefits of the case method is its ability to engage students, and this naturally lends itself to increasing the interactivity of online sessions.
For many years individuals and organisations have explored teaching with cases online. However, the COVID-19 pandemic saw in person classes worldwide being moved, with great speed, to online. To support the case community with this rapid shift in teaching, a wide range of resources were produced by case experts around the world.
Feedback and improvement
Even the most experienced case teachers can learn from constructive feedback. Ask a colleague to sit in on one of your case teaching sessions, and get feedback from your students. Video a session and watch it through with a fellow case teacher – this is a great way to see yourself in action and make improvements.
Those new to case teaching may prefer to begin with a short case as part of a longer teaching session to gain some initial confidence. Another approach is to teach as a team with a colleague or colleagues until you become more experienced.
We provide a range of services and support for case teachers. The sections below will point you in the right direction, but please do get in touch if you need any further help.