Competition winner: Outstanding Case Teacher

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Urs Mueller won the Outstanding Case Teacher Competition at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2020.
 
The teacher

Meet our winner, Urs Mueller…

Urs MuellerUrs serves as Associate Professor of Practice at SDA Bocconi in Milan, as well as being an affiliate program director at ESMT Berlin.

Urs has enjoyed a distinguished career in both academia and industry. He specialises in research and teaching in the areas of business ethics, strategy and change management, and has taught in countries that include Germany, Poland, Italy and the US.

Urs has also worked as a management consultant for A.T. Kearney, and directed and taught in numerous open and customised executive education programs for customers like Airbus.

Urs is a passionate advocate of the case method. He’s a bestselling and award-winning case author and serves as a tutor on The Case Centre’s writing and teaching workshops.

An honour

On winning, Urs commented: “I am deeply honoured to receive this award. In my role as program director for various executive education and degree programs, I have had the privilege to observe a large number of truly excellent case teachers. I learned so much from them and realised that I had to find my own personal style of using cases in class.

“I accept this award with the ambition to further improve my own use of cases, most importantly by using cases in ways that buffer the method against sometimes legitimate criticism of being tool-focused instead of helping the development of more relevant competencies like analytical skills, creativity and critical thinking.” 

Engaging students

Lars TimmermanLars Timmermann, who was taught by Urs at ESMT Berlin, said: “Urs’ case teaching is highly immersive. It is always more than an abstract academic exercise, in a way that I always feel completely involved in the particular situation.

“The cases I have worked on have always been written by Urs himself. I think this is why Urs provides rich detail when teaching – while keeping focus. Urs’ teaching is so engaging that even his pre-release cases are a mind-boggling exercise. His teaching is challenging and asks for decisions. I have seen a good number of excellent case teachers, and Urs really is a step ahead.”

Lars added: “When Urs teaches, you never know what's coming up – there is no routine. Urs used online polling when it was still new and embedded it live in the case, drawing everybody in.”

 
What the judges said...

High quality competition

Richard McCracken, Director of The Case Centre and chair of the judging panel, said: “All nominees for this prestigious award were of a very high standard, but the judges agreed that Urs stood out as the clear and deserving winner.

Richard McCracken, Angela Lee, Nader Tavassoli, Paul Matthyssens and Vijaya Narapareddy

A master at work

“A passionate and committed case teacher, Urs’ students comment on how immersive, challenging and engaging his case teaching is. He tackles critique of the case method head-on, making personal twists to his case teaching to mitigate its perceived disadvantages, while leveraging its strengths.

“Urs’ colleagues testify that he is an inspiring case teacher who constantly introduces innovations to his case teaching approach, to energise participants and ensure deep learning and true impact. As a tutor on The Case Centre’s workshop programme he has also trained hundreds of faculty in case teaching and writing around the world.”

The winning entry

Top of the class

Olaf Plötner“At ESMT Berlin, we do not only employ several excellent teachers ourselves,” said Olaf Plötner, who served as Dean of Executive Education at ESMT until 2017.

“Over the years, we have also used many of the world’s best teachers from almost all of the top ranked business schools of the world. Compared to this benchmark group, Urs continuously shined as an outstanding teacher who commands over a broad range of different teaching methods and who particularly excels when using case studies.

“I have personally seen Urs in action many times and can testify that he is a great and energetic case teacher who encourages lively debate and manages to make the case discussions relevant to his participants. But even more importantly, he is known as someone who constantly introduces innovations in his teaching approach that energises his participants and ensures deep learning and true impact.”

Inspiring others

Johannes Habel“I was immediately impressed and inspired by Urs’ teaching, and particularly by his usage of case studies,” said Johannes Habel, Associate Professor at Warwick Business School, who worked closely with Urs at ESMT.

“Observing Urs when teaching cases has greatly inspired me over the course of the past years. He is my role model regarding how to choose the right case for the right class, smoothly enter the discussion, facilitate a valuable exchange of views, distil learnings, and provide an enjoyable learning experience to students and participants. When teaching cases, I actually ask myself quite frequently: “What would Urs say at this point?”

“I often ask Urs how to improve my own teaching, and rely on him as my coach. Whenever I taught in Urs’ programs, we sat together afterwards. Given his broad experience with and expertise in case teaching, he was always able to give me specific and helpful recommendations on how to improve my own use of cases and teaching in general. This quickly translated into significantly improved participant evaluations for my own teaching.”

Power of the case method

Urs Mueller teachingUrs commented: “There are three aspects that I love most about teaching with cases. First, they usually bring a wonderful energy and high level of engagement into the class-room.

"Second, using cases ensures that the learning process centers around truly meaningful and relevant academic tools, concepts, frameworks and theories; because, when they help to discuss a case study at school, they can also help to deal with real-life challenges.

"And finally, I can learn so much from my students and executive education participants when using cases. It almost always happens, that someone has a comment, idea, inside information that really surprises me.

“Motivated by these benefits, I use case studies for my own teaching in degree, (bachelor to executive MBA) as well as in executive education programs, at various business schools extensively and intensively.”

Tailoring cases

He continued: “Despite its overwhelming success around the globe, the case method has also been subject to serious criticism. As I agree with some of the objections, many of my personal twists to case teaching try to mitigate the disadvantages while leveraging the strengths of the method.

“For example, when teaching business ethics with groups of participants that have professional experience, I usually ask them to write up their own cases. I then use the participants’ descriptions of situations in which they had to take a decision with ethical considerations.”

No limits

Urs concluded: “I love the case method, but I do not limit my teaching to one method. I combine traditional case teaching with other learning formats such as simulations, in-class experiments, role-plays, interactive lectures, or class, group, and pair discussions and consultations.”