The A to Z of teaching notes: writing, finding and using them

Availability

At the beginning of 2009, 47% of the 29,484 cases in our collection had a teaching note. Teaching notes would appear to enhance the popularity of cases: 86% of the 100 best-selling cases in 2008 have one.

Books and articles

The Case Centre distributes books on writing cases that include guidance on teaching notes. There are also several articles, many quoted here.

Contents

The format of teaching notes varies but according to Mary C Gentile1, they should include a case summary, a statement of learning objectives, assignment and discussion questions, alternative case analyses, a board plan, suggestions for teaching methods and class time planning.

Draft

Most experts recommend that the preliminary teaching note is prepared after the first rough drafting of the case. According to Leenders, Erskine and Mauffette-Leenders2, the purpose of this “is to check the completeness and accuracy of the information.”

Electronic copy

Most teaching notes are available free electronically to registered educators in product search. We guarantee to process your order for a paper copy of a teaching note within 48 hours but please allow enough time for shipping.

Finding

Teaching notes are registered in The Case Centre's catalogue with a separate record and reference number, so you can search for one independently of the case. Alternatively, a teaching note shows up on a case screen as a ‘related product’ along with any other related items, such as videos.

Guide

A teaching note is the case author’s own guide to teaching the case to his/her class. It will point other teachers in the right direction, however, you will always need to adapt it to the needs of your class and the level of your students.

Help

Teaching notes are “a big help,” says Larry Weatherford3. They “don't give you the only way to teach a case or even the best way, but… ideas about how other people have taught the case and what worked for them. They often have tips, supplemental anecdotes or data . . . analysis, and… an epilogue.”

Inspection copies

Electronic copies of most teaching notes are available to registered educators in the same way as online inspection copies of cases.

Jargon

A good teaching note will provide background to all terminology or jargon specific to the case, the company or product, or theoretical points it is illuminating.

Knowledge

The purpose of a case class - like any other - is to impart knowledge. According to Michael J Roberts4, “in order for the case method to work, the instructor must be sufficiently knowledgeable about the principles the case is intended to illustrate to select a case.” A good teaching note will point the instructor in the direction of the underlying theoretical principles and, where appropriate, indicate further sources.

Living documents

A teaching note constantly develops. According to E Raymond Corey5, “Teaching notes are living documents. They must be added to and recast to reflect the instructor’s experience in the case, advancing subject knowledge, and changes in the business environment… revised to reflect what further may be learned.”

Membership

It is not necessary for your organisation to be a member of The Case Centre to receive teaching notes but you must be a registered educator.

New

Find out which new cases and teaching notes are available by signing up to The Case Centre' free monthly email update service giving details of cases registered during the preceding month. The service is the most comprehensive and responsive of its kind worldwide and can be tailored to cover the subject areas that interest you.

Ordering

A teaching note is found in product search in the same way as cases by using the unique registration number. If an electronic copy of a teaching note is not available you may order a printed copy. Teaching notes can be viewed or ordered without the related case. If you reorder a case to teach again, you do not have to reorder the teaching note, but may use your original copy.

Plan

The success of a case class depends, to a great extent, on careful planning. Many teaching notes include a plan and some even suggest precise timings for each stage of the case analysis and discussion.

Questions

The best teaching notes suggest questions to facilitate class discussion. According to Mary C Gentile1, these should include both suggested assignment questions and “suggested discussion questions, organized by learning objective or by discussion topic.”

Release

Final drafts of field researched cases must be cleared by the subject company with permission to release them for registration and distribution. This is not currently required for teaching notes. A debate has emerged. A G Balasubramanian, Professor at Goa Institute of Management, thinks teaching notes should also be cleared because they often include additional confidential data, or an alternative perspective not necessarily flattering to the company. View comments and download Professor Balasubramanian’s full article

Students

“Teaching notes are documents prepared solely for use by faculty, to pass along the thinking behind the design of the case, and to describe the analysis that is expected from students,” says Michael J Roberts4. The Case Centre goes to considerable lengths to ensure that no students order teaching notes, by verifying the identity of everyone who registers for case search and applying strict criteria and controls throughout the ordering process.

Testing

Before cases can be registered in our catalogue, they must be certified as having been thoroughly tested in the classroom. It is this process that assists many authors with finalising and fine tuning the teaching note in particular, which often evolves considerably during test teaching.

Understanding

According to William Rotch6, “possible student pitfalls or blocks to understanding” are just as appropriate to include in a teaching note as learning objectives: “to enable... to learn... to understand... to practise...” etc.

Videos and exhibits

A teaching note will often include additional data, information and exhibits not included in the case and may recommend the use of a video or multimedia item. These are listed as separate associated items in The Case Centre's catalogue with their own reference number.

Workshops

Our case writing workshops also include guidance and practice on writing teaching notes. Find out more

X marks the spot

Teaching notes are working documents, like a conductor’s score, for you to mark up for your class.

Your property

According to Leenders, Erskine and Mauffette-Leenders2, the teaching note “is the property of the case writer and should be carefully protected”. The Case Centre pays a single royalty for teaching notes ordered from our catalogue, where applicable, separate from any case royalties payable.

Zzzzz

If your students have nodded off in your case class, it may not be the fault of the teaching note. Perhaps they were up late preparing (or partying). Or, why not refresh your teaching with some new ideas at one of our case teaching workshops?

All quoted articles and books are listed with item numbers and are available to order from The Case Centre at the time of publishing.
1 Twenty-Five Questions To Ask As You Begin To Develop A New Case Study, Mary C Gentile, Harvard Business School 9-391-042
2 Writing Cases, Michiel R Leenders, James A Erskine and Louise A Mauffette-Leenders, Richard Ivey School of Business ISBN 0-7714-2270-9
3 Teaching Notes, Larry Weatherford, Darden Business Publishing UVA-PHA-0034
4 Developing a Teaching Case (Abridged), Michael J Roberts, Harvard Business School 9-901-055
5 Writing Cases and Teaching Notes, E Raymond Corey, Harvard Business School 9-399-077
6 Case Writing, William Rotch, Darden Business Publishing UVA-G-0364 
 
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