A teaching tip for the ages

Lack of classroom engagement and participation is a serious challenge facing many professors.

With the shifting higher ed landscape and the growing demand for more hands-on experience, professors are looking for innovative teaching methods to bring lessons, theories, and concepts alive and to equip students with the tools to face the real-world head on after graduation. Although it has become standardized, the traditional lecture style may not be the most beneficial teaching method for those who learn in different styles. 

Experiential Learning

There has been a shift from the sage on stage, where lecturers impart their knowledge and students absorb, take notes, and listen, to an environment where the faculty is the guide on the side facilitating conversations. This move to experiential and flipped classrooms helps bridge the gap between theoretical and real-life.

This is a unique teaching style, whereby the professor becomes a facilitator and a partner, enabling students to learn by doing. It’s a learning methodology that enables, and requires, engaged class participation and can be facilitated through a case-based approach.

Cases can be used to test student understanding of a theoretical concept by practically applying it to a real situation. Colleen Sharen, Associate Professor at Brescia University College, says, “I use cases because what I find is students have a really hard time relating to theory and concepts. So cases bring the theory and the concepts to life. They make it concrete for the students so that they can start to understand how these kind of abstract ideas really apply.”

A leader in the case study method, Ivey Publishing adapts real-life scenarios allowing faculty bringing life to business decision making in classrooms around the globe. 

The Value of the Case Study

Because of the case study nature and design, it works to create deep discussion and debate within the classroom. Students tackle the problem at hand, working towards the final decision. Each and every case study contains real-life situations involving a decision, challenge, opportunity or issue allowing students to fill the shoes of the decision maker. Students must develop a course of action based on available information and effectively communicate and defend their strategy in class. 

As a participation based methodology, students are provided with endless opportunities to communicate their thoughts, understand and learn from others, develop evidence to support their opinions, and learn to persuade their classmates. Case studies do not typically have one single right answer and students often have to support their position amidst missing details and ambiguous information, simulating real decision making.  

Ivey Business School Associate Professor, Gal Raz, says, “it’s amazing to see sometimes how you can teach the same case and you can start from point A to point B and you get there in completely different ways.” The flow and structure of the class shifts and adapts based on the discussion happening in the classroom. But Raz believes this is exactly what you want to happen. He says, “you don’t want just to tell them what the answer is but you want them to get to the answer themselves. And that I think is the magic of cases.”

Students develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills, while applying theoretical concepts to everyday life by having to think on the spot.  Darren Meister, Associate Professor at the Ivey Business School, says, “Cases are a great way for students to understand how theory applies into the real world. As a faculty member, you’re often questioned by students, “Why does this matter?”  A case directly translates out from why does it matter into how am I going to use it?”

As a professor, if a specific concept is particularly challenging for your students, developing a custom case to showcase a real life example and application can make a world of difference. Applying theory to a concrete scenario helps students think critically about topic in a realistic sense, making the learning much more impactful. 

Students are able to apply their theoretical knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving in real-life scenarios, before they ever even step outside the classroom. After graduation, they feel more prepared and more ready to take on the real-world than ever before.  

To learn more about how you can integrate case studies into your classroom or institution, contact Ashley Woytaz at Ivey Publishing. 

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