The biggest misconception of the case study

Student engagement and success depends on a professor’s ability to keep course material and delivery fresh, innovative and interesting.

As the higher ed landscape shifts away from traditional lecturing methods, teachers are in need of new resources that will complement existing course materials, and will help the modern day professor deliver concepts and curriculum in a different and unique way.

Bring your course to life

Despite being over a 100 year old teaching method, case studies are a highly effective resource for today’s teachers and students. They allow the professor to become a partner in the classroom, shifting away from the traditional lecture style, in favour of discussion based learning. Case studies are versatile and suit many different types of learners. They offer flexibility in ways that textbook learning does not, and can be easily adapted within the classroom environment, allowing for robust and thoughtful conversation.

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding this method is that the course must be designed entirely around case studies. However in reality, most teachers integrate cases into courses to complement existing material, and articulate particular concepts that students may be having challenges with.

Cases bridge the gap between theory and practice, making the concepts more applicable for students and helping to fulfill course objectives. Darren Meister, Associate Professor at the Ivey Business School, says, "My experience in case teaching shows me that students work harder and learn more if they care about the protagonist in the story and in the case."

Real life scenarios, recognizable companies and concrete decision-making all help to hold student interest in the classroom environment, while applying their theoretical learnings to a life-like situation that they can actually relate to. Karin Schnarr, Assistant Professor from Wilfrid Laurier, says, "Ivey has some fantastic cases that involve companies such as Lego or Starbucks that students really get into because they’ve used the product before." Adding four to five new cases to their collection every week, Ivey Publishing provides professors with the most current cases, companies and scenarios that students can really relate to.

Increase success, in and outside the classroom

This shift toward experiential learning in higher ed is moving students away from simply memorizing and forgetting the answer, toward thinking through and rationalizing the problem at hand, helping students in the long term. Teachers don’t give students the answer, they must work for it. Cases almost always lack an ending, leaving students the opportunity to resolve the issue through their own involvement in class discussion and as part of the decision-making process.

This dynamic and fun class environment helps engage students through active learning. Eric Morse, an Ivey Business School professor, says, "it’s about making sure that you can go with the case in the direction that it wants, that the class wants to go with, because that makes for a more enriching and exciting, engaging class for them." Students ask questions, have an open dialogue and debate with their classmates, and as a result teach and learn from one another. They also are able to hone their leadership skills by practicing their decision-making, while also learning to manage uncertainty and ambiguous information.

Not only does this teach students how to explain the logic and evidence behind their ideas, but it teaches them how to succinctly and clearly communicate as well. Professors act as a guide, coaching students on their communication skills. Whether it is a shy student who needs encouragement or a student who needs moderation, students will acquire a soft-set of communication skills that will help prepare them for a successful career.

Associate Professor at Ivey Business School, Derrick Neufeld, says, "I suppose I think of cases almost as a way of sneakily getting into where people are thinking deeply about things. When they kind of forget that they’re learning, I guess that’s why I find them so powerful."

This very versatile and unique way of teaching extends learning beyond the classroom. It is one of the few teaching methods that is not all about the right answer, rather the key learnings are wrapped up in the course delivery. It is the discussion, the rationale, the debate and the decision-making that helps students succeed both in, and outside of, the classroom.


To learn how you can implement the case method into your course or find the perfect case, contact Ashley Woytaz at Ivey Publishing.

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