Introducing the Case Method

The Case Method is a teaching approach that uses real-life business situations and requires students to put themselves in the position of someone who has been confronted by difficult decisions in the past. It can differ from other forms of teaching in that it really forces the students to confront all the challenges of the situation rather than being spoon fed the information and a 'correct' solution.

Teaching using the case method can be a challenge. At Emerald, we're privileged to work with people with a long and distinguished history of case teaching and writing. We spoke to Michael Goldman, Editor-in-Chief of Emerging Markets Case Studies and Rebecca Morris, Editor-in-Chief of The CASE Journal to gather some valuable insights for teaching using the case method.


The Case Method uses real life management dilemmas      
Michael Goldman: “Quality teaching case studies bring compelling, actual, and recent management decision-making into the classroom environment. In this way, cases contribute to bridging the gap between knowledge of business disciplines and application of management skills.”

To promote higher order thinking
Rebecca Morris: “The best cases take students from mere knowledge and comprehension to application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation (from Bloom’s Taxonomy).  Students must learn how to apply course knowledge to case situations that are rich with the complexity of the real world.  Students often must apply analytical tools to develop solutions to these problems.  Finally, they must critique alternative solutions and justify their recommendations.  These critical thinking skills are seldom reached using alternative methods.”

With well-researched business examples
Michael Goldman: “Quality teaching case studies are written by qualified scholars, many of which are case teachers themselves. The cases undergo double-blind peer-review and are approved by the companies involved. In this way, cases present more valid and in-depth examples of business issues.”

And provide an engaging student learning experience
Michael Goldman: “Quality teaching case studies raise the level of energy and engagement in classroom discussions because they don’t offer easy and obvious solutions to the management dilemmas being faced. In this way, cases trigger student debate, participation, reflection, and application.”

That permits practice in decision-making in a safe environment
Rebecca Morris: “In studying cases, students assume the role of the decision maker and are confronted with all of the challenges of the situation.  Cases provide opportunities for students to formulate and justify business decisions without putting real companies at risk.  Students build decision making skills that are beneficial to their careers.”

And exposes students to new worlds
Rebecca Morris: “Many students have not had the opportunity to travel extensively or to have worked in a variety of industries.  Case studies open the door to the world for these students by exposing them to situations in other countries or in industries that are new and unfamiliar.  Cases have the ability to broaden the thinking of students beyond their limited experiences.” 

For the class to work it needs focused student preparation
Michael Goldman: “Quality teaching case studies require students to read and analyze the case materials, and often supporting literature, to be ready to actively participate in the classroom debate. In this way, cases provide a focus and context for more rigorous student preparation, and contribute to more motivated students.”

As an effectively taught case sticks with students beyond the classroom
Rebecca Morris: “The best case studies provide learning experiences that are often remembered and retained beyond the student’s time at the university.  Students frequently report drawing upon concepts learned via case study when solving business problems years after graduation.  Students may remember the issues of a particular case and apply what they have learned to career challenges much more effectively than they may remember theoretical concepts.”

And encourages development of effective communication skills
Rebecca Morris: Case discussions require students to formulate a position and articulate it successfully to others (both orally and in writing).  Students also learn to critically evaluate the arguments of others through the interactivity of real time discussion.  In writing, students must learn to clearly communicate their position and to provide fact and analytically based justifications for their recommendations. These are communications skills that are highly valued in the workplace."

Detailed instructor guides are there to provide teaching support
Michael Goldman: “Quality teaching case studies are accompanied by Teaching Notes or Instructor Manuals that detail the learning outcomes, teaching plan activities, and assignment question answers. These faculty-only resources provide a step-by-step guide to support the teaching of the case, and are written by experienced case teachers after their own use of the case study.”

Emerald has published case studies for teaching since 2011 and aims to continue to develop case study products to help educators deliver an enhanced student experience. 

eCase Collection
The Emerald eCase Collection includes subscription access to teaching case studies published by Emerald in The CASE Journal and Emerging Markets Case Studies and licensed case study content from leading business school partners