Teaching cases the Harvard way….part 1 – case setup

This is a guest post from Vince Mitchell who is Professor of Consumer Marketing at Cass Business School at City and teaches the marketing course on the Executive MBA.

In this 3-part post, Vince share’s some of his learning and observations from attending a recent seminar on case teaching by Harvard Business School.

Part One ie-logo

‘As we settle down in a very stylish IE classroom in Madrid one fine February morning to hear how Harvard teaches cases, little did we know how that the Harvard way isn’t the only way nor even the best way to teach a case. Let’s assume you’ve chosen a good case which is of interest to students, relevant to the course learning outcomes and at the right level of complexity. Beyond that, what did we learn?

A key ingredient to successful case teaching is not only knowing the way you want the case discussion to go and pre-writing out board plans which will appear on the walls of your classroom as the case unfolds, but also getting students to preflect and reflect.

Preflection comes in two forms, individual preparation and group analysis, both of which can be incentivised by having to hand in a preliminary case analysis, marked or unmarked, prior to class. The main bulk of the thinking comes during the class discussion and hence it’s important for everyone to be following the discussion.

Here, there needs to be an explicit shifting of the learning contract from independence to inter dependence, i.e., from self, to between students, such that they see it as part of their job to help other students understand using their knowledge and experience. Importantly for experiential learning though is to give time for reflection on case issues which again can be done individually or in groups and can be incentivised through the allocation of marks for the written reflections. Making sure students work diligently in all the elements is essential to a good case learning experience.



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