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The Case Study Method 19 December, 2012

Dr. B.Ashok
Dr. B.Ashok

Dr. B. Ashok IAS, Vice Chancellor, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University led the weekly discussion on 19th December 2012 with his talk on ‘The Case Study Method’.

Lecture based learning and Case Study Method: Case study method is different from traditional lecture based learning.

In Lecture Based Learning, retention levels are uniformly moderate. It is slightly unsuitable when you are preparing students for professions and also students who are required to use the theory in analyzing situations. Administering 5-6 hours of lectures in a day is extremely painful and boring method. Also, in this method of teaching, class room is very passive and if the teacher is not very gifted with communication, at any given point of time in a lecture, possibly about a third of the class is not in sync with the content being imparted.

In a Case Study Method, class room is more experiential. It emphasizes a lot on student participation, pre-session learning and preparation. The cumulative time that the student and the teacher spend on the case and the theme is roughly four times more than the lecture method. Role plays and simulations are advanced forms of case studies. Case Study Methods are particularly suited for subjects like management, public policy, political science and other social sciences.

Teaching case

There is no universal definition for a ‘teaching case’. According to the academia, ‘case’ is a subject that merits discussion by a group for about 2-3 hours and which consists of an average of 20 A-4 size pages of material. It can be defined as “actual or near actual situation usually involving a decision, a challenge, an opportunity, a problem, an issue or a controversy affecting a person or persons in an Organization”.

Case and Problem

Case is distinct from a problem. Case never has a perfect answer. For a problem to be qualified as a case which can be administered in the class room, there should be equal amount of competing views possible on the case so much so that the class can be divided into several groups who are contending for a particular position with equal amount of conviction. So, the problem becomes a case only when the nuances take our attention. The logical paths which a learner can take in a particular case have to be multiple. Also, cases can be easier solved in groups where as a problems are more solved alone.

Stages of Preparation

Every case requires a lot of individual preparation by the learners and instructors. It is very important to take a composite view and understand the compulsions of the various stake holders involved at the individual stage.

A case can be initially discussed in small groups in a class. A small group discussion is very advantageous as it improves participation. However, many cases have to be discussed and closed in a plenary because you have to bring everybody into the page at the end of the case. While discussing case studies, opinion polls can be used to understand popular opinion in the house and how the learners start appreciating the various nuances and therefore they reach one decision or other.

Preparation

You should ideally circulate the case material at least 3 days before the discussion, but not before 7 days. However, there will at least be 15% of the students who will come without reading the material so it is important that they should be given time for quick reading before the discussion starts. Ideally, students should read it carefully at least 3 times before starting the discussion. Students are also expected to cross-refer the data given in the case and also do a bit of literature search on the subject. In a well written case, inferences will be interspersed with facts and hence it is very important to distinguish facts from inferences. Also, management cases mostly will have oversupply of data and hence identifying the crux of the case will be a challenge.

Processes adopted in the management of the case

For effective case study discussion, a learner is supposed to understand:

a) the facts of the case and the variables being debated

b) what is going right and what is going wrong

c) the goals and objectives of the case

Further, students should analyse the data against the objectives and develop an action plan and finally undergo the task of optimizing.

Role of an instructor

Instructor enjoys a very important position in this method of learning. An instructor should:

  • Ensure participation from all or most of the participants
  • Develop multiple alternatives
  • Ensure that he\she does not take a view on the case
  • Remain constructive and positive throughout the discussion
  • Not challenge the facts given in the case
  • Open the floor for discussion
  • Focus on the core issues
  • Ensure Continuous assessment
  • Summarize the case discussion
  • Deepen the debate

Evaluation of Performance of the students in the case study analysis

For evaluating the performance of your students in the case study discussion, you can ask for the written analysis of the case after it is discussed. You can also ask them to make presentations on various sub-questions generated in the case. Also, participation of the students is continuously evaluated. This could include:

a) Ask them for their analysis of the options available for various players in the case.

b) Ask questions in exams about the issues which were dealt with in cases.

c) Give them an opportunity to write their own case studies

Advantages

  • Students get an opportunity to learn by doing
  • Encourage them to ask right questions
  • Instructor can take students to non-classroom situations at very low cost
  • Give students flexibility and confidence
  • Help students to take informed decisions
  • Enhances their employability in a global context

Results

The results of case study discussion as a learning method include:

  • Enhances students’ grasp of the theory
  • Exposes students to actual working of the Organizations
  • Reflect the ambiguity and uneven decisions required in Organizations even in an information age
  • Understand divergent perspective and resolve misunderstanding
  • Better communication and interpersonal skills
  • Provide options for middle ground in conflict situations
  • Provides a piece of real world learning

Dr. Ashok also provided the following references which will help students and teachers to learn more about case study based learning:

1. Lung and berg and Enz “Framework for student case preparation” 1993 Case Research Journal

2. B.Ashok and H.M. Mishra “ Indian Public Management” Case Studies for Good Governance- Concept Books