Business Education

Harvard Business School case method

Harvard Business Publishing  May 16, 2016 – 07:07 am

Case method teaching immerses students into realistic business situations. Cases provide the reality of managerial decision making — which includes incomplete information, time constraints, and conflicting goals — as students learn how to analyze business situations. The case method packs more experience into each hour of learning than any other instructional approach. It stimulates students' thinking and encourages discussion. Not only is it the most relevant and practical way to learn managerial skills, it's exciting and fun.

Have a complete set of teaching objectives and a collection of likely board structures and questions. It's important to have a clear idea of the general topics and diagrams that might end up on the chalkboard, and of questions to ask that encourage greater depth in the discussion.

Have the students accept and maintain ownership of the discussion. If the teacher takes ownership of the class, the students can avoid their responsibility for maintaining the discussion, and the process will degenerate to a lecture.

Listen. As student ownership of the discussion is important, the instructor's role as listener is critical in establishing that ownership. The instructor should limit their own comments and listen carefully to students. This encourages students to listen to each other and view participation as serious.

Nurture the discussion process even if that means trading off coverage of a case. Put particular emphasis on the development of a good discussion process in early classes, especially the first two. Doing this sets the tone for the process throughout the course.


While the business case is a powerful learning tool, many students find that interpreting and writing about cases for the first time can be daunting. The Case Analysis Coach is an online, self-paced tutorial that introduces students to the key concepts and intellectual processes required for the analysis, interpretation, and discussion of business case studies. It is ideally assigned as students prepare to analyze a case for the first time. Learn more.


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