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Can you suggest some guidelines to give to learners to help them use case methods more effectively?

As with any instructional method, learners will learn more effectively if the leader or trainer "primes" them by explaining the method, and preparing them to be full participants. This is particularly important if learners are grappling with a case study away from the watchful eyes and guiding hands of a trained facilitator or educator.

Stanford University has prepared some basic instructions for learners so they can maximize their learning. The following is adapted from Note on the Case Method of Instruction

  • Participate actively in the class discussion. Be prepared to be called upon for your analysis of the case, or of a particular issue within the case.
  • In class discussion you should be prepared for a critical atmosphere; you should be willing to rebut the observations and conclusions of others and to have your ideas rebutted.
  • The classroom is a "low risk" environment. Consequently you should be willing to take and defend "risky" positions. You can't lose money doing so, and learning can only be improved through active classroom participation! Be willing to express your opinion--even and especially when it does not conform to the prevailing group opinion.
  • The instructor is a discussion leader and not a lecturer or major contributor of facts and analysis.
  • In each case you are expected to make defensible decisions. You will have to do so without all the data you would desire. This shortage of data is not a shortcoming of the case method; it is an accurate reflection of the environment in which management must make decisions.
  • There may be several acceptable solutions to a problem in a case. The particular solution is not as significant as the reasoning (including assumptions) that leads to the solution proposed. Definitive answers are rarely available. Do not expect them from the instructor.
  • You are urged to discuss each case with a small group of your fellow students prior to class. This discussion will illuminate issues that you may have overlooked and will inevitably improve your level of preparation for classroom discussion.

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