The Case Method

Training & Development Journal, March 1990 | Go to article overview

The Case Method


The Case Method

Are people "getting down to cases" in your training classes? The case method, which traces back to ancient Chinese, Hebrew, and Greek teachings that used parables and special questioning techniques, is still evolving.

The method's current name and form took general shape about a century ago at Harvard University. Over the years, Harvard and such schools as Yale University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania have used and modified the method. These days, consultants, inhouse trainers, and representatives of schools and training companies use the case method in countless organizations, combining it with other methods and modern media.

The case method centers on a case or case report. Training participants analyze the case individually, and then discuss and analyze it as a group. Benson P. Shapiro, author of Harvard Business School's Hints for Case Teaching, defines a case as "any description of a business situation in which is embodied a decision to be made. It can be a paragraph long to book-length." Typically, cases run from a few to two dozen pages.

Why use the case method? Shapiro cites the title of a still-popular 1940 Harvard publication: "Because Wisdom Can't Be Told." Shapiro explains that true wisdom is learned by doing, not by hearing, "which means an instructor cannot tell you things like management and judgment, but can only help you learn them." He says that readins and lectures are efficient for transmitting knowledge--but not for developing skills. Training literature associates the case method with participants' practice and improvement of skills in analysis, communication (listening, questioning, and persuading), interpersonal relations, problem solving, and decision making.

A case should fit the needs and issues of an organization and the skills of the participants and instructor or facilitator. Some cases deal with complex, strategic-level issues that are difficult to teach; other cases deal with narrower topics and are easier to teach. Fortunately, more people need to be exposed to the "simpler things" than to the more complex ones. As Shapiro puts it, there are few strategists in a company, but a lot of supervisors.

According to Shapiro, the tradeoff between complexity and realism versus effectiveness in the classroom and time is one reason why Harvard has more than 4,000 active cases, supported by printed materials and, sometimes, software and videos. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Case Method
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.