The Case Method at the Harvard Business School: Papers by Present and Past Members of the Faculty and Staff

By Malcolm P. McNair | Go to book overview

That the case method, properly understood, involves something more than just cases and instructors is the contention of the authors of the next paper. C. Roland Christensen and A. Zaleznik point out that this method imposes certain burdens on instructors which in turn require an appropriate administrative environment if the case system is to flourish.


The Case Method and Its Administrative Environment

C. ROLAND CHRISTENSEN AND A. ZALEZNIK

The major purpose of this book is to describe the case method as it has been experienced and applied by many individuals in various courses of instruction. In this paper we should like to explore an aspect of the case method which is not commonly considered, particularly where the method is being experimented with for the first time. We refer to the kind of administrative environment which the case method demands for its effective application. The environment in a school is developed through the activities and relationships of students, teachers, and academic administrators. In this piece we are focusing attention on the contribution which the academic administrators make toward the creation of a favorable environment for the case method.

The case method is much more than a simple teaching technique. It is an educational process which provides a means for examining and learning from our experience, whether as students, teachers, or administrators. The constant examination and re-examination of our own experience through the medium of the "case" lead to an atmosphere in the school which is marked by change and new relationships rather than by stability. The main idea which we want to state in this paper, therefore, is that the case method demands a unique contribution from the academic administrator which makes it possible for all participants to learn in an environment of change and uncertainty and to gain satisfaction in doing so. An academic administrator examining the case method for possible use in his school must consider his own function in addition to the availability of cases, teachers, and qualified students. While we feel fairly confident about what the academic administrator's contribution must accomplish, we are far less sure as to what it is and how it is developed. Nevertheless, this variable--the academic administrator's contribution to the case method environment--is so important that we should like to explore it.

In the following remarks we first aim to present the characteristics

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