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

Editor's Preface

This volume originated in a series of discussions some years ago among three men, James W. Culliton, now teaching at the University of Notre Dame, Stanley F. Teele, Associate Dean of the Harvard Business School, and Malcolm P. McNair, long a member of the Business School Faculty. Deeply interested in the case method of teaching business and aware of the growing attention paid to it in other institutions and in other fields of teaching, these men felt keenly the lack in print of a fully rounded discussion of the case method. An earlier book, entitled The Case Method of Instruction, edited in 1931 by Cecil E. Fraser , was long out of print; during the intervening years, moreover, there had been many significant developments in case pedagogy.

Therefore a series of steps was agreed on, including an essay contest for younger members of the Business School staff, to culminate in a new book made up of papers written by many different individuals. Shortly thereafter Professor Culliton left the Harvard Business School to initiate a significant experiment in the use of the case method under conditions quite dissimilar from those at Harvard; at the same time Dean Teele, carrying a heavy load of administrative duties, found it possible to give only intermittent attention to the project of this volume; and therefore the editorial task devolved upon the third member of the trio. Nevertheless, the impetus for the volume and the general plan for its development and organization owe a great deal to the original discussions among the three individuals.

Some comments on the general plan of the book may be helpful. The decision to have a book written by many men rather than one was a logical consequence of the fact that the case method is so varied, so diverse, so adaptable to the nature of the individual course and to the personality of the individual instructor that no single person can portray it accurately. Indeed, the only discernible common thread running through these varied dissertations on the case method is the emphasis on student participation in the educational process, on the extent to which the student is expected to carry the ball--assessing the facts, making the analysis, weighing the considerations, and reaching a decision.

-xi-

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