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

One of the earliest and clearest statements of the general educational theory underlying the use of the case method in business teaching was written some twenty years ago by Arthur Stone Dewing, *then Professor of Finance at the Harvard Business School. The sharp distinction which Professor Dewing makes between the kind of education that aims primarily at imparting factual knowledge and the kind that has as its objective the training of men to take administrative action is basic to the case method of teaching.


An Introduction to the Use of Cases

ARTHUR STONE DEWING

Any formal educational method, whatever its practical handling may be, must rest on some recognizable foundation of educational theory. In spite of the never-ending conflict of educational methods, a conflict arising to some extent from the peculiar demands of each age and to some extent from the eternal conflict of human ideals, there appear to be two, and only two, essentially different theories of education. Of these theories individual opinions represent varying combinations and varying stresses of emphasis.

One theory assumes that education should consist of a brief survey of the important facts accumulated by man through the ages. The educated man is the erudite man. Just as the biological development of the human individual is a brief recapitulation of the evolution of the species through eons of time, so the education of the individual should consist of a brief recapitulation of the objective experience of the race since time immemorial. General education is general accumulation. Special education consists, of necessity, of a more intensive and exhaustive cataloguing of the results of experience along a certain direction. Specialized education in chemistry is the mastery of the facts of chemistry brought up to the immediate present. The young chemist passes over in a few years' time the results which the workers of chemistry have accumulated through centuries of groping and specialized research. Education in business, according to this theory, should consist of a recapitulation of the results of business experience arranged, catalogued, systematized, and then presented without the lumber of discarded precedents. The business student would have thrown before him, with kaleidoscopic rapidity, the final and definite results of what

____________________
*
This paper is here reprinted from Cecil E. Fraser, ed., The Case Method of Instruction ( NEW YORK:McGRAW-HILL BOOK COMPANY, Inc., 1931).

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