Methodology for Case Studies Discussion
3 Steps case Study Methodology Learning


Sandeep Saxena
Asstt. Prof. - M gmt. Department
Apex Group Of Institutions

The case study method of teaching used in management education is quite different from most of the methods of teaching used at the school & UG course levels. Unlike traditional lecture- based teaching where student participation in the class room is minimal. The case method is an active learning method, which requires participation & involvement from the student in the class room.

For students/learners who have been exposed only to the traditional teaching methods, this calls for a major change in their approach to learning.

What is a Case Study?

There is no universally accepted definition for a case study, & the case method means different things to different people. Consequently all case studies are not structured & variations abound in terms of style, structure & approach. Case material ranges from small case-lets (a few paragraphs to one-two pages) to short cases (four to six cases) & also there are some case which are quite longer i.e.- approx 10-18 pages to 25 or more.

A case is usually a "description of an actual situation, commonly involving a decision, a challenge, an opportunity, a problem or an issue faced by a person or persons in an organization". In learning with case studies, the learner must deal with the situation described in the case, in the role of manager or decision maker facing the situation.

An important point to be emphasized here is that a case is not a problem. A problem is usually a unique, probably having fix solution. On the other hand, a decision maker faced with the situation in a case can choose between several alternative courses of action. Each of these alternatives may plausibly be supported by logical arguments. To put it simply, there is no unique correct answer in the case study method.

The case study method usually involves three stages: individual preparation, small group discussion & large group/ class room discussion. While both the instructor & the student start with the same information, their roles are clearly different in each of these stages as shown in table-1.

Table -1- Instructor & Learners Role In Regular case classes



Student/ Learner/Participant

Before Session

Assign case & often readings

Receives case & assignment

Prepare for session

Prepare individually

Consult with colleagues(if required)

Discuss case in small groups

During Session

Deals with readings

Raises questions with respect to understanding through reading

Leads case discussion

Participate in discussion

After Session

Evaluates & record the statements/points of participants

Compare with personal analysis & others involved.

Evaluate materials & Updates discussion notes

Review session discussion for major concepts learned

Source: Michiel R. Leenders, Louise A. Mauffette- Launders & James Erskine, Writing case, 4th Edition

Preparing for a case Discussion:

Unlike lecture based teaching, the case method requires intensive preparation by the students, before each class. Is a case has been assigned for a discussion in the class, the participants must prepare carefully & thoroughly for the case discussion.

The first step in this preparation is to read the case thoroughly & calmly only. To grasp the situation described in case study, the participants need to read it several times. The first reading of the case can be light one to get a broad idea of the story. The subsequent readings must be more focused. To help the student become familiar with the facts of the case, & the issues that are important in the situation being described in the case i.e.- who, what , where, why, how in the case.

However, familiarity with the facts described in the case is not enough. The participant must also acquire a thorough understanding of the case situation, through a detailed analysis of case. During the case analysis process he must attempt to identify the main protagonists in the case study (organizations, groups or individual described in the case) & the relationship among them.

The participant must also keep in mind that different kinds of information are presented in the case study. These are facts which are verifiable from several sources. There are inferences,, which represent an individual's judgment in a given situation. There is a speculation, which is information which cannot be verified. There are also assumptions, which cannot be verified & generated during case analysis or discussion. Clearly all these different types of information are not equally valuable for managerial decision making. Usually, the greater your reliance on facts (rather than speculations), the better logic & persuasiveness of your arguments results to better the quality of your decisions.

Classroom Session for Case Discussion:

A classroom case discussion is usually guided by instructor & the participants are expected to participate in the discussion & present their point of views. In some cases, the instructor may adopt a particular view & challenge the students to respond. During the discussion, while a participant has presented his point of view, the others may question or challenge him for vibrant discussion. Case instructors usually encourage innovative ways of looking at & analyzing problems & reaching at possible alternatives.

The interaction among the participants & instructor must take place in a constructive & positive manner. Such interactions help to improve the analytical, communication & interpersonal skills of participants.

Participants must be careful that the contributions they make to the discussion are relevant & based on a sound analysis of the information presented in the case. Participants can also refer to the notes they have prepared during the course of their preparation for the case discussion.

The instructor may ask questions to the class at random about the case study itself or about the views put forward by an individual student. If a participant has some new insights about the issues at hand & he is usually encouraged to share them with class.

Students must respond when the instructor asks some pertinent questions. The importance of preparing beforehand cannot be emphasized enough- a student will be able to participate meaningfully in the case discussion only if knowledgeable about the facts of the case, & has done a systematic case analysis. A case discussion may end with the instructor/ participant summarizing the key learning points of the session.

Participants' performance in case discussion is usually evaluated & is a significant factor in assessing overall performance in the course. The extent of participation is never sole criterion in the evaluation- the quality of participation is an equally (or more) important criterion.

Preparing a Written Case Analysis:

Quite often a written analysis of the case may be a part of the internal evaluation process. When a written analysis is properly structured.

An instructor may provide specific guidelines about how the analysis is to be structured. However, when submitting an analysis, the participant must ensure that it is neat & free from any factual, language & grammatical errors. In fact, this is a requirement for any report that a participant may submit- not just a case analysis.

Making a Case Presentation:

The instructor may ask a group of participants to present their analysis & recommendations to the class. Alternatively, an individual student can also be asked to make a presentation.

The key to a good presentation is good preparation. If the case has been studied & analyzed thoroughly, so that the content of the presentation should not raise any issues in a negative manner.

However, a presentation is more than the content written, some of the points that are needed to be kept in mind when making a case presentations are:

* As far as possible, divide the content uniformly so that each team member gets an opportunity to speak.
* Use visual aids such as OHP slides, power-point presentations, supporting advertisements/ clippings etc. as much as possible.
* Be brief & be specific to the points. Stick to the time limits set by instructor.
* Be well prepared for presentation & queries session.
* Evaluation

The evaluation of participants' performance in a case- driven course can be based on some or all of the following factors:

* Written case analysis (logical flow & structuring of the content, language & presentation, quality of analysis & recommendations etc.).
* Case presentation (communication skills, logical flow & structuring of the content, quality of analysis & recommendations etc.).
* Participation in classroom case discussions (quality & extent of participation).
* Case writing assignments or similar projects.
* Case based examinations

Exhibit 2
Inventory of Skills Developed by the Case Method
* Qualitative & Quantitative analytical skills, including problem identification skills, data handling skills & critical thinking skills.
* Decision making skills, including generating different alternative, selecting decision criteria, evaluating alternatives, choosing the best one & formulating congruent action & implementation plans.
* Application skills, using various tools, techniques & theories.
* Oral communication skills, including speaking, listening & debating skills.
* Time management skills, dealing with individual preparation, small group discussion & class discussion.
* Interpersonal or social skills dealing with peers, solving conflicts & practicing the art of compromise, in small or large groups.
* Creative skills, looking for & finding solutions geared to the unique circumstances of each case.
* Written communications skills involving regular & effective note-taking, case reports & case evaluations.

* Cases allow Participants/Students to learn by doing/ action/implementation of the present concepts in their memory. They allow them to step into the shoes of decision-makers having the empathy feeling of real organizations. & deal with the issues managers face, with no risk to themselves or the organizations involved.
* Case improve the students ability to ask the right questions, in a given problem situation. Their ability to identify & understand the underlying problems rather than the symptoms of the problems is also enhanced.
* Case studies provide the exposure to the learner a wide range of industries, organizations, functions & responsibility levels. This provides learners/ participants the flexibility & confidence to deal with a variety of tasks & responsibilities in their careers. It also helps learners/ participants to make more informed decisions about their career choices.
* Case studies strengthen the learners/ participants' the grasping of management theories by providing the real life of examples of the underlying theoretical concepts by providing rich interesting information about real business situations they breathe life into conceptual discussions.
* Cases provide participants with an exposure to the actual working of business & other organizations in the real world.

Exhibit 3
Consequences of Participants Involvement with the Case Method
* Case analysis requires participants to practice important managerial skills- diagnostic, decision making, observing, listening & persuading- while preparing for a case discussion.
* Cases require students to relate analysis & action, to develop realistic & concrete actions despite the complexities & partial knowledge characterizing the situation being studied.
* Participants must confront the Intractability of reality- complete with absence of needed information, an imbalance between needs & available resources & conflicts among competing objectives.
* Participants develop a general managerial point of view- where responsibility is sensitive to action in a diverse environmental context.

* Case studies reflect the reality of managerial decision making in the real world, in that the participants/ learners must make decisions based on insufficient information. Cases reflect the ambiguity & complexities that accompany most management issues.
* When working on a case study in a group, the participants must also be able to understand & deal with the different view-points & perspectives of the other members in their team. This serves to improve their communication & interpersonal skills.
* Case studies provide an integrated view of management. Managerial decision making involves integration of theories & concepts learnt in different functional areas such as marketing, finance, HR etc. The case method gives the exposure to participants of this reality of management.

From the above we can summarize that there will be 3 steps learning while solving the case:
1- Case discussion within the group
2- Written analysis of the case from each participant
3- Presentation of case in a group of 3-5 participants depending upon size of group.

Reference : Michiel R. Leenders,
Louise A. Mauffette-
- Launders & James Erskine, Writing case, 4th Edition

Sandeep Saxena
Asstt. Prof. - M gmt. Department
Apex Group Of Institutions

Source: E-mail September 10, 2016


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