Business school case study analysis

Gitman et al. This might occur because undergraduates lack the business experience that graduate students usually have. Healy and McCutcheon classified teaching styles by dividing case teachers into controllers, facilitators, and partners, finding that only partners used cases with the explicit intention of fostering critical thinking and personal development.

The authors concluded that cases can facilitate critical thinking, but that their effectiveness depends on the teaching style of the instructor. Thus, the attributes of the instructors teaching the cases are key determinants of atmosphere. Writing cases is considered to be part of the teaching-learning process.

According to Mesny , instructor training should emphasize the affinity between teaching cases and researching cases, and reaffirm the usefulness of the philosophy behind them. Furthermore, institutions joining case collections such as the European Case Clearing House are required to certify professional quality standards Ambrosini et al. He concluded that motivation positively affected the case method as compared to lecturing. We use preconception as a proxy for motivation. Finally, case teaching requires instructors to spend more time preparing a case class than they would spend on lecturing, and requires more student time to solve the cases.

To proxy for teaching efficiency in the context of the case method, we use intensity, defined as the amount of time instructors spend preparing a case and the length of the cases they use. We use both quantitative and qualitative methods. Data were collected through an online survey among business school instructors in a Mexican private university and interviews with a subset of the sample. In Mexico, Business Administration undergraduate programs in private universities tend to emphasize a practical and realistic approach over a theoretical one.

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In an attempt to pursue their goals, those universities retain a considerable portion of instructors who are practitioners and invited adjunct professors. Given their closeness to firms, those instructors tend to find the case method an attractive teaching tool. Case studies are widely used in MBA programs in Mexico and are familiar to most of the instructors in our sample, all of whom hold a master's or a PhD degree. Prior to the survey, a pilot questionnaire was completed by 25 instructors who attended a presentation about the case method delivered by a representative of the Harvard Latin American Case Consortium from Harvard Business School Publishing HBSP , who was visiting the university.

This university has been a member of this consortium for more than 10 years; membership allows professors full access to most teaching materials available in the HBSP collection. Preliminary analysis of the pilot study and content extracted from interviews with experts on the case method helped with fine-tuning the final questionnaire available upon request , which included a statement on the objective of the study and a definition of a case, as a validation check for our object of study.

We use these data to conduct factor analysis and regression. The factor analysis identified clusters of latent variables that capture the attributes of the case method. Thus, the set of questions in the survey was reduced to a smaller set of factors or constructs. We tested these constructs using OLS regression, according to the model below:.

The proxy is the faculty's response to the question "According to your previous experience teaching cases, how would you evaluate students' level of acceptance of cases? While this approach has potential limitations, we consider acceptance perception to be relevant because it captures instructors' observations about the success of the case method, which is supported by student teaching evaluations.

The problem with Harvard Business School case studies

Selection, training, preconception, and intensity, are scales calculated using the variables extracted from the factor analysis discussed in the following section. Type is a dichotomous variable set to one if the instructor teaches a qualitative course and zero otherwise. Similarly, expertise is a variable set to one for faculty who are experts on the case method.


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In addition, we interviewed 15 instructors from the sample who, according to the department chairs, were experts in the case method. Each interview lasted one to two hours. This subsample was balanced, with seven instructors teaching quantitative courses such as finance and eight instructors of qualitative courses. According to Dalkey and Helmer , Helmer , and Hsu and Sandford , the purpose of this technique is to obtain the most reliable consensus from among a group of experts by following the first round of questioning with a controlled feedback process.

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In the Delphi technique, experts do not interact with each other; rather, in subsequent rounds, they are asked to think again about the problem at hand and change their responses and provide additional insights. This is done by providing the experts with descriptive statistics about responses from previous rounds or with considerations suggested as being potentially relevant by another anonymous respondent.

Opinions tend to converge as experts are allowed to reconsider their responses while obtaining feedback. However, consensus may not occur; instead, two "schools of opinion" may emerge. In any case, the Delphi method serves the purpose of "crystallizing the reasoning process that might lead to one or several positions on an issue and thus help to clarify the issue even in the absence of consensus" Helmer, , p.

In this study, during the first round, all experts were individually interviewed on issues related to the use of cases. Specifically, we asked experts questions related to the definition and conceptualization of a case, the objectives of the case method, factors that incentivize or detract from the use of cases, case selection, and teaching atmosphere. Based on the responses, the researchers created lists of case method attributes, classified according to construct.


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  • For instance, on questions related to attributes of instructors teaching cases, the experts said instructors needed to have the ability to control the group in terms of discipline, respect, and harmony during the case discussion. According to respondents, instructors also needed to tolerate uncertainty concerning the direction of the discussion, new or disruptive ideas, and even the lack of good ideas during the discussion. In the second round, instructors were provided with lists of attributes and were asked to rank them in order of relevance. Attributes of instructors, attributes of the teaching process, and attributes of evaluation comprise the construct atmosphere.

    We also report in this study qualitative responses of level and selection. Other responses from the qualitative part of this study are not reported but served as a basis for improving our questionnaire. We conducted principal factor analysis on the 10 questions with interval value responses.

    Untabulated KMO values in this sample are consistently above 0. Table 1 provides the factor loadings after matrix rotation, sorted by loading magnitude. Questions are clustered by factor. We called these factors preconception, training, and intensity, following our theoretical constructs. Factor 1 could represent the construct preconception, which captures instructors' beliefs regarding case teaching compared to traditional lecturing.

    Preconception includes responses to questions 3. In addition, question 1, which refers to the number of cases instructors use during a course, also belongs to the first factor. This is consistent with the possibility that the stronger instructors' beliefs are about the efficacy of cases, the more cases will be used in their courses. Preconception explains For the pattern matrix rotation converged in 8 iterations. Number of question in brackets questionnaire available upon request. The second factor, which explains Question 11 is directly related to the formal training instructors have received on the case method, question 12 addresses instructors' self-perception of preparedness for teaching cases, and question 9 relates to the extent of teaching note usage, which should be positively correlated with the level of faculty training or expertise.


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    The last factor, explaining This factor comes from questions 5 and 10, which refer to the number of hours instructors spend preparing a case to teach and to the number of pages per case. In other words, this construct captures the degree of instructors' commitment, proxied by how intense they are in terms of the amount of resources they spend in the teaching process.

    Collectively, the three factors explain Regarding the reliability of the internal consistency of the scales, we estimated the inter-item correlations for the constructs, obtaining 0. These values fall within the optimal range according to Briggs and Cheek , who suggested the use of these statistics instead of Cronbach's alphas for scales with fewer than 10 items.

    In terms of content validity, we considered the procedure proposed by Rossiter , which "relies on logical arguments, and the concurrence of experts, based usually on open-ended input from pre-interviews with raters Table 2 provides the three constructs from the factor analysis, along with their items, their respective scales, means, standard deviations, and coefficients of variation.

    Table 2 also presents selection, which uses categorical variables from questions related to case length, the language used in the case, whether the case had discussion questions, whether the case had simulations, and the sources used by the instructors to choose the cases. Type is a binary variable set to 1 for qualitative classes. We discuss the descriptive statistics, from Table 2 , after the factor analysis because the latter facilitates the discussion due to the categorization of items by construct.

    We also discuss selected categorical variables from Table 2. Overall, the discussion that follows is consistent with the findings in the factor analysis section and the regression analysis, to be shown later. Regarding preconception, instructors concur that the use of cases, as compared to that of traditional lectures, allows for more realistic and practical sessions, and implies a higher intellectual challenge for students items within this construct have relatively high means, and their coefficients of variation are the lowest across constructs in Table 2.

    Nevertheless, instructors are not as optimistic about cases being better accepted than lectures e.

    Case study analysis examples with analytic thesis statements to help

    Instructors might teach cases mainly because they perceive the case method as a highly attractive teaching tool in terms of the benefits for business education and to a lesser extent because students prefer it to traditional lecturing. This is consistent with the finding by Moore Items forming part of selection have the highest coefficients of variation across the constructs, implying less uniformity in the way instructors select case materials.

    Inside the HBS Case Method

    Figure 2 depicts the frequency distributions of the items constituting selection we refer to items as "attributes of the construct" hereafter. Most instructors are indifferent as to whether cases contain discussion questions. Similarly, instructors are generally indifferent as to whether cases have simulations. We consider these sources to be of higher quality than the other options e. Regarding selection, then, faculty prefer brief cases, cases in Spanish, and rely primarily on HBSP-type publishers. Note: QX means question X short description of questions in Table 2.

    Figure 3 presents the attributes of training.

    Case Studies Analysis Framework

    Taken in combination, formal training is lacking, but almost half of the faculty received informal training through exposure to the case method as students in their MBA programs see second graph in Figure 3 , and instructors believe this is sufficient preparation to teach cases. Figure 4 provides the attributes of intensity.

    This is consistent with their preference for brief cases. The definitions of brief- and regular-length cases might be arbitrary, but, to establish a point of reference, we searched the HBSP collection and found that one-third of all cases labeled "HBS Brief Cases" had no more than 10 pages, and virtually all brief cases contained no more than We searched the HBSP collection online in September ; cases were considered "HBS Brief Cases," with 40 containing one to 10 pages, 80 containing 11 to 15 pages, and only 10 with more than The preference for brief cases represents a challenge for instructors teaching undergraduates since brief published cases are scarce.

    Table 3 provides the correlation coefficients for the questions used in the factor analysis. The low correlations suggest that multicollinearity problems are not a concern. Questions 5 and 10 Q5 and Q10 , relating to intensity, are positively correlated, with a rho of 0. Questions about preconception Q1, Q3. This implies that the more instructors support the case method, the higher the number of pages per case, but the less time they spend preparing a case to teach. Responses in the qualitative part of this study confirmed that supporters of case teaching are more knowledgeable about the method and therefore spend less time preparing a case to teach.

    Note: Correlation coefficients in the top half and significance level in the bottom half. QX means question X short description of questions in Table 2. Table 4 , which provides the factor correlations rather than individual item correlations, summarizes the relationships. Preconception is positively related to intensity: the more instructors support the case method, the more resources they spend, despite the tradeoff between length of cases and hours of preparation mentioned above.

    Preconception is negatively related to training: the more instructors support the case method, the more they realize their lack of preparation. Training and intensity relate positively, suggesting that heavy users might be a subset of instructors who are better-trained in the case method.