Case-based classes can sometimes be confusing to students unaccustomed to this style of pedagogy. While different faculty use cases in different ways, MBA students are likely to benefit from adopting the following six principles in their case classes:
1. Be prepared. Skim the case first to get the gist of the problems addressed in the case. Then read it carefully to memorize the important case facts. Finally, review it to analyze the case aided by the assigned study questions.
2. Be attentive. Close your laptop, turn off your phone, stop chatting, and pay attention. A case class won’t work if you sit back waiting to be “taught” by an instructor, rather you are an important part of the learning experience for the whole class.
3. Be positive. If you are negative, aggressive, or condescending when you try to get your point across, your classmates will turn into porcupines and learning opportunities are squandered in the process. Displaying a positive attitude does not mean that you cannot offer a contrarian opinion, au contraire, only that you do it with a smile
4. Be generous. Share credit with classmates with statements such as: “Building upon Paula’s suggestion,…”, or “Andy has a point, but I think we can go one step further…”. This demonstrates that you paid attention to the preceding discussion and also makes it more likely that people will listen to, and credit, your ideas.
5. Be patient. Indicate that you are willing to speak up but wait until you are called upon. Once it is your turn, help the learning process along by chipping in with some detail or insight. However, don’t monopolize airtime and don’t try to “grab the opportunity at the mic” to offer a full-blown canned case analysis to prove that you came prepared. Keep in mind that the instructor is not looking for a quick “right” answer to the case. Instead, he or she is more likely out on a fishing expedition seeking out a varied set of alternatives for subsequent analysis.
6. Be flexible. Can you remember the last time you heard a politician say “Oh, I didn’t think of that, I should probably change my mind then”. Didn’t think so. But a case class is not a political debate and saying such a thing is a sign of strength, showing that you came to class with an open mind without predetermined opinions. Surprise yourself by changing your mind now and again, appreciating when you learn something new, that’s why you’re here, right?
Do you disagree with some of the items above? What other keys did I forget?