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留学参考:Mastering The Case Method: A Prof’s Advice  

2016-12-25 02:25:00|  分类: DIY留学综合信息 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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留学参考:Mastering The Case Method: A Prof’s Advice

 


 BY: MARC ETHIER ON JULY 29, 2016

 

 

The anxieties produced by the “case method” — the approach to teaching that requires students to put themselves in the role of decision maker and identify a problem that needs solving — are legendary. B-school graduates and first-year MBAs alike have long bemoaned the “cold call” style of classes, where the unprepared can find themselves sweating it out in front of their cohort. Many have chosen a school in part because its program doesn’t lean heavily in the case-method direction.

But students shouldn’t worry so much, says Gregory Fairchild, the E. Thayer Bigelow associate professor of business administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and an acknowledged top case-method instructor. Instead, he says, they should prepare.

MOST OF THE TALKING IS DONE BY THE STUDENTS

A primer on case: Invented at Harvard in the 1920s, it is, according to Harvard Business School’s website, “a profound educational innovation that presents the greatest challenges confronting leading companies, nonprofits, and government organizations — complete with the constraints and incomplete information found in real business issues — and places the student in the role of the decision maker.” Students are asked to analyze real-world business challenges from the perspective of an actual business leader confronted by it, then provide solutions, all with little input from the instructor. In case classes, students do 85% of the talking.

Harvard, where case was invented, still leads all top MBA programs with about 80% of its teaching delivered via cases (compared to 70% at IESE Spain and 50% at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School and North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, for example). Close behind is Darden, where Gregory Fairchild teaches and where 75% of the MBA is taught by case.

SCARY THE FIRST FEW TIMES, AND THEN …

Fairchild says he remembers when case scared him as an MBA student at Darden. But eventually he realized it doesn’t have to be scary — and in fact can be exhilarating, and even change the way students debate and think about business dilemmas.

“You’re struggling and you’re worried because while you’ve been told this is a different way of learning, it feels really like being out on a tightrope,” says Fairchild, associate dean for Washington, D.C.-area initiatives and academic director of public policy and entrepreneurship at Darden. “As I like to tell people, it’s learning backwards. We give you the problem, and then we ask you to come forward the next day with your thoughts about how to solve the problem. But we haven’t given you any of the texts or the notes, we haven’t drilled you, you haven’t been asked to do what’s typical in education up to that point. Education up to that point is typically, we give you a body of knowledge, we ask you to read it, you come to class, somebody talks to you about that body of knowledge, you kind of join in, but when we test you on that body of knowledge you can show mastery.”

While case turns the traditional model on its head, Fairchild says, it’s also an exciting way to learn — and can even become addictive.

“It’s anxiety-creating but it’s exciting in that same regard,” he says. “Let’s not lose that after you’ve done it a few times, it’s scary, but that fear is actually driving a certain level of mystery. There’s a reason stories are written the way they are, to engage you — and so it’s more engaging in that sense.

“You also begin to learn that while some lectures will be chock full of information, at the same time the person delivering them can be kind of monotone,” Fairchild says. “Case has all the unexpected parts of ‘Who’s going to speak, when are they gonna speak, what they’re gonna say, are they gonna be right, are they gonna be wrong?’ So I want to say that it’s anxiety-producing, but it’s really fun.

“I can tell you when I went back and did my Ph.D. and I had to be back in a lecture setting, I was so desirous of being able to speak rather than to sit and listen. It was very difficult for me.”

BE PREPARED FOR A JOURNEY

The best way for an MBA to adapt to learning by case? Write a case yourself, Fairchild says. He’s written 83.

Fairchild wrote his first case when he was still an MBA student at Darden, traveling to Soviet-era Russia to study the business model of a Pizza Hut in Moscow.

“Once you know more about how cases are written, you begin to know how narratives work,” Fairchild says. “There’s any story you could take and you construct that narrative with a certain type of discussion in mind. So knowing how cases are written and then what they’re meant to do in the classroom, I would say: In a typical discussion you’re gonna expect that there’s gonna be three hardy, 20- to 25-minute discussions about three topics, so try as best you can to figure out what those three topics will be.

“The first thing I would say is, it’s not a right-or-wrong situation, it’s a conversation,” Fairchild advises. “You’ve got to come into this thing and know that it’s gonna be an hour and a half of discussion or however long your class might be, and that the discussion is going to lead you somewhere — but again, the old way, you come in, you have the answer, somebody says, ‘What’s the answer?’ and you give it, that’s not gonna be the way things are gonna go. So you want to be ready and patient with the idea that it’s a journey.”

PITFALLS OF TEAMWORK

Most case method courses work similar to the model set out at Harvard. Students are presented with a case, they put themselves in the role of the decision maker, and they identify the problem they are faced with. Next, they perform the necessary analysis, examining causes and considering alternative courses of action that lead to a set of recommendations.

Class participation is key. So is the ability to work in teams. But teamwork can present pitfalls — the biggest of which, Fairchild says, is the inclination to get answers quickly, to close group meetings quickly, to finish assignments quickly. It’s a natural desire, he says, especially among students who are otherwise swamped with coursework and other obligations.

Recalling his own MBA experience, Fairchild says it’s normal to want to divide tasks within a group according to perceived expertise — let the banker handle the finance questions, for example. “And we did that for sure, and that ends up being wrong,” he says. “And my advice is, try to have in your mind in the group this idea that it is again this discussion and journey, and the banker or the quant person in the group may not understand what the case is really about even if they happen to know something about the case topic.”

IT’S ABOUT THE BIG PICTURE

Fairchild, who has taught at Darden for 16 years, has advice to avoid the trap of “distributing answers” — the sort of thing that could lead to a student standing in front of class holding a spreadsheet they don’t really understand. He learned early in his own MBA what he sees play out again and again with his students: Come ready to talk, and think always about the big picture.

“What we learned was, the more we came in ready to discuss rather than just to distribute spreadsheets or distribute answers, the better prepared we were the following day,” Fairchild says. “Because even if your banker gives you a spreadsheet and the spreadsheet is right, when you get called on you’ve got to walk the class through your thinking of what happened in the spreadsheet, and if you didn’t really understand that you’re kind of sunk. And I can tell you now as a professor, I see that, I see people who present me numbers that they don’t know what those numbers actually mean.

“The second thing is, not everybody who says they understand finance understands it deeply. So what’s really important is that the group really take the time to ask two questions. Not just, ‘What is the answer?’ but also, ‘What is the case building on relative to this larger body of thinking that the instructor is trying to  get you to?'”

It’s vital, Fairchild says, that that “big picture” mentality pervades all group and individual deliberations in case method courses. The big picture in each case, he advises, often is related to the case that was studied previously, and perhaps the case that comes next. “So it’s great that you know the break-even calculation is 257,” he says, using a random figure as an example. “But what’s better is that you’re trying to understand that there’s this larger discussion about the way you plan for the inventory that you bring into an organization, and try to make it relative to the sales. So it’s all part of a larger discussion on inventory management, how inventories intersect with your marketing claims, and so the more you think that rather than coming in with ‘The answer is 257,’ the better off you’re going to be.”

‘THE TASK HERE IS NOT TO KNOW, IT’S TO LEARN’

Fairchild has advice for working in a group setting in case courses. The first thing is, be open and honest about your needs when you first sit down with your teammates. How do you like to discuss things in a classroom versus in a group? “We find that there’s some people who don’t do very well in case method but we find out later they are exceptional in their understanding — they’re just not comfortable in the public debate,” Fairchild says. “So sit down and ask those questions. How do you like to learn, how do you like to talk about that you believe?”

The easy thing, he reiterates, is to fall into a pattern of dividing tasks by academic specialization. “Oh we’ve got two bankers — OK you guys lead all the finance and accounting things. And not only is that flawed in a learning standpoint for all people in the group, but it’s also flawed in this idea that to reduce people to their simple academic backgrounds is a big error.”

There’s a difference, Fairchild says, between efficiency and effectiveness. It might be a more efficient approach to split up the cases on the basis of someone’s past background work, “but it also means that you coming in won’t have read well or deeply or thought deeply about a case you weren’t assigned,” he points out. “If you’re going to do that kind of assigning thing, I recommend that you rotate it, and you rotate it across the group, and you rotate it functionally — you get some people to lead, to present, and if you have somebody in your group that has a jones for teaching, then have them try to model the teaching of the case.

“Then what you’re coming into the room with is this idea that we’re learning — the task here is not to know, it’s to learn. It’s to learn both in the group and to learn in the room.”

BE A HUNTER-GATHERER WITH A ‘BIGGER, WIDER, BROADER VIEW’

Fairchild says professors of case method tend to notice certain types of student — and certain types of student tend to be better at being noticed. “You learn as a professor that there are students that you go to for certain things. There are some people who like to come in right at the beginning of the discussion, and there are your people who like to lay it out. They are the people who want to come in with the final big analysis with the right number, and so they’re the person who wants to come in and say, yeah the valuation is $343 million.

“But actually there’s a person who often comes in after them, who can do very well in classes, and these people are the people who sum up what this all means. We call them the hunter-gatherers, and they come in right at the very end and say, ‘Well you know what this whole case was about? It was really about these larger questions that we’ve been dealing with,’ and they say, ‘The number $343 million was important but the really big thing we obviously were here to earn is, blah blah blah …’

“Then the professor is going to go back and he’s going to be thinking about who the memorable characters were over the course of the day, and psychology tells us that when people listen they remember what happened at the very beginning, and they remember what happened at the very end. And so these people who are kind of waiting and gathering all the crumbs and pulling them together to make a pie out of it, those people often get credited and remembered by professors as someone who really got it, while other people who came in during the second discussion — and maybe they had a lot of deep thoughts about why comparing Budweiser to Heineken was a bad idea — they’re noted, but they’re not as memorable as the person who had a bigger, wider, broader view.”

 

 

以上内容摘自:

http://poetsandquants.com/2016/07/29/mastering-case-method-masters-advice/ 

 

 

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