Trivia Tuesday: The Case Method at Harvard Business School
This week for Trivia Tuesday, we take a peek inside our Harvard School Guide to give you the scoop on their use of the case study method.
“Harvard’s mission is to ‘educate leaders who make a difference in the world.’ HBS seeks to accomplish this mission by admitting individuals with proven leadership skills and demonstrated records of success and then imparting the knowledge and skills they will need to be effective across a range of business situations. To accomplish this objective, the school places heavy emphasis on the case method of instruction.
“The case method defines Harvard’s MBA program. There are two components to the approach: the case study and the class discussion. The case itself is a short description of an actual business problem, as told from the point of view of one individual in the situation. Written by a Harvard faculty member who has spoken with the person at the center of the story and spent extensive time at the company featured, each case walks the reader through the considerations facing the protagonist, leaving students to determine how the person should proceed.
The second distinguishing element of the case method is the class discussion that ensues, during which the professor leads students in a discussion of their interpretations of and opinions on that day’s case. Using the Socratic method, faculty members speak relatively little during class, pushing students toward the general principles at the heart of each case through questioning rather than lecturing. Because students are ultimately learning from each other, communication is a crucial skill and class participation a significant portion of each student’s grade (see section ‘Grading System’). Through the case method, students hone not only their ability to determine an advantageous course of action in the absence of complete information, but also their ability to listen to and persuade others.”
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