The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

3.1 Lectures versus case teaching

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Teaching a case is very much an exercise in leadership: engaging student participation in the collective exploration of a problem and the effort to reach a joint resolution. In a traditional lecture, you analyse course material and convey your interpretation of it to the class. In a case discussion, the students analyse the material themselves and your function is to guide and facilitate their work: frame the task, focus the enquiry, stimulate interaction, probe thinking, set direction, register progress and bring closure. The different interaction between the instructor, students and course material in lecture and in case discussion is described by Boehrer (1995), as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 4
T: Teacher M: Material S: Students

Figure 4 Interaction in lectures and case teaching

The teacher stands between the material and the students in lecture. In case discussion, the students meet the material more directly, and they interact with each other as well. Your role in teaching a case is to manage those encounters towards purposeful ends and, as the dotted lines suggest, to learn from them as well, about the students and the case. While intellectual and procedural authority (*) belongs to the teacher in lecture, teacher and students share it in case discussion. Both determine what is learned, and students, as well as teachers, can raise questions. With case discussion the exercise is more challenging and interesting. However, the success of the discussion is critically dependent upon a number of factors that need to be carefully considered when planning the introduction of the case method. The remainder of this section discusses these factors.