Cases for learning and renewing...

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By Martha García Tenorio
marthag@itesm.mx

 

The case method has long been a well-known teaching technique. However, I am convinced that in our teaching practice there is a wide space for exploring and innovating to capitalize on it in educational terms. For the past five years, I have been using the case method in my courses because this methodology makes it possible to address real issues that arise in a business setting, combining theory and practice. Integrating this teaching technique in the classroom offers many benefits, such as developing students’ critical thinking, proposing possible solutions to problems raised in a safe environment, working with diverse topics, and generating individual and group reflection, among others.

One of the main challenges teachers face when using the case method as a teaching technique lies in the competency assessment systems. Traditional assessment methods, which have been used for years in more rigid, formal educational models, are no longer efficient or functional. An example of this is the difficulty in evaluating creativity; measuring this competency using an inflexible assessment system, such as an exam, would not be easy. Current trends require rethinking and designing assessment systems that can be adapted to more flexible, innovative, challenging, interactive and dynamic educational models, through which we can observe whether students can communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, have completed a prior analysis or investigation based on the available information, or possess synthesis skills, among other aspects.

Current trends require rethinking and designing assessment systems that can be adapted to more flexible, innovative, challenging, interactive and dynamic educational models. 

Regarding this matter, I had the opportunity to participate as a speaker on the topic Challenging Learning Experiences with the project “Ejemplos que arrastran” (Influential Examples) at the 11th Annual Meeting of the Latin American Case Association (ALAC) during the summer of 2016. My proposal was to bring students into contact with the real world through a Community Action project in a rural area. The focus of the project was to invite students to participate in Ethics and Citizenship activities, motivated by the example we set as teachers of becoming directly involved in proposals to bring about change in our community. This project was considered successful since students brought their skills to the fore, interacted with and learned from the environment, became involved in social transformation processes, and shared their talents. It is a way of teaching beyond the classroom, of inspiring our students from a variety of perspectives. It is also proof of the commitment teachers acquire to students’ education in ethics, with social responsibility and the sense of humanity that is vital in our society.

If leaving the classroom is not an option for the teacher or students, owing to time, transportation, cost, insecurity issues or any other factors, there is still the possibility of offering students the experience of seeing a live case first hand in which they can perceive the emotions, implications and consequences undergone by the real characters in a case when making decisions and addressing issues. Combining this experience with the use of technology or so-ware that enables students to participate during the presentation of a case would be extremely enriching, reaffirming their knowledge and sharing ideas and diverse points of view. There are many free apps that can be used to achieve this experience using mobile devices and the Internet, such as Socrative and Clicker.

At the ALAC meeting, I witnessed a live case consisting of entrepreneurs from a Chilean vineyard involved in a problem related to business ethics. The company was at risk of losing its competitive position in the international market owing to the impact on costs of the production of its current bottles, transportation and European carbon emission control environmental standards. Listening first-hand to the process undertaken by the organization’s executives was an extraordinary experience: they presented hard data, figures and facts that gave insight into and dimensioned the impact of decision-making on businesses. During the presentation, the speakers and the audience could interact through so-ware for measuring the spectator's’ perception and opinion of the case presented.

Researchers and professors have numerous opportunities to participate in writing and publishing cases in scientifically relevant international forums. This is not easy, since the cases need to be designed and tested in an academic framework to adjust them to the competencies to be developed by students. In Latin America, there are several interesting cases of high educational value, but very few have been documented and contextualized to our region.

Finally, I would like to highlight the importance of constantly renewing and innovating the teaching techniques we use in our educational practice, because every day we have the opportunity to test them in order to combine the diverse areas of knowledge through their use. In addition, I would like to emphasize that our students are satisfied with the use of the case method during classes, given their active participation and the collaborative work that take place during the learning process.  


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Martha Garcia Tenorio is a Clinical Psychologist. Master in Ethics for Social Construction and Professor in the area of Human Development, Tutoring, Ethics and Psychology at the Tecnologico de Monterrey.