One reason students enjoy learning through the case method is that each case reads like a unique story. Cases typically present a case protagonist embedded in a complex environment and pressed to make a decision in the face of challenges and uncertainty. Though the details of the case give it depth and interest, instructors frequently introduce frameworks during case discussions. Frameworks build students’ understanding of the case at hand while helping them generalize case specifics into conceptual knowledge. In this video, Julie Battilana describes the “Agitator, Orchestrator, Innovator” framework which she asks students to use repeatedly throughout her course to better understand the case protagonists and the roles they can play to achieve social change.
Julie Battilana, Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration (Harvard Business School), Alan L. Gleitsman Professor of Social Innovation (Harvard Kennedy School)
Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School
Power and Influence
Second year course
- Most cases are written with broader frameworks or generalizable concepts in mind, and these are frequently introduced in the “case teaching note.” Review this note to ensure the framework aligns with your intended learning objectives.
- Before class, note a couple of places where you might introduce the framework in your teaching plan and then make a final call based on the discussion flow and your gauge of students’ understanding.
- Consider teaching two or three cases that provide different illustrations of the same overarching framework. Students’ understanding of a framework can improve if they have multiple opportunities to apply it.
- Learning science literature investigating novice versus expert thinking indicates that experts can access and organize knowledge based on underlying conceptual principles while novices cannot. This suggests that providing structure to students, highlighting patterns that may not seem evident to students, can help scaffold learning (National Research Council, 2000; Sawyer, 2006; Chi et al., 1981).
- In this Faculty Focus post, an instructor describes how she asks students to preview key frameworks and concepts before class and then guides students to apply those concepts using cases while in class.
- The Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College has helpful, step-by-step instructions for how to teach a case no matter the discipline.