Publication Details

Chandrakumara, P. & Wickramasinghe, A. (2013). You never know what question you are going to answer: creating effective tension for effective learning using business case studies. International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies (pp. 2803-2810).


Case studies in business management have been used as an effective approach and tool for enhancing students' critical thinking and problem-solving skills by providing opportunities for student to apply appropriate theories, concepts and models for real world issues faced by organisations. Despite the popularity of the case study approach in business and management education, it is self evident that the effective use of case studies to achieve above mentioned benefits is challenging and problematic mainly because case studies are misused and abused in different ways, including just adopting a popular method, just asking students to read and answer the questions, or not creating conducive environment for interactive and active learning sessions. This challenge has been widen and deepen as there is very limited empirical research on improving students learning and performance by effective utilisation of case studies. Research that does exist has primarily focused on student perceptions of their learning rather than on actual learning outcomes (Yadav, Shaver & Meckl, 2010). This paper explores some empirical evidence with regard to effective utilisation of case-based tutorial class interactions and on the adoption of case analysis and presentations to improve teaching, learning, motivation and evaluating of postgraduate students of an international business degree program. We conducted this exploratory study over a period of 3 years (9 semesters) in two campuses of a university in Australia by examining subject outlines, case study discussion practices, performance records, students' feedback and comments, and conducting informal discussion with subject lecturers. As we found different ways and approaches used by several lectures to discuss case studies, we compared students learning and performance before and after methodological intervention implemented in 2012. We discovered a high level of impact of changes on students learning and performance when case studies were integrated into a part of the teaching, learning, and evaluation process by providing equal opportunity for every student to engage in active learning. Our approach consisted of creating a positive tension and competition among both individuals and groups and the announcement of marks and constructive feedback on the same day of presentation (e.g. Jonsson, 2013). Performance data and students experience revealed that they were engaging in active learning and could add a lot of realism to the class. We therefore argue that the use of case studies needs to be made meaningful and interesting through innovative methods. Our experience also suggests that lecturers and tutors have a critical role in selecting appropriate cases, developing a good tutorial plan, creating effective tension, curiosity, and a moderate level of competition among students for active engagement in learning and participation, providing appropriate support and feedback, and adopting coherent and credible assessment criteria to assess performance. Hence, the use of case studies in teaching and learning requires richness of content, process and context that inspire students' interest and commitment in their learning aimed at enhancing overall performance.

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