Teaching and the Case Method

The Case Method

How the Case Method Works
When students are presented with a case, they place themselves in the role of the decision-maker as they read through the situation and identify the problem they are faced with. The next step is to perform the necessary analysis—examining the causes, considering alternative courses of actions—to come to a set of recommendations.

To get the most out of cases, students read and reflect on the case and then often meet in small study groups before class to "warm up" and discuss their findings with other classmates. In class—under the questioning and guidance of the professor—students probe underlying issues, compare different alternatives, and finally, suggest courses of action in light of the company's objectives.

As a case study unfolds in class, students do 85% of the talking, as the professor steers the conversation by making occasional observations and asking questions. This classroom interaction is enriched by the 80-90 individuals from diverse industries, functions, countries, and experiences.

During their time at Harvard Business School, students study and prepare over 500 cases—a transforming experience that helps them to recognize the unique aspects of different situations, define problems, suggest further avenues of analysis, and devise and implement action plans. Once they finish the program, HBS graduates have the confidence they need to go off and tackle the many business challenges they will face in their careers.