Preparing a position on a case

27 July 2004

I just received a brief email from a student asking how to prepare for Friday’s case.

That really is a hard question to answer because I don’t know what the student knows about preparing a case. I could tell them all I know, but that probably wouldn’t be helpful as the student wouldn’t have an organising framework and it would be disconnect from their own experience and knowledge.

Not only that, I hope that this course is developmental. I’ve said it elsewhere, but my expectation is that students will become more skilled at doing a case over the duration of the course. Thus, what is good now, might be considered poor later in the course. There are pros and cons to this approach. Amongst the pros are; 1) it allows students to develop a sophisticate approach to cases, without having to know everything or analyse everything at the beginning, 2) it allows good work to be rewarded appropriately throughout the whole course–this is important because whilst at the end of the course, students may know everything right now they don’t; and since they are assessed each week it could penalise them for not knowing it all, and finally, 3) it allows students to become their own strategist rather than conforming to some normative/prescriptive/formulaic expectations.

The biggest con is that the target is moving; and this can be unsettling. How is it that something that is okay one week, is poor a month later? I think the way to deal with this is for students to constantly evaluate the performance of the best students in the class and comparing it with their own performance. I’ve found that students are very capable at spotting who is ‘best’ in the class. Generally, it is a good practice, in this class, to constantly be marking ones own performance. If anyone has other thoughts, I’d be really keen to hear them.

Anyway, I think the best way for that student to move forward is to prepare a case, and then come and talk to me about it–that way, I can give guidance on what will make the biggest difference for that student, rather than spending hours (days, or weeks) writing down all I know. So generally, if you want help with cases, be it with regard to preparing on presenting them, then come and see me once your have had a go at preparing it.