Friday, 3 February 2012

Case Studies

Three keys to unlocking your Case Studies

In a recent article on case studies a teacher claimed that setting up case studies was similar to establishing chaos in the classroom. I can empathise with that, I was always hesitant about doing role plays and case studies in my class. I felt they were childish, or difficult to control.But it doesn’t have to be like that. In my experience a well set up and well executed cases study can be a motivating and stimulating lesson for both students and teachers alike.

Why use case studies?

Students learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process. Case Studies allow students to practice their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in a realistic setting. There is the satisfaction of achieving an outcome and having used English to achieve that outcome.

In addition to that case studies are now widely used on business management courses, therefore our business English students are familiar with their formats and will see them as an essential part of the learning process.

So how do we get the benefits and avoid the chaos, well I believe there are three keys to doing successful case studies.

Key 1 is don’t expect to be the expert. In a good case study there is no particular ‘correct’ answer. The students should be given the freedom to come up with their own solutions or conclusions. As with all business English teaching the teacher should be the ‘language expert’ not the ‘business guru’, so let your students be the experts. (Business Result helps you with this by providing an expert view from the Cranfield School of Management for the students to compare their findings with.)

Key 2 is good classroom management. Don’t leave classroom management to chance. Before the lesson starts plan the groups and the seating arrangements, be willing to move the furniture and the students so they have room to discuss freely without being influenced or intimidated by other groups. However, make sure your plans are flexible so the case study will work even if some students do not attend that lesson.

Think about preparation time, letting students with the same roles working together first son they can feel confident they understand the content before they need to use it with their new partners.

Key 3 is the teacher’s response. In Key 1 I mentioned the teacher does not have to be an expert but that does not mean that the teacher should not be interested in the outcome of the discussions. One of the main principles of correcting students is respond to the content of the message as well as the accuracy. Students like to believe that they have something interesting to say and that they are not just mistake making machines.

So we can see that setting up case studies does not have to cause chaos, they can become a really useful part of the learning experience.

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