Closings

The appropriate closing for a class discussion is among the most debated elements of case method teaching. Some instructors advocate a minimalist approach, arguing that extensive commentary by the discussion leader at the end of class violates the principles of participant-centered learning. They worry that students will become dependent on the instructor to present a definitive synthesis and analysis of the discussion, thus shifting responsibility away from participants to assess and continue to reflect on what they have learned. Other instructors prefer a more substantive close to the class, fearing that without some pulling-together of the class discussion, students may leave feeling confused, frustrated and perhaps demotivated. These competing views suggest that case instructors should take care to avoid the risks of providing either too much or too little closure at the end of a class session.

At an overarching level, students should be able to provide at least provisional answers to two fundamental questions after a class discussion: what did I learn today, and why does it matter? To the extent that there has been intermediate closure along the way-for example, through mini-summaries at transition points between discussion pastures-it may not be necessary or desirable for the instructor to say much more during the closing. Also, some instructors ask one or more students towards the end of the class session to reflect on lessons learned, shifting responsibility for closure wholly or partially to the participants.

For many case instructors, the closing is less about recapping the class discussion than an opportunity to highlight conceptual or managerial themes, provide a bridge to past or future classes, offer personal reflections, and/or inspire and motivate their students. Ultimately, the optimal length and scope of the instructor closing for a specific class session will depend on such factors as the nature of the case and the learning objectives, the quality of the class discussion, instructor style, participant expectations, and timing during the term.