Developing Instructor Style

When picturing a successful case method instructor, the image that often comes to mind is that of a charismatic individual, who makes it all seem effortless. But the fact that the instructor is center stage does not imply a need for showmanship. In the case classroom, effective teaching comes in a wide variety of styles. A quiet, thoughtful, soft-spoken introvert can engage and challenge students as effectively as a dramatic, high energy extrovert. What matters most is the trust, passion and commitment to learning that the instructor brings to the class discussion, and the authenticity of whatever style is employed.

Many styles are consistent with creating a learning environment that is simultaneously challenging and supportive. Mutual respect is essential along the way: striving for high standards in the case discussion should not mean demoralizing weaker contributors, and humor should not be used at a student's expense. Instructors can draw on verbal and non-verbal signals, such as facial expression, gesture, posture, and movement, in order to convey two basic messages to students: "You are in good hands" and "Now, it's up to you."

Instructors new to case teaching often take time to develop a style that allows them to project both confidence and humility. First-time case teachers should be wary of responding defensively to challenges in the classroom and generally should avoid using an apologetic tone or self-deprecating humor. Fortunately, case method students tend to be quite supportive of new instructors who they perceive to be well prepared and passionately committed to their learning, despite a lack of case teaching experience.