What is the Case Study Method of Teaching?
The case study method (or case method) of teaching is a popular and effective way for students to learn and apply concepts to real-life situations, strategies, and dilemmas. The typical case study provides an overview and background information associated with an issue, an individual in the fashion industry, or a fashion brand, company or organization is facing. Background information for case studies is based on 1) public information about an actual company or situation (possibly including interviews) and/or 2) faculty expertise in an area for hypothetical (but realistic) situations or companies. Background information may also include additional outside readings or media; some faculty prefer to have the case study include all relevant information whereas others prefer students to conduct outside research. In the case study teaching method, students review and analyze the background material; evaluate multiple alternative solutions; recommend and justify an optimal solution for the individual, company, or organization; and predict outcomes of the solution.
Why Use Case Studies in Education?
As a teaching method, case studies provide students with opportunities to apply and practice critical thinking, analytic, evaluative, problem solving, and communication skills.
Learning Objectives of the Case Study Method
As a result of the Case Study Method, students will demonstrate their ability to:
Video Guides: Teaching with Business Cases
Editor-in-Chief of Blomsbury Fashion Business Cases, Natascha Radcylffe-Thomas, discusses how to teach with business cases
Bethan Alexander, Regional Editor for Bloomsbury Fashion Business Cases, discusses teaching online with her case: John Smedley, Transforming a British Luxury Family Business
How Do I Use Case Studies?
Below are guidelines and suggestions for effective use of case studies in courses. The Teaching Notes associated with individual case studies provide additional guidance in teaching with specific cases.
Case studies can be integrated into course levels from first-year/introductory through graduate level courses. Case studies for introductory courses are generally short and focus on a single concept, topic, or issue. Introductory case studies typically have a “correct” answer or single most optimal solution. For example, a case study in an introductory product development course may introduce students to textile selection for a specific product category and ask students to evaluate textile/material options and recommend and justify the optimal textile/material for the product category. A case study in an introductory fashion merchandising course may introduce students to markdown calculations and ask students to evaluate different markdown percentages and recommend and justify the optimal percentage for the situation. Case studies for intermediate courses are generally longer and focus on the inter-relationships among concepts whereby students would need to integrate knowledge and applications. Intermediate case studies may have multiple “correct” or optimal solutions depending on the justification provided by the student. For example, a case study in an intermediate sourcing course may ask students to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of sourcing the production of a particular product category in several countries. Students would need to consider multiple factors in recommending and justifying the optimal country for sourcing production of a particular product category. Case studies for advanced courses include multi-faceted issues and topics that require students to assess internal and external factors associated with the issue or topic. Advanced cases are typically longer and may be used for term/semester-long assignments. Similar to intermediate cases, advanced cases would also have multiple “correct” or optimal solutions depending on the justification provided by the student. For example, a case study in an advanced retail management course may ask students to evaluate and justify strategic initiatives for a large retailer around corporate social responsibility. Students would need to evaluate initiatives with respect to the retailer’s mission, size, product design and development, sourcing, marketing, and distribution strategies.
Case studies can be effectively integrated into a variety of course formats including lecture, studio, laboratory, hybrid, and/or online courses. With any course format the learning objectives for the course will dictate how case studies will be integrated. For example, if a learning objective for an intermediate fashion retail merchandising course was to “analyze and apply merchandising principles to effective buying and selling of fashion-influenced merchandise at the retail level”, case studies could be used to achieve this learning objective regardless of course format. Studio and laboratory courses in fashion-related curricula are most often focused on theory and applications in design (studio) and physical/natural science (laboratory). As such, case studies integrated into these course formats provide students with opportunities to evaluate, justify, and communicate alternatives in the design or scientific processes required in projects in these courses.
Course Integration and Formats for Responses
All well-written case studies will require students to respond to the case study in some manner including responses to questions, role-playing assignments, and/or creative work. Students would be expected to respond to each of the questions, take the role of an industry professional, and/or provide a creative work as their response. Responses may require qualitative, quantitative, and/or a combination of data analyses. Responses could be completed either individually or in teams and presented in oral, written, creative work, or a combination of formats. These responses can be integrated into courses as out-of-class activities or in-class activities.
Students may be assigned questions, role-playing assignments, and/or creative work as an out-of-class activity response to case studies. For these responses students would be expected to research and respond to each of the questions or the role-playing assignment in writing and/or produce a creative work along with a written narrative. Written papers will vary in length and complexity depending on the number and type of questions/activities assigned. Grading of out-of-class activities would be based on the quality and completeness of the responses along with appropriate justification and citations. The out-of-class activities could also be used as the basis for in-class small group or full class discussion.
Questions, role-playing, and/or creative work may be assigned during class as:
If the case study lends itself to debates, students can be divided into two groups related to advice/recommendation provided around the situation or topic. Each group would form an argument for their advice/recommendation and present it to the class.
The case study could serve as a prompt to larger discussions around the topic presented in the case study. For example, an introductory case study related to environmentally responsible material selection could serve as a basis for a larger discussion of the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
At the end of the class, allow 5-10 minutes for students to reflect on and write what they learned from the case study and what additional questions they have. Questions can be addressed at the end of class, at the beginning of the following class, or online.
Term/Semester Long Case Studies
Longer and multi-faceted case studies can also be used for term/semester-long assignments. For example, general background about a fashion brand/company could be provided to students at the beginning of the term/semester. This fashion brand/ company could then be the basis for a series of cases studies that correspond with the topics of the course.
How Do I Choose the Right Case Study and Engage Students
Choosing the right case study for your course is based on:
By applying concepts to real-life situations, strategies, and dilemmas, students learn to think like professionals in the fashion industry. In addition, case studies will heighten their awareness of the complexities of issues fashion industry professionals address. Including case studies that challenge their preconceptions and push them beyond their comfort zones is integral to the success of case studies. However, it is imperative that students are empowered to justify their recommended solutions in a safe and supportive classroom environment. This is particularly important when in-class discussions are included.
Guidelines for Students in Discussing Case Studies
There is generally more than one “correct” answer to the case study issues, problems, and questions. This can/should result in lively discussion. However, to get the most out of these discussions, we recommend the following guidelines are put in place for students:
Grading Criteria for Case Studies
Case Studies are generally evaluated based on the following criteria:
Using the case study method of teaching can result in an engaging and effective learning environment for students. To ensure cases are used to their full potential, instructors must incorporate and present case studies with clear expectations and relevancy to the learning objectives of the course.
Any questions? If you would like us to create further faculty resources to support the case study method of teaching in fashion please contact Holly Shore.