Case Studies and the *Ah? Ha!* Teachable Moment

Forrest Stegelin
Agricultural and Applied Economics
University of Georgia
WERA-72, Agribusiness
Competiveness and Profitability
Purdue University, June 24–26, 2012
Understand differences in learning and reasoning style
patterns or abilities among students and clientele.
Recognize the role(s) a case may play in developing
interaction among students and instructor, or clientele and
Define and articulate the characteristics of a strong case.
Apply the seven-step approach in analyzing a case.
Communicate the teachable moments and learning benefits
expected from completing a case analysis.
Students require objects, events,
or actions for logical reasoning.
Students can reason abstractly
without reference to concrete
objects, events, or actions.
Conservation, class inclusion,
Theoretical, propositional,
ordering, and reversibility are
hypothetical, and combinatorial
characteristic reasoning patterns. reasoning patterns are
Students are unaware of
inconsistencies and mistakes in
Students are aware of
inconsistencies and mistakes due
to the use of mental checks and
balances – reflective thought.
Students need clear, sequential
directions for long and detailed
Students can establish their own
plans for long and detailed
projects if given aims and goals.
A “helix of learning” developed around experiential learning,
involving four steps:
◦ Concrete experience – experience-based (being directly
◦ Reflective observation – observation-based (watching) impartial
◦ Abstract conceptualization – conceptually-based, analytic
◦ Active experimentation – action-based, practical applications
Based on an individual’s strength of learning style
preference for the four steps, fit into a category:
◦ Convergers
Case studies have proven to be effective pedagogical tools for
undergraduate, graduate, and continuing or public service
education audiences in the curriculum areas that require
problem-solving and decision-making skills, statistical
analysis, and management sciences.
Applicable for a course or workshop that is decision- and
action-oriented, integrated in both form and pedagogy within
a curriculum or focus, and managerially exciting, moving
away from traditional technique-driven, compartmentalized,
lecture methods course.
Methodologies of decision and risk analysis, probability and
statistics, competitive analysis, and management science are
integrated with personal judgment, intuition, and common
sense in a way that is meaningful to student and
executive learners alike.
In the case method as a teaching strategy, transfers
responsibility for learning from teacher to student or client,
whose role shifts from passive absorption toward active
Through careful examination and discussion, students and
clientele learn to identify actual problems and to articulate
them so as to become aware of those aspects of a situation
that contribute to the problem.
Along the way students and clientele develop the power to
analyze and to master a tangled circumstance by identifying
and delineating important factors – the ability to utilize
ideas, to test them against facts, and to throw them into
fresh combinations.
A variety of roles in a course –
focused on understanding core tools and concepts,
on applying methodology appropriately,
on defining the limits of good practice,
on inventing new methods and adapting existing ones for the
problem at hand.
Forms of cases –
◦ highly structured, focusing on a single issue, with needed data
laid out;
◦ appraisal cases where analysis is partly or wholly done;
◦ unstructured, with multiple issues and data challenges (missing
or incomplete data, choices among data, or data preparation
Cases often selected for use depending on the goals
and/or objectives of the investigator or instructor.
Types of case study –
◦ illustrative case studies (primarily descriptive),
◦ exploratory case studies (pilot or condensed studies
performed before implementing a large scale investigation),
◦ cumulative case studies (serving to aggregate information),
◦ critical instance case studies (examining a situation of
unique interest – answering cause and effect questions).
A leading characteristic is a decision orientation with
teachable moments.
Relevancy is key, that the resolution of the situation
Issues of external validity, construct validity, and
reliability need to also be carefully considered.
A strong case demonstrates a need to know something
not currently known – involves practice of skills and
requires some internalization of concepts and the
articulation of the reasoning process.
Case study approach is a comparatively flexible method
of scientific research because it emphasizes exploration
rather than prescription or prediction.
Case study approach gives research results a more
human face.
Inherent subjectivity whereby the approach relies on
personal interpretation of data and inferences;
High investment in time and thinking; and
Ethical considerations, namely the personal integrity,
sensitivity, and possible prejudices and/or biases of the
investigators need to be taken into consideration.
Read the case thoroughly;
Define the central issue;
Define the firm’s goals;
Identify the constraints of the problem;
Identify all the relevant alternatives;
Select the best alternative; and
Develop an implementation plan.
Relatively short (2- 5 pages) with a teachable moment for
understanding core tools and concepts. Individual activity
with approximately 60 students/class; in extension, makes
for developing problem solving skills for a problem
complementary to client’s reality.
In management classes, distribute on Monday to be turned in
on Wednesday, and graded/returned and discussed on Friday.
In extension, given as working lunch assignment or walkthrough discussion, so client can identify and solve own
problems on own time.
In classroom setting, use as graded alternative to quizzes
[give case and quiz on alternating weeks].
Should we harvest our grapes immediately,
before the forecast rainstorm, or leave them
on the vines despite the approaching storm?
Take a few minutes to read the one-page case and
take any notes or highlight and underscore any
facts thought to be relevant to the problem.
Different wines are possible, with different market
prices, and different wines are produced if grower
harvests immediately, or waits to see if rains and if
doesn’t rain, and then waits for maturity of grapes.
What should we do with the grapes (harvest or
wait)? Production costs are sunk, and differences
in processing costs are negligible.
Revenue = Price x Quantity
Which choice (harvest before the storm or wait and
see) gives highest expected price? [Focus on price,
even if quantities (yields, concentration levels) may
Harvest immediately:
Wait and see, and experience rains:
Wait and see with no storm, so wait for grape
Harvest immediately:
bottled wine (100%) - $2.85;
bulk wine (100%) or bulk grapes (100%) - $1.00 equivalent
Wait and see:
storm – botrytised (mold) (40%) - $8.00 or weak and thin
concentration (60%) - $2.00
Wait and see:
no storm (wait for maturity) – sugars >25% (35%) [$3.50];
sugars 20-25% (35%) [$3.00]; sugars <20% (10%) [$2.50]
or acidity <0.7% (20%) [$2.50]
Which choice [harvest immediately or wait] gives
highest expected average price?
Consider the probabilities of each occurrence, with
100% total probabilities for each occurrence.
Multiply the expected wholesale price per bottle
times the percentages of occurrence to get
weighted average expected price.
Calculate the expected weighted average price per
750 ml bottle for immediate harvesting versus the
probable outcomes of the 50 – 50 chance of rain.
1.00 equiv.
1.00 equiv.
Harvest Immediately
Bottled (100%)
Bulk Wine (100%)
Bulk Grapes (100%)
Botrytised (40%)
8.00 (30% ↓ yield)
1.00 equiv.
1.00 equiv.
Storm (50%)
Wait & See
Weak/Thin (60%) 2.00
100% wait & see; storms
>25% (35%)
20-25% (35%)
<20% (10%)
No Storm (50%)
(wait for maturity) Acidity
<0.7 (20%)
100% wait & see; maturity
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