The case method is a teaching method that utilizes cases (examples/judicial precedents), and has become an indispensable method in professional schools (law schools, business schools, medical schools) that consider how leaders should behave in response to issues that may arise in the real world. It is a piece of MBA trivia that the first school in the world to use the case method of education was not a business school but Harvard Law School.
As I understand it, the case method was first used in a lecture given by Professor Christopher Columbus Langdell. His famous words are "Law as Science". In the world of law, where it is not unusual for black and white to be reversed in different times and countries, the question was posed to the participants, "How would you have judged the case if you were a party to it? This educational style of posing the question, "How would you judge if you were a party to the case? Since then, cases have been adopted by educational institutions that provide practical education, such as business administration and medicine, and are now an integral part of business schools.
- 1870 Adopted by law schools
- 1920 Adopted by business schools
- Adopted by medical schools in 1985
Now, there is a slightly vexing question whether we should call this kind of case-based education case method or case study. There are those who argue that case study has a passive meaning, while case method has an active meaning, and there are those who see it from the participant's point of view as "case study", while those who see it from the professor's point of view as "case method". The mystery deepens.
Either way, the "case" is just common information for the participants of the lecture to discuss, and it does not provide any knowledge by itself. What is important is to become the protagonist of the case and experience the decision-making issues depicted in the case as if you were the protagonist.