Finance Professors' Use of Case Discussion Leadership at Harvard and Darden MBA Programs
Rachel A. Smith
Although many MBA programs use the case method of instruction in their programs, a relatively small literature base exists to provide MBA professors with a philosophical explanation and guide for its use. This study builds on the theory of case discussion leadership, which is a leadership style and philosophy of teaching and learning while using cases, rather than simply a pedagogical methodology. The participants of the study were finance professors from Harvard Business School and the University of Virginia 's Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, two top-ranked MBA programs that have used case discussion leadership as their primary philosophy of teaching and learning for many years. The methodology employed was a qualitative field study which utilized interviews of the finance professors, observations of case discussion courses, and analyses of relevant program documents. The findings provide significant information to further the understanding and use of case discussion leadership. This includes a description of the qualities of a successful case discussion leader, the characteristics of a successful case discussion, methods for balancing Socratic purism and directiveness, effectively using questions in a case discussion, creating an effective case discussion leadership structure, overcoming challenges in case discussion leadership, emphasizing student success in a case discussion class, ensuring technical knowledge in a quantitative case discussion class, evaluating a case discussion class, and implementing case discussion leadership within varying settings and students. The discussion of this study describes the philosophical differences between case discussion leadership and passive methods of instruction and the rationale for its preference in MBA programs. It identifies a correlation between corporations' demands for MBA graduates and the proposed outcomes in graduates of case discussion leadership programs. It also reveals a relationship between case discussion leadership and other leadership and learning theories including servant leadership, super leadership, and autonomous learning. The results and discussion of this study are relevant to professors seeking to understand the philosophy, values, and benefits of using case discussion leadership in the classroom and how to develop their abilities and skills as case discussion leaders.
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