HBS’ Case Method In Elementary Schools?

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Harvard’s Case Method To Be Used In Elementary Schools?


Analyzing real-world situations. Predicting the impact of complex dynamics. Dissecting uncertainties and ambiguities. Debating various options to identify the best solution. Making decisions with incomplete data.

That probably sounds like the case method used at Harvard or Darden, right? Would you believe it’s also the model being employed at elementary schools?

That’s the proposition for 18 K-8 public schools in the Cincinnati area. The program, which emphasizes critical thinking and data analysis skills, is designed to boost student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The program is being paid for by a $1.1 million grant from Ohio’s Straight A Fund.

So how does it work? According to Soapbox Media of Cincinnati, the initative will be based on a program implemented by the Partnership for Innovation in Education (PIE) at Kilgour Elementary in 2013:

“PIE adapted a case study from Sunkist into classroom activities in which students analyzed real data in order to find ways for the company to increase lemon sales. The curriculum was a departure from traditional teaching styles, as it based learning on the application of technology and critical thinking on authentic STEM content rather than acquisition of facts and formulas. Students practiced STEM skills as they worked through solution-driven activities involving product life cycles, data interpretation.”

Rather than guiding students toward a single “right answer,” teachers encouraged their classrooms to find their own solutions based on the data. The results culminated in the Cash Cow Lemon Smash Android application, developed through a partnership with Northern Kentucky University’s Center for Applied Informatics.”

Now, PIE is taking the program a step further by working with local organizations to “find material for authentic case studies, and then adapt it for the classroom.” They’ve already partnered with organizations ranging from the Cincinnati Zoo to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to identify potential issues and gather data. In addition, the cases will be in “the same format as those used at Harvard Business School but with the data volume, exhibits and language scaled down. Students will still be analyzing organizational background, charts, graphs and figures with an aim of solving a real problem for the organization.”

As part of the 10-week program, leaders from organizations participating in the cases will present the organizational challenge to the students and interact with them. In addition, “students will use iPads and other devices to manipulate data and apply it to SWOT analyses (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and the four Ps of marketing (Product, Place, Price, Promotion).”

Andrew Benson, executive director of Smarter Schools (which is partnering with PIE on this initiative), believes the case method will make the content more relevant while sharpening students’ problem-solving abilities. “It’s a way to engage students in something that is real life and causes them to grapple and work through a problem in more than just a linear way.”

Mary Welsh Schlueter, founder and CEO of PIE, adds that the program not only prepares students for higher level learning but also shows that their ideas have value. “A case is…a lot of information wrapped into a story, and students have to pick apart the noise from the story and find what’s useful…The kids are being asked to solve a problem and we’re valuing their input. That’s something that hasn’t really been done before.”

Source: Soapbox Media

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