On the difference between illustrating a theory and solving a problem

Date of publication: June 1, 1976


The use of case-studies does not substitute the solving of real problems in management education. There is a great difference between the situation confronting the student in a case-study, and a real problem situation. In case-studies real world problems are replaced by problems appearing real to the student, but which are most atypical in the sense that they clearly correspond to one or more theories, the student knowing that this correspondence has been checked by the teacher beforehand; thus the real problem situation holding no guarantee whatsoever that the problem will show any correspondence with any theory at all is a situation the student has never learnt to work with when solving cases. The conclusion is, that cases must be used in order to learn theories. The case-studies are seen as nothing but well-behaved examples. Working with practical problems that are not well- behaved from a theoretical point of view is necessary in management education as a supplement to case-studies.

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