Bridging the Research/Application Gap with Cases
Michael Groth is Senior Brand Manager at Emerald Publishing, where he oversees international brand strategy, champions the cause of research impact, and creates opportunities for engagement across the company’s regional markets. In this blog, he describes a panel session organized for this year’s AACSB International Conference on business cases as intellectual contributions linking academia with industry.
In my role showcasing causes core to Emerald’s tradition of applied research, I am fortunate to collaborate with some of the greatest minds in academia, publishing and information science. This was never more true than at the recent Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International Conference and Meeting (ICAM), April 22-24 in the exotic grandeur of Honolulu, Hawaii.
ICAM brings together the world’s top business academics and collaborators annually to shape the future of business with innovative thinking. This year I rallied several of Emerald’s leading voices in the case method to explore the real world impact of teaching cases, including Rebecca Morris of Westfield State University and Editor-in-Chief of The Case Journal (TCJ); Michael Goldman of the University of San Francisco and Editor-in-Chief of Emerging Markets Case Studies (EMCS); and experiential learning advocate, Larry McDaniel, Chair of Management and Marketing at Alabama A&M University. Our session, ‘Bridging the Research/Application Gap with Cases,’ was moderated by Emerald Executive Editor, Simon Linacre, and addressed the scholarly contribution of peer-reviewed teaching notes, the need for global thinking, and how case research can impact students, fellow faculty, and the wider business community.
Not regarding case studies as traditional academic research, the AACSB doesn’t necessarily make the distinction between published, vetted cases and non-published, individually written cases in its accreditation guidelines. But as explained by Rebecca Morris, business cases published in TCJ are accompanied by a detailed instructor’s manual grounded in field research and the double-blind peer-review process. Cases are researched using primary data and are not accepted if fictionalized or hypothetical. The instructor’s manual is similar to the discussion section of an empirical article, demonstrating whether the practice observed is either consistent or inconsistent with prevailing theories. As applied scholarship with rigorous supporting documentation, cases in TCJ are appreciated by adjunct faculty and serve as an entry point for academics transitioning from research to teaching faculty.
ICAM brings together the world’s top business academics and collaborators annually to shape the future of business with innovative thinking
Publishing cases also boosts institutional reputation, claims Michael Goldman of EMCS. Often as a first step to conducting other kinds of research, he challenges traditional metrics and argues that sources of peer-reviewed cases should be included on lists of approved, quality publishing outlets. Referring again to the instructor’s manuals, he describes these tools as a critical contribution to both pedagogy (teacher-driven) and andragogy (self-actualization) learning strategies. Most importantly, EMCS focuses on interesting organizations in complex emerging market contexts, encouraging global thinking in the development of effective managers.
Lastly, Larry McDaniel, department chair at Alabama A&M University, described teaching with cases through the lens of experiential classroom techniques where students explore how what they learned applies to the real world. With experience in simulations, internships and cooperative education, he placed a particular emphasis on internal and external case competitions. Students compete on and off campus to solve real-world business problems, with a major annual event being the Center for International Business Education & Research (CIBER) International Business Case Competition, held every March at Georgia State University in Atlanta. The challenge provides students from multiple universities, especially minority serving institutions, the opportunity to work in teams, gain insight on practical business issues, and prepare to enter the global job market with the benefit of problem-solving skills and experience.
If the deans and faculty attending ICAM took away anything from the experts, it was that case studies backed by high-quality writing, publication and instruction are fundamental to understanding business. And the future of case research is peer review for creating theoretically-linked, evidence-based and clearly teachable cases. By balancing empirical research with real-world business scenarios—especially those focusing on underserved topics, protagonists or geographies—cases can lead to better student engagement and subsequently make a real impact on practice.
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