Case Method Learning

Classroom discussion is only one setting for Darden’s case method of teaching. We also learn from individual preparation, learning team meetings, and post-class reflection. For me, the majority of ‘technical’ learning takes place during individual preparation. In this post I’ll outline some of my observations on the learning process at Darden. If you are looking for some specific information on how the case method is implemented at Darden, you may want to check out my earlier Case Method post.

The business elements taught at Darden naturally break down into two groups, as follows:

Technical skills – this includes elements such as creating an income statement, performing a discounted cash flow valuation, or analyzing the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Most people first think of the case method in terms of technical skills and wonder how these skills can be effectively taught with class discussion. Generally, most technical learning takes place before class and we use our discussion time to review the material and learn from our mistakes. (see my Case Method post for an example)

Business background – this includes the broad knowledge and the general skills required for effective management. Examples include teamwork skills, industry knowledge, communication skills, and concepts like business acumen.

Both of these groups are taught throughout the Darden program. Naturally, some settings are better suited for building specific competencies. Below is my analysis of how Darden students learn these elements:

Setting Technical skills Business background
Individual preparation
  • Reading technical notes
  • Completing individual analysis
  • Reading cases set in different business environments (industry, location, etc.)
Learning teams & group work
  • Refining individual analysis
  • Working in teams and with peers
  • Picking up industry, cultural, and functional knowledge from learning team members
Class discussion
  • Reviewing techniques
  • Learning from your mistakes and the mistakes of others
  • Developing business communication skills
  • Building confidence in your capabilities
  • Identifying connections between classes/subjects

In addition to learning from the formal curriculum, I have developed my business background through involvement in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities at Darden.

10 Responses to “Case Method Learning”

  1. Aziz says:

    Hey Bill .. I am exploring Darden as one of the options for my MBA. I plan to apply for fall 2009. I was hoping to watch a video of one of the lectures at Darden.Do you think you can point me to the right source? I have looked up on google, but I couldnt find a full-length video.Thanks and I appreciate your help.

    • Bill Gray says:

      Hi Aziz,Darden is in the process of editing a video from one of our case discussions. Once this becomes available in the next few weeks, I can certainly post the link.In the meantime, you might want to check out a short (2 minute) video on the Darden case method which is available here.Another video worth watching is our recent faculty panel on the financial crisis. While this panel doesn't represent a typical classroom, you can certainly get a feel for the personality of the Darden faculty. You can watch the video here, and read the related article here. If you don't have time to watch the full video, make sure to fast forward to Ed Freeman's part. Ed teaches ethics at Darden and is the guy with the bushy hair.

    • Bill Gray says:

      Hi Aziz,

      Darden just posted a case discussion video on the Admissions Blog.

      Here is the link:

  2. Arnab says:

    Hi Bill,Thanks for this fantastic blog. I am pretty keen on applying to Darden for fall 2009 and this post really helped with my research on the Case Method.

  3. Shashank says:

    I’m really impressed with the case study method used by Darden. Saw some Darden videos on you tube and the methodology look interesting. I’m applying for Fall 2009 and now I have clear picture of Darden’s education. It definitely helps a lot. Thanks.

  4. Ankit says:

    Hi Bill,

    I did two things right today, saw “kung Fu Panda” and read your blog. A line from the movie comes to mind as I’m reading, “there is no charge for awesomeness” :). It’s a wealth of info for Darden applicants. Would you mind if I email you with a couple of questions regarding Darden.

    Thanks much,

  5. Mike says:

    Hi Bill,

    Just wanted to say awesome blog. I applied to Darden this year, and wanted you to know that the info here really helped me understand the case method.

    Thanks a lot,


  6. Akshay says:

    Hey Bill,

    Quite nicely expressed. Thanks to Darden media, prospective students can now really get an almost first hand experience of the “Case Method” through the Peter Rodriguez video. Until I watched that, I was like…”Case Method”…OK..just another style of education and a marketing mantra for Darden. But after the video, I was like – WOW! Who would have believed that class room was so much fun? – especially since I suffer from academic claustrophobia! (After all I have always been an ‘Out – Standing’ student) Well thanks for the blog sir and lets hope that I am able to join in as well sometime in this crazy year.


    • Bill Gray says:

      I really appreciate your feedback.

      It’s been a struggle to articulate the value of Darden’s case method online, and it’s great to hear that this video is helping.

      All the best,