SBC Author Profile: Ahmed Maamoun
Dr. Ahmed Maamoun is Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics at the University of Minnesota Duluth. The world has been my playground and my classroom. With my passport holding stamps from approximately 40 countries and 12 years of employment at multinational companies in the Middle East and New Zealand, I have found that the world is both small and
When I am not teaching, I am doing research, otherwise known as learning. My research interests include the study of international corporations and how multinationals adjust their strategies to respond to cultural and socio-political differences. I also enjoy writing case studies about local businesses and organizations. Being able to share my knowledge, either through the classroom or my research, gives me great joy. I have been fortunate to have been published in the Business Studies Journal, Case Research Journal, Global Journal for Business Pedagogy, Global Journal of Emerging Trends in e-business, Marketing and Consumer Psychology, Journal of Business Case Studies, Journal of Business and Economics Research, and SAGE Business Cases.
Cases from Ahmed on SAGE Business Cases
Q&A with Ahmed
Q: How do you integrate cases into your classes?
A: As someone who has been teaching college since 2003, I believe that teaching is about fostering good habits of critical thinking. Since English is my second language, I have always felt that the students can read the textbook instead of listening to me reiterating whatever concepts and theories from the required readings. I use cases in all of my elective classes (Green Marketing, Retailing, International Marketing, etc.) to supplement the textbook. My goal is to provoke my students to think, to develop skills needed to present and defend recommendations; to argue persuasively for a point of
view,while recognizing that no set of strategies is necessarily "correct".
Q: How do students respond to the cases?
A: Teaching is not a science; it is an art. Teaching excellence involves utilizing this art to create a reciprocal relationship between the instructor and the student. Not all teaching should be done by the instructor. Not all the learning should be done by the students. The passive reception of notions or information constitutes little or no education at all. Thankfully, most of my students actively get involved in discussing case studies. The process is nothing like absorption or fitting factual tidbits into a pattern; it is about creativity and critical thinking.
Q: Do you have any tips for those who are new to cases and want to use them in courses?
A: I have been using case studies in the classroom for 15-plus years. Here are some tips:
- Does working in teams produce a better learning environment? From experience, the answer is: Yes. However, I have found that size matters! The smaller the class, the more effective the case method is. That’s why I avoid using cases in the large core classes and save them for electives. Students are more mature and can admire the teaching method. Eight groups each with four or five students would be ideal for improving critical, analytical, and reasoning skills.
- The positioning of the case within the course is imperative. I typically position the case to supplement the chapter discussed. For example, if the most recent chapter was primarily on “Targeting” or “Segmentation”, students will relate to the case more if the decision pertained to these topics. Instructors will be in a better position to convey essential facts, information, and improve intellectual understanding of theories and their applications.
- Proper preparation is required to make case teaching and learning
effective. This is a twofold process: both the instructor and the students have to be prepared. Preparation goes beyond reading the case! Reading the case thoroughly several times is a good start, but is not enough. Taking notes, thinking critically, answering the case questions are further steps essential for proper preparation. Having the students do that before coming to class is something I have struggled with for years. Instructors can overcome this by assigning more points to class participation during case discussions. A better approach is to instill a funand exciting atmosphere when discussing cases.
- Teaching notes or instructor’s manuals are materials intended to be helpful for instructors. They should make the instructor’s life easier. However, they should be kept from students’ eyes. The quality and rigor of teaching notes will vary significantly from one author to another. Most of the time, you will have to tweak it or even write your own. I tend to answer the case questions before even checking the answers in the teaching note. This helps provide a more personal approach to the case discussion.
- Put the students in the driver’s seat. These bright young men and women will be decision makers on the ground in the near future. I usually start the discussion by saying something like: “If you were in the position of … What would be your analysis? What would be your alternatives and which one would you select and why?” This approach gives the students the necessary confidence to put themselves in the shoes of the decision maker and make the best decision given the available information.
- Maintaining order is crucial. There has to be a reasonable degree of class discipline. Not all participants can talk at the same time. If one group is presenting a case, their classmates must listen. Without order in the classroom, it is impossible to conduct a productive case discussion. The role of the instructor can be compared to the role of an orchestra conductor.
- Humor in case discussion adds value and creates a fun atmosphere. Humor can originate with the instructor and can be planned or spontaneous. Humor is an integral part
onan instructor’s personality and teaching style. I try to think of funny incidents that happened to me while preparing the case that might be relevant to the case discussion.
- Remembering who said what and in what context is a great way to tie things together. One of the most valuable skills or talents associated with closing a case discussion is auditory memory— the ability to recall what has been said during an argument and who has said it. The importance of this skill is not limited to closing, but it is certainly helpful then. If the instructor is able to identify certain comments and ideas with their originators or if the instructor is able to recall who initiated or contributed to a particular discussion, they would be endorsing the importance of individual contributions. Another crucial closing skill is the ability of the instructor to withhold their own opinions or judgments while allowing students to develop their own. If students cover all key issues without intervention by the instructor, that is a bonus. If their perspectives are limited or faulty, the instructor should weigh in or even play devil’s advocate, ask challenging questions, and provoking them to think critically.
Q: Do you have any case writing advice for those who’d like to get started?
A: The instructor, as a human being, has a unique personality. This personality usually carries over into their writing style. Be yourself and you will do great!