Oct. 18, 2023Print | PDF
On October 1, 2023, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) awarded the 2023 Teaching Innovation Award to Lazaridis School of Business and Economics Professor and CN Fellow in Supply Chain Management, Michael Haughton. The awards are given out each year during the council’s Academic Research Symposium to educators who have had a significant impact on students and instruction within the supply chain and logistics field.
Haughton’s submission was for his research and implementation of a novel method of instruction using consultant success stories instead of traditional case studies. He said it is an approach that hadn’t been attempted before. Case studies are a core component of study throughout the Lazaridis School, including participating in national and international case competitions.
While case studies are important, Haughton said they also present some challenges for students and educators. Haughton's challenge focused on two problems he and his fellow professors experienced. First, universities worldwide use many of the same case studies for instruction.
“You are not the only prof using those cases, and so eventually, a high-quality answer will find itself somewhere on the internet. Students could then use that answer and present it to you as if it’s their own. Unless you have some real deep in-class discussions, you can't really gauge whether it's a student's work,” he said.
The second challenge is that it takes time to write new cases, and Haughton said that sometimes, it leads to situations where a case does not quite match the learning objectives or needs to be updated.
“What I try to tell my students is that the cases may not be written in 2023, but the issues are timeless. They don’t always see that as the case, especially if what they’re reading doesn’t match up with what they see happening in the world,” Haughton said.
Haughton saw these challenges as an opportunity to introduce a different type of material into the classroom experience—success stories written by consultants on the ground.
“Consultants in the supply chain write these short success stories, but they’re not meant for teaching—they’re meant to promote themselves to potential clients. They will say, here's a problem that company X had, here's a solution that we put in place, and here are the results of the solution,” Haughton said. “My thinking was, could I use those cases to get across the same kind of concepts that I would get across using a Harvard Business Review case.”
Before he could try the approach, Haughton brought on four research assistants to create a case catalogue and identify which could be used as part of a course. The research assistants found and analyzed almost 140 success stories, which Haughton analyzed to see if they could be valuable parts of the classroom experience.
During the 2023 Winter term, Haughton used consultant cases in place of traditional case studies. He said while the success stories worked well, they presented new challenges.
One challenge is that case-based teaching is designed to help students develop confidence in solving a problem. With the success stories, the solution is already there. In his presentation at the CSCMP Academic Research Symposium, he told the audience it is crucial to develop critical thinking-type questions during the in-class discussion to help build that confidence.
“So instead of students actually solving a problem, ask them to put themselves in the shoes of the consultants. What are some ambiguities that the consultant might have encountered in trying to solve this problem? What are some biases that you think are being expressed in the way that the consultant solved this problem,” Haughton said.
Haughton noted that there is often an artificial distinction between teaching and research, but the two intertwine across many levels. His work to bring success stories into classroom education exemplifies that.
“This project involved significant research in 2022 to implement in the classroom in 2023. Research is inherent in teaching. As instructors, we have to do the research to figure out what works and what might not work and then test it in the classroom. This fits in with the university's research mission as well as the teaching mission,” he said.
Kalyani Menon, interim dean of Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, said the award highlights many of the school’s strategic plan priorities, including promoting research and scholarship, championing teaching and learning to advance student development and professional goals, and integrating an adaptive and progressive curriculum.
“The project brings research and instruction together in a uniquely Laurier way. Professor Haughton’s work is a perfect example of how the Lazaridis School is continually working to advance business education and graduate career-ready students for employers worldwide,” Menon said.