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How appropriate are two established concepts from higher education for solving complex real-world problems? A comparison of the Harvard and the ETH case study approach

By G. Steiner and D. Laws


Purpose - The main focus of this paper is to discuss appropriate forms of higher education for building up students' competence for working on complex real-world problems. Design/methodology/approach - Within this paper the Harvard approach is accurately compared with the ETH approach by discussing theoretical and practical implications as well. Findings - It is argued that the Harvard case study approach is a sensible approach to bridging the gap between the academic and the practical world, but it has important limits in preparing students to cope with complex real-world problems. In some important respects, the ETH case study approach goes further by exposing students directly to the multi-faceted and complex character of real-world problems. Practical implications - The ETH approach puts additional demands on students and teachers to bridge the gap between university and society with a high degree of responsibility. Consequently, a combination of both the Harvard and the ETH approach might be interesting. Originality/value - The comparison of the Harvard case study approach with the ETH case study approach is novel. The discussion of educational together with practical implications provides insight to the peculiarities of each single approach together with an orientation for their implementation within higher education. Guidance is given to universities who are deciding what educational means have to be implemented in order to prepare their students for the task of solving complex real-world problems in an inter but also transdisciplinary manner

Topics: international, indefinite
Year: 2006
DOI identifier: 10.1108/14676370610677874
OAI identifier:
Provided by: NARCIS
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