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Pro tips for using relatable case studies in business teaching

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

This blog is about linking existing information to new information or transfer of knowledge to new contexts to give it a fancier title. Stick with me (I know it sounds dry), but this might help your students to improve their application marks and to give you some ideas for questioning in class…

The definition of cognitive is that it relates to conscious intellectual activity such as thinking, reasoning and remembering. Transference is a cognitive process. It means that your students’ knowledge of a brand or company allows them to apply their new skill (business theory) to that context.

So if we use a company such as Twiggs of Matlock for example as a case study. They specialise in steel fabrication and have 35,000 products in engineering supplies. An interesting business to study but very hard for students to apply their knowledge at the early stage of learning theory.

Try changing this case study for a company that students know or that we might call ‘relatable’ or ‘teenager-friendly’ and the achievement of students trying to apply theory to a case study will improve. Then more obscure examples can be introduced.

If you look at past papers (for any board or level) the case studies are mostly household names; Ryanair, BP, Tesco etc. This is not by chance this is to maximise the opportunity for the students to transfer their learnt knowledge to the case.

One year the pre-release was all about vaping and I had a class that 100% had never vaped or smoked. A very sporty group who found the whole thing confusing. We really struggled with that topic. A couple of years later the pre-release was about alternative fuels and I had an entire group where 100% had never paid a fuel bill. I am not suggesting here that case studies must be relatable I am just noting that it helps the students to be able to apply the theory. If the case study is relatable then application is a more straightforward cognitive process for the students.

In research for this blog I asked my son to name a few brands off the top of his head (and you can repeat this exercise with your students):

· Nando’s

· Adidas

· Nike


· Burger King

· McDonalds

· Netflix

· Amazon


· M&S

· Lego

· Toyota

So what you do with that information is up to you. I would survey students and build up a Mega list of brands that they know. Set some homework for them to find out more and present it to the group. The more brands they know and understand the easier they will find application to the case study. The bonus is it will also help your questioning in class….“Remember when George gave that fantastic presentation about KFC, would the Product lifecycle apply to that company….?” And so on

Sarah is a business teacher trainer; she has taught business for 23 years and has been a business examiner for over 20 years. If you would like to book a staff CPD session or exam revision session for students (via Zoom) please email:

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