Thursday, 17 October 2013

Teaching Cases as Academic Writing

So what is a case study? The definition I have compiled (if anyone wants my sources and argument for this, drop me an email) is they are stories with discrete and definable boundaries, are set in fact and contextualised. They are future-focused tools created to guide, teach, anchor theory and illuminate decisions. They are created from scholarly, triangulated, generalisable, logically-structured research which reflects society’s changing mores and the time they were written in.

That defines both teaching and field cases. Field (aka 'Research') cases are viewed as academic research. However, teaching case often are not.

In my view, developing and writing teaching cases should treated as academic writing by lecturers, and tackled in the same rigourous, planned, balanced, systematic and underpinned by theory way that we tackle any research. They must include a bibliography of sources so users can establish how you have established generalisability, reliability and validity; and how you have minimised bias. If your institution recognises researching and writing teaching cases as an academic output in addition, then that is a bonus.

As some of you will know, I am currently doing some research into case writing and teaching. Field cases and teaching cases are quite closely related, but their structure and typology depends on 'where we think from'. As a researcher in the field, we think about our research method; as a teacher of cases we think about both our research method and our teaching method; as a student of cases we think about our learning outcomes. In other words, we seek the 'what's in it for me' (WIIFM) from each starting point; when wearing our respective hats.

Interestingly, I have found that surprisingly few 'how to' writers of teaching case methods in the literature have written about learning outcomes. I try to always put the customer first: how can I be sure my learner will learn best? What else can I do to help convey the message clearly?

I think that if we writers of teaching cases think clearly about our research method, then our teaching method, then our desired learning outcomes, we will not only tell a better story, we will create a much more robust teaching case.

And learners will learn better ;-D

  • The Case Centre (2011). Research vs. Teaching – achieving synergies with cases. Retrieved 14 October 2013 from
  • Goldsmith, Hayley (8 September 2011). Research vs. Teaching – achieving synergies with cases. Retrieved 14 October 2013 from


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