Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Creation and use of Case Studies - Training 1

In the last post I provided a general introduction to the creation and use of case studies. This and the the following post look in detail at the development and use of case studies for training purposes.

The material is directed at both training professionals and other professionals who may wish to use their material for training purposes or who hire trainers.

The material assumes that you have already looked in at least broad terms at the questions posed in the previous section.

Case Writing Questions

The preparation of the case study starts with the questions to be answered. The case may already exist as a general case study, in which case it is being modified for training purposes, or it may be prepared specifically for training purposes.

The writer of the case study should answer the following questions. This person can be either the ‘expert’ who has all the information required at their fingertips, or a researcher who collects and drafts the case document. The questions are drawn from John Boehrer (1998).

1. What is the hard, unifying question?

2. What information do we need to address it?

3. What can I ask users to analyse? decide?

4. What decision process does the case give the reader to focus upon?

5. What questions can I ask about it?

6. What detailed narrative does the reader need to focus on it the important issues?

7. What information needs to be developed?

8. What will make the story work as a case? What conflict does it present?

9. What will make the case livelier? What quotes or details? What will make the case more personal?

10. What will enable readers to identify with the actors and get into the case?

11. How do the actors themselves perceive the situation? Can they be quoted?

12. What factors/constraints do the case actors perceive to be impinging upon them?

13. Who else is involved? What is their perspective/outlook?

14. What development/structure would be useful?

15. What might different parts of the case focus upon?

16. What is the link between the specific decision focus and a larger question?

17. What is the issue context?

18. What special problem does writing/revising the case pose? Information? Access?

Case Structure

Having answered these questions, we can move to the preparation/modification of material. A basic structure here is set out below.

1. Case Introduction

  • Title: identifies the content
  • Context: specifies the overall concept conveyed in the case study: (answer to: What does the case demonstrate?)
  • Objective: How this case relates to learner/learner situation. (answer to: Why is it important?)
  • Learner Outcome(s): what the learner knows (is able to do) as a result of interacting with the case-study: (answer to: What will I learn from this example?) These outcomes will relate back to the Q&A incorporated into the case.
  • Definitions/Background expectations: Are there any expectations regarding previous knowledge? Does student have to have access to specific resources? (Briefly highlight keywords and recall prior knowledge that case reader needs to grasp concepts contained in the case.)
  • Invitation to continue: nudge to move on, collect thoughts, and get into it!

2. Case Contents

Case Study— a comprehensive example of the concepts one wishes to convey. Often the case incorporates materials that describe or simulate the example. In using a case study, we are moving from the concrete and specific to generalised abstract concepts and principles.

  1. Start with a statement of the situation. Like all good stories, it will have a beginning, a middle and an end. It is generally in narrative form.
  2. Introduce any characters, objects, or organisations of importance, give them a ‘human face’ with feelings and emotions.
  3. Spell out crucial relationships between the elements.
  4. Incorporate a series of alternating questions and answers in discussion/story form. The questions are asked by one character/organisation, and answered by another character/organisation, by either word or deed. (The process of asking and answering the questions must stimulate the reader/learner to engage with past experience/knowledge and apply this knowledge to this example/case).
  5. If the reader is unlikely to have this knowledge then the concepts the person will need are generally referred to in some way as part of the resources of the case. (e.g. The research assistant consulted the copyright act section …. to ascertain…)

3. Case Summary

  1. Generalise /Relate directly to learners:
    · What will they get/have they gained by examining this case study?
    · What was significant about this case study?
  2. The final summary may be represented in a different format:
    · job aid, such as a checklist (Do you want the client to reproduce this/ have a handout?)
    · graphic (diagram, chart, table, illustration, and cartoon)
    · Q & A linked to the information provided in the case content

4. Potential Resources

  • Conventional business documents (reports, specifications, instruction manuals, memos, letters)
  • Blueprints & drawings
  • Spreadsheets of numerical data
  • Charts & graphs
  • Video or audio interviews

Note on Copyright

The case study material is drawn from an Ndarala Group Guide prepared for the use of member professionals and clients. It is copyright Ndarala but may be copied with due acknowledgment.

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