Long used in business and medicine, case studies can provide a rich source for writing or speaking assignments. Case study methods actively engage students and are well-suited to teaming or collaborative pedagogies. They also offer a good way to expose students to different perspectives and can introduce them to situations not available in the classroom or at the university.
When case studies present students with a number of options for solutions or analysis, they will be challenged to make thinking about their discipline a part of their composing process.
There are two basic approaches to using case studies in the teaching of writing or speaking:
- Students write cases themselves
- Students analyze and write about or present on cases that instructor provides
Writing Case Studies
A three- to four- page case can demonstrate:
- whether students are able to connect theory to practical applications; and
- whether students are able to understand and prioritize issues and events.
The analytical approach
asks that students analyze a case in order to demonstrate their understanding of events or characters, as well as how the particular case connects to theory. Students may read and discuss a case and then write up an analytical report. The problem-solving approach
asks students to identify problems within the case and suggest solutions, usually narrowing down to an optimal solution.
Writing or Speaking from Cases
Students can be asked to provide a written or oral response to events described in a case. Many business communications texts use cases to describe a situation which requires the student to write a letter or memo, or to present an oral report. The case study serves to provide a rhetorical situation—that is, an audience, a persona for the writer, and a situation which calls for writing—which influences the type and style of document produced. Some cases, for example, describe a personnel problem, casting students as managers and requiring them to write a memo for a personnel file.
For a discussion of the case study method in science education, see The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science