Blog: This Old Dog Learns New Tricks

Gina Vega

You know sometimes you feel like there’s nothing new in your field? You’ve read it all, tried it all, and it’s all soooo old and over? I have been writing cases, teaching with cases, training others to write cases, editing case journals, and writing books about doing all of the above for close to 30 years. I was beginning to feel sort of stale.

Then, the CASE Association, of which I am a Fellow and past President, asked me to run a 3-hour workshop at their first in-person conference since 2019.

Grudgingly, I agreed. But only if I could do something different. Miriam Weissman, President, said I could do anything I wanted to, so, approvals in place, I waited for inspiration.

While waiting, I decided to clean out some of my files and discovered a cache of student-written cases with signed approvals and releases from the students to reuse them in any way I wanted. What a treasure trove! Some of these cases were almost good. 😊 I gleaned one from the pile, deleted all the student assignment attachments, and ended up with a two-page short case that needed considerable work to make publishable. Of course, it was missing the teaching note entirely.

I have always believed that one of the best ways to improve your case writing skills is to review the work of others, so that became the structure for the workshop: I would provide some case basics, then deliver the student case to the tables of workshop participants, and they would go forward to edit/revise/improve the case for an undergraduate audience. After sharing and debriefing their revisions, we began the real work of the workshop – designing the teaching note.

I provided some guidelines and handouts from my book (The Case Writing Workshop: A Guide for Faculty and Students, 3/e), then divided up the elements of the teaching note so that each table had a coherent set of elements to work on. These elements included the title, which had been missing from the original case. Both groups worked on a title, resulting in considerable hilarity and many bad puns!

By the end of the workshop, we had a workable draft. I told them that if they were interested, we could continue to work on the case and TN and, if it came out good enough, I would send it out for review with all their names as author (redacted, of course, for the review process). Not only were they interested, but they immediately shared their contact info with one another and me, and we all left smiling.

I was giddy to have run a workshop that was so different from the standard: “Here’s what an opening hook is. Now everyone write an opening hook sample. Here’s what to include in a case situation. Now everyone draft a case situation. Etc. etc. etc.”

I loved hearing people laughing, collaborating, and sharing excitement at being part of something new with new friends.

A few days later, I incorporated all their input into a new document and sent it along to them. One of the participants immediately took the lead and organized a zoom call to continue the case conversation. They divided up the responsibilities and agreed to use me as the central hub for submitting their improved case and TN elements.
Currently, the group is in the process of completing each of the components and I am eager to see what they have come up with. I’ll share more about this process in my next post.

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