Case Teaching and Intellectual Performances in Public Management

  • Michael Barzelay
  • Fred Thompson


The educational process should enable students to engage in specific kinds of intellectual performance. We believe that many of the kinds of intellectual performances important to the practice of public management can best be taught via the case method. Nevertheless, we have reservations about the way cases are usually taught. In most instances, case teaching is deficient in developing students’ understanding of the intellectual performances undertaken in case analysis and practice. Among the most significant limitations of case teaching is the relevant absence of explicit discussion of how public managers systematically combine conceptual material drawn from diverse disciplinary and professional bodies of thought. We show how case teaching can be upgraded to enhance its effectiveness in teaching students how to craft appropriate responses to administrative situations.

Using the conventional distinction between diagnosis and active intervention, we start with the patterns of practical inference involved in reaching a situational diagnosis, illustrating these patterns with commentary on a case study we researched together. We also suggest a format for characterizing such inference patterns. Finally, we turn to the reciprocal intellectual performance of designing active interventions. We conclude that discussion of public management literature of this sort should become a significant feature in the educational process.


argument argumentation case (analysis method teaching) clinical (intelligence, judgment, skill) context factors communication design features desirability diagnosis intellectual performances intervention (designing the active) logic (of appropriateness of effect) practicality practical reasoning presumptive reasoning reverse engineering situation workability unpacking 


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© Iris Geva-May 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Barzelay
  • Fred Thompson

There are no affiliations available

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