A workshop for the 2004 Improving University Teaching Conference, Berne, Switzerland



Making Case Discussions Dynamic

& Dealing with Ethics in Teaching

Linc. Fisch


Educational Writer and Resource Person

Retired College Teacher


Lexington, KY, USA


Introductory note


About a month prior to the 2004 Improving University Teaching Conference, unforeseen circumstances precluded my attending the conference and conducting the preconference workshop for which I had been scheduled.


The workshop was designed to focus on case teaching strategies, along with the ethical issues embedded in the demonstration case, “The Very Dedicated Professor.” Due to advance billing on the IUT website, I knew a number of participants were interested in these topics, and I felt a responsibility to try to salvage some of the benefits that they might have been gained from the session, had it occurred. Therefore, I’ve created this website so that interested IUT conference participants (and others) can access and download relevant materials that would have been available at the conference.


Of course, reading memos and handouts certainly is no substitute for a live personal workshop experience. The very essence of case teaching is to immerse people in the case and the issues it raises. The interaction among participants, the exchange of ideas, and facing the challenge to resolve the problems are what generate learning to a greater depth than may occur in many traditional classrooms. To partially compensate for the absence of such opportunities, throughout the website material I’ve suggested several short exercises that readers might choose to undertake—particularly in conjunction with one or more colleagues. I think this activity will significantly increase the gain from engaging the material and will be well worth the time invested.


Several of the links to supplementary materials are to columns that have appeared in The National Teaching & Learning Forum, a publication that I heartily endorse. Accessing its website, www.NTLF.com, will provide detailed information about NTLF, particularly its new overseas subscription plan.

In addition, I invite you to confer with me via e-mail if you have questions about cases and their use. I would also be willing to read and make suggestions on any case that you’ve written with interactive strategies in mind.


I’m sorry that I couldn’t be with you in Berne. I hope you had a great conference experience.



                                                                                 Linc. Fisch
July 15, 2004


Biographical sketch


Linc. Fisch has retired from 40-some years of teaching, program development, and administrative assignments in Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky, but he continues to contribute to higher education through writing, conducting workshops for faculty, and designing films and interactive cases to trigger discussion. The Chalk Dust Collection (1996) is a compilation of 35 of his short educational articles and columns. He edited and contributed to Ethical Dimensions of College and University Teaching (1996). He writes the regular "Ad Rem" column for The National Teaching & Learning Forum and the occasional "Chalk Dust" column for the Journal of Faculty Development. He has a particular interest in issues of ethics and values in college teaching, as well as the teaching of values. He has been a featured presenter at the annual Lilly Conferences on College Teaching in Oxford, Ohio, for the past fourteen years, as well as at several regional Lilly Conferences and meetings of other educational organizations. His lifelong interest in choral music has included participation in The Lexington Singers and The American Spiritual Ensemble. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky.






Case study methods are becoming increasingly common in higher education. Key elements for success in using them are developing and presenting engaging cases, involving students actively in processing the material (often through discussions), and effectively managing the process. The centerpiece of this workshop will be study of a short case, “The Very Dedicated Professor,” which typifies the potential ethical dilemma generated by (1) the desirability of encouraging students to examine and act upon their values, and (2) the danger of advocacy and indoctrination. This experience will demonstrate interactive case techniques and will provide a basis for examining case design, presentation alternatives, and other important aspects of the process. Issues of values and ethics are legitimate educational goals, and it behooves teachers to incorporate activities (often the study of cases) into their courses that help prepare students to deal with resolving ethical problems, as well as for precluding their occurrence. Since teachers must ensure that their own behavior is above ethical reproach, the workshop will also explore and examine ethical principles applicable to teaching



In order to whet your appetite for the workshop topics and to encourage you to access available materials, here is an excerpt from the case “The Very Dedicated Professor.”



[The student punched PLAY and his professor’s voice burst from the speaker of the tape recorder...]


“Each team will design and carry out a project that will spur social action—a survey or a demonstration or a protest—whatever. It’s to be of your own choosing, but you must clear the design with me. If your design is inappropriate or if it does not have the potential for generating change I may ask you to revise it...”


[David punched STOP.]


“Well, that sounds like you have freedom of choice. You don’t have to get into deep water if you don’t want to...” Dr. Browne said.

“That’s the way it sounds,” David said. “But he won’t approve anything unless it’s really radical. And we’re caught in the middle. If we don’t go along with him, we get a low grade. And if we do what he wants, we can get into big trouble elsewhere. Maybe even land in jail.”

“And when are these projects to be done?” Dr. Browne asked.

“Two weekends from now—on campus or in town,” David said.

“Two weekends from now,” Dr. Browne repeated and glanced at a calendar. “On Spring Weekend?” Her voice began to rise. “When all the alums are here?” Apprehension clearly showed on her face.

“That’s right—and some parents and other visitors,” David said. “That’s why you’ve got to do something,” he insisted. “It’s bad for us, and it could be real bad for the college, too.”

Dr. Browne stared at David, anxiously pondering her next move. What should she do? What could she do? The ball was now clearly in her court. Her brain raced.

You may download all the workshop materials in either Microsoft Word format or

Adobe Acrobat Reader format by clicking on the appropriate link:


Download in Microsoft Word Format


Download in Adobe Acrobat Reader Format