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23 October 2007

Revisiting the case method

We have long been proponents of the Intelligence Community case method for teaching the art and science of intelligence. This is hardly a controversial position – though it seems to be one little implemented in many academic institutions, where it could do a great deal of good. Even those schools engaged in writing cases for the community do so rarely practice what they preach (or at least contract to promulgate).

It is thus with interest we note a new paper examining the use of various case study approaches within the legal profession. While the various scholars in the intelligence studies field would have the teaching of intelligence emulate that of other professions, such as law and medicine, these models might have a profound impact on what are currently successful methods. We have been on record as objecting to the too close commingling of the behaviors and thinking used in the practice of law with the tradecraft of the community. In this study, we might also have found reasons to sustain an objection to the adoption of legal teaching methods in the form that currently dominates the institutions before the bar.

It should be noted that the original IC case method program as developed within OTE began out of the model of the Harvard Business School, rather than the law school side. Other institutions seeking to emulate their success would be well served to consider this.

We also agree with the Barton paper’s focus on the importance of exercise and simulation in going beyond the theoretical discussion of cases and into the practical applications of that learning. There is no substitute for experience, but exercise environments can provide the first shadow of such experience for the green intelligence professional.

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