PAI 735 / ECN 635 – Instructions for Case Discussions

The Maxwell School of
Citizenship and Public Affairs

PAI 735 / ECN 635
State and Local Government Finance
Professor Yinger


Instructions for Case Discussions

One of the responsibilities of students in this class is to run the case discussions.  As indicated on the class syllabus, case discussions will be held during five different classes.  A different group of students will be in charge of each discussion. These instructions provide some guidance to the students who are running one of these classes.

Each case involves a decision about some policy issue in state and local public finance.  Moreover, each case identifies various groups with an interest in this issue and a role to play in the decision.  The students running the class must (1)select a forum (such as a legislative hearing or a city council meeting) in which the issue is to be discussed, (2) divide the rest of the students in the class into interest groups so that they can present their views on the issue, (3) moderate the presentations and subsequent discussion by the various groups, and (4) make a decision on the issue at the end of the class.  The nature of the forum and the identities of the interest groups will vary across cases.

The students taking the lead on a particular case (henceforth called the moderators) should follow these guidelines:

The moderators must decide on the forum in which the policy issue will be discussed.  In most cases, a forum is suggested in the case, but the moderators are free to define any forum that makes sense.

The moderators must define the interest groups and devise a process for dividing the rest of the students in the class into interest groups.  This can be done by e-mail before the class or at the beginning of the case discussion.  All of the cases identify some interest groups, but the moderators are free to identify any set of interest groups that make sense.  The number of groups should be fairly small, probably no more than five.

Each interest group must be given time to organize, present, and defend its position.  In most cases, it makes sense to give the group a few minutes at the beginning of the class to discuss their position among themselves and to organize their presentation.

The rest of the class must be given time to ask the other groups questions.  Debate among students in the class is the most valuable activity in one of these case discussions.  The moderators are encouraged to devise other steps to encourage debate, as well.

At the end of the discussion, the moderators must hold a brief discussion among themselves and then present their final conclusions and recommendations to the class.

The last 10 or 15 minutes of the class should be reserved for the professor’s comments.

The moderators are responsible for controlling the timing of the discussion so that (1) every group has a chance to present its views, (2) there is ample discussion among the groups, (3) the moderators have time to decide on and present their opinion, and (4) the professor has time to make comments at the end of class.