The case study is an active learning approach where students recall prior experience and link that experience to new information or situations to make recommendations on future outcomes based on their previous experience. Typically, case studies revolve around a situation where people are involved in a complex scenario and are faced with making a decision on how to deal with the issue or challenge at hand.
The case study encourages practical thinking and assists learners in identifying key ideologies or rules and after examining the facts of the case, then applying those rules to new situations. Used in problem-based learning, case studies place the student in the role of a problem solver who must analyze the issue as well as potential outcomes based on recommended actions.
How to Use Case Studies
The following are some of the ways this teaching approach is used to engage students:
- Independent activities
- Small group activities, which can take the form of several different approaches as listed by Nielson (2010, p. 185)
- All groups can work on the same case with the provision that each group reaches consensus on its answers (otherwise majority rules). This format works well only with cases that can generate widely different interpretations.
- All groups can work on the same case, but with each group addressing different questions.
- After a general class discussion identifying the problems in the case, half the groups address solutions and the other half preventions.
- Each group works on a different case and presents a descriptive summary and debriefing to the rest of the class.
- Develop new cases by class groups as collaborative projects.
- Review of cases and their solutions that includes analysis of why the solution worked or not.
Impact on Learning
Using case studies in instruction can impact learning through:
- Actively engaging students in doing specific tasks and in thinking about those tasks.
- Allowing students to analyze and solve relevant real-world practical problems.
- Challenging students’ higher order thinking skills through practice and application using problem solving and interpretation as opposed to knowledge recall.
- Promoting transfer of knowledge.
Myra Blackmon, YiChun Hong, and Ikseon Choi at the Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology, University of Georgia offer sound advice regarding the assessment of learning outcomes when using case studies.
“Initially, assessment and performance evaluation in case-based learning may seem daunting. It can be more subjective than some other methods and some teachers may be uncomfortable with that. However, with careful lesson planning and preparation, assessment in case-based learning can be done efficiently, effectively and fairly.”
Further information about building assessment strategies for case based learning, including the use of assessment rubrics, can be found at the LearnU website for Case Based Learning authored by Myra Blackmon, YiChun Hong, and Ikseon Choi at http://www.learn-u.com/lesson/2c-case-based-learning/
Case Studies with Canvas
In Canvas, discussion can be used for in-depth exploration of case studies. Students can discuss their thoughts, insights, comments and concerns with the whole class or they can be split into small groups to work through the particulars of each case in a more manageable forum.
Information on how to use discussions in Canvas can be found at https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-3188. You can learn more about how to create a group discussion for your course from Canvas at https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-2769.
Web pages: Web authoring tools such as Sites at Penn State can be used to present case studies and discuss via comments.
Web search: Have students conduct web research to locate data, information, and expert advice related to a similar case as the one assigned.
Things to Consider
For successful implementation of case study activities, you should consider the following strategies:
- Select problem situations that are appropriate for both the concepts being taught and for your learners.
- Use cases that are relevant to students’ interests and experience levels.
- Case studies should include factual information as well as opinions and views of the people involved.
- Students should have problem solutions but not until after they have come to their own conclusions. This will enable them to compare their results with the actual decision used to resolve the problem.
APA Citation: Blackmon, M., Hong, Y., & Choi, I.. (2007). Case-Based Learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved <1/22/18>, from http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/
Blackmon, Myra, YiChun Hong, and Ikseon Choi. “Case-Based Learning.” Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology (2007). http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Case-Based_Learning.
Lane, Jill L. “Case Writing Guide.” Penn State Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence (2007). http://www.schreyerinstitute.psu.edu/pdf/casewritingguide.pdf.
Nilson, Linda B. “The Case Method.” In Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors 2010, 181186. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. http://www.pharmacy.cmu.ac.th/unit/unit_files/files_download/2014-05-02Teaching-at-its-best.pdf.
Trujillo-Jenks, Laura. “Guiding Students to Think Critically Using Case Studies.” Faculty Focus. Last modified on February 21, 2014. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/guiding-students-think-critically-using-case-studies/.