Case-Based Learning

Providing a context for abstract material.

What is it?

Case-Based Teaching in the College of Law

Over the past number of years, one of the most commonly used student-centred approach to teaching has been case-based learning (or the case method). This as particularly been the case in professional education (Law, Business, Education, and Medicine, for example), but is increasingly being used in the Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities. The case method is defined, by the Association for Case Teaching, as “a means of participatory and dialogical teaching and learning by group discussion of actual events” and (Dunne and Brooks, 2004, 9).

Cases can include:

  • written cases, 
  • video cases, 
  • interactive cases, 
  • simulations, 
  • games, 
  • field trips, etc., 

but there can be both good and bad cases. See below for the ten characteristics of a good case.

Why use cases?

A short description of a flipped approach to case-based teaching by Niels Koehncke from the College of Medicine

Research has shown that case-based learning has been very successful at providing a context for abstract material. Cases also provide an ‘experience’ for students that can be transformed into learning through reflection or experimentation.

Case-based learning has been linked with the effective development of critical thinking, problem solving, clinical reasoning and analysis, which in turn are characteristics of a deep approach to learning. It also can be used to facilitate a model of self-directed and reflective learning that serves students very well in future courses and careers. (Dunne and Brooks, 2004).

Ten characteristics of a good case

  1. Has pedagogic utility
  2. Represents a general issue beyond the case itself
  3. Tells an engaging story
  4. Focuses on an interest-arousing or controversial issue
  5. Poses a problem that has no obvious right answer
  6. Creates empathy with the central characters
  7. Requires the reader/viewer to use information in the case to address the problem
  8. Requires the reader/viewer to think critically and analytically to address the problem
  9. Brevity – has just enough information for a good analysis
  10. Is relevant to the students