How to use cases studies in your courses

This image is drawn by a medical student and portrays a typical case-study session (Stanley, n.d.).

There are 3 phases in processing case studies:

  • Phase I: Analyzing the case and Defining the problem

    1. Introduction of the case: Students read the case individually or in groups (with one student reading aloud). It takes up to a couple of minutes and can be done as a whole class as well.
    2. Identifying issues to be addressed: Students spend 2-3 minutes reading the case silently, underlying keywords and jotting down initial ideas and relevant questions.
    3. Identifying underlying themes: Students look at the case as a whole and address the general question “What is this case about?”. The teacher writes down 5-7 responses and allows students to recognize the complexity of the case.
    4. Posing questions through KWL analysis (What I Know/What I Need to know/What I Learned):  Students will spend 10-15 minutes and in groups complete the KWL chart by identifying what they know and what they need to know. The questions are shared with the whole class and each group are then asked to narrow down their focus on 2-3 questions which are considered to be the most essential ones for the case.

  • Phase II: Developing strategies to investigate and solve the problem

    1. Collecting resources and materials: Such resources may be textbooks, library resources, and results from lab research or field investigations. Articles from academic journals, magazine and media articles, websites or electronic resources, newsletters and informational pamphlets of institutions and organizations, data from interviews, archival resources, information from exhibits in museums. Students may be assigned to research certain resources individually, and the instructor may make some of the resources available to the whole classrooms by placing them on reserve in the library or developing a web page with corresponding links.
    2. Sharing perspectives and refining the problems: At this stage students will share views and understandings with their group members or with the whole class in order to refine their problems and shape their inquiry questions. That sharing of perspectives can take place in class, outside class, online, on the phone, etc.
    3. Designing and conducting research: Students may engage in literature searches, or conduct interviews, lab experiments,  through field research and through data collection/generation. The instructor may need to provide the lab equipment, provide a tutorial on research methodology, or introduce students to datasets or simulations that are important to address the questions emerging from the case.

  • Phase III: Present the findings and Supporting reasoning

    1. Producing materials that support the findings: Students share the results of the  cases study analysis through papers, lab reports, posters, “videos, booklets, pamphlets for the general public, consulting reports, artwork, designs for new technology, scientific publications, newspaper stories, editorials” (Stanley, n.d.). What is of importance is that students engage in a reviewing process of their peer’s products and discuss how and why they are similar or different. Debates on controversial issues may arise and these are essential to the creation and agreement with new scientific knowledge (The BioQuest Library IV: Planning for Case-based learning, 1996).

Click here to read on assessment and evaluation criteria.