Teaching with cases

Case teaching and learning in class

At LUSEM, we develop and adapt the case method to fit and work in different learning situations and objectives. Working with cases calls for a systematic approach. How then, should teachers approach a case in the classroom?

Guidelines for approaching a case

The approach may vary but it typically follows the logic sequence below:

  • What is the issue?
  • What is the goal of the analysis?
  • What is the context of the problem?
  • What key facts should be considered?
  • What alternatives are available to the decision-makers?
  • What are the risks and how can they be mitigated?
  • What are the consequences and the requirements?
  • What would you recommend, and why?

It is helpful if the opening statement of the case provides enough information for the students to work out solutions and then identify how to apply those solutions in other similar situations. Teachers may choose to use several cases so that students can identify the similarities and differences among the cases.

Leading a case discussion

As a teacher, the ability to lead a case discussion is learned by experience. Typically, the opening question is decisive for the class discussion to follow. An example of an open-ended question is, “What is going on?”

The role of discussion leader typically encompasses the following steps:

  • Ask an opening question
  • Distribute “air time” fairly
  • Maintain the momentum in the discussion (metaphor: volleyball)
  • Invite students, especially the quiet ones, to participate (“cold call”)
  • Invite two or more students to engage in debate
  • Use (hand) signals for go, stop and continue
  • Take notes on a white-board based on the participants’ key comments
  • Ask direct questions to guide the discussion
  • Work with the group towards a recommendation and a solution(s) to the case

Evaluation of a case discussion

A case discussion is, by definition, a live performance. Typically a good case is recognised by:

  • Engaging the class in intense discussion and debates – motivation and commitment
  • Providing different and often opposing views on key issues – critical thinking
  • Involving the entire group in the discussion – teamwork
  • Providing insights to the participants – relating to the course’s learning objectives
  • Reaching one or more realistic solutions to the case – consensus is not necessary