Design case-based instructions

On this post, we will talk about several topics:

Using cases in teaching,

How to create a case and

Tips for planning case-based instruction


Using cases in teaching

  1. Role play

Lei-Da, Muthitaacharoen and Frolick (2003) use the case method in their teaching. They assign their students into three-person communication groups for role play exercise. Various types of problems that may arise in a system development project are randomly given to the groups.

DeNeve and Heppner (1997) use a fictional pizza company as the role play simulation. A Board of Directors containing 10 roles was developed, with students assuming one role for the duration of the course. The course instructor assumed the role of an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, clarifying questions and observing the Board’s activities.

  1. Analyzing

Ertmer, Newby and MacDougall (1996) used cases to study students’ response to case-based instruction. All students completed the two self-report learning inventories during the first week of the semester. Three times during the semester, students were asked to complete individual written case analyses.

  1. Making decisions

Reicks, Stoebner, Hassel and Carr (1996) evaluated a decision case approach to food biotechnology. A decision case was developed, pilot tested, revised and at last implemented in several high schools. Teachers customized teaching of the case to their classes and teaching styles. The typical format involved having the students read the narrative, refer to the glossary and exhibits, and then discuss the issues, values, and objectives of decision makers in small groups. This was followed by a teacher-led class discussion.

  1. Online discussion

Ching and Hsu (2013) use VoiceThread to develop collaborative learning in an online graduate course. Students participated in a collaborative learning activity that asked them to analyze an instructional design case individually, present the case analysis to the class learning community, provide peer feedback to each other, and revise one’s own original analysis.


How to create a case

For faculty

  1. Planning
  • Identifying the purpose of the case writing task:
  • What are the learning outcomes for the case?
  • How is the case used in terms of the instructional sequence?
  • Identifying the learners:
  • How much do students know about the subject?
  • What are the functions of students in the case study?
  • Deciding what information should be put into the case:
  • Where is the source of the materials?
  • What makes a case?
  1. Organizing
  • Structuring in a narrative style:
  • What does a narrative consist of?
  • How is a narrative organized?
  • Presenting the nature of the complexity of case problem:
  • How should the case reveal multifaceted phases of a problem?
  • How does the case show different perspectives?
  1. Drafting
  • What is the central idea of the case?
  • How should the central idea of the case be supported?
  1. Revising
  • Will the case produce the intended learning outcomes?
  • Are the problem issue(s) presented in the case related to the learning outcomes?
  • Is the case sufficiently complete, complex and focused?
  • Does the case present a situation, problem, or issue?
  • Does the case appear to be realistic?
  • Are all the elements of a narrative style used in the case (i.e., a storytelling 
style, the contextual descriptions of the situation, the portrayals of the central characters, the development of a series of events, and an interesting plot evoking different perspectives)?
  • Are the events and actions in the case sequenced in a logical order?
  • Are the events connected with appropriate transitional signals?
  • Is the content in the case accurate, relevant, and appropriate in terms of subject matter?

If there are external resources, are they appropriate? 
Source:  Lane, J. (2007). Case writing guide.


Tips for planning case-based instruction

Based on the suggestion from Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and TechnologyBU Center for Excellence & Innovation in Teaching; Case Writing Guide and Teaching with Case Studies.

Just writing the story is not finishing the job. Developing discussion and study questions is also important. They help to keep the discussion on track and the focus on the pertinent issues.

Again, Wasserman (1994) offers some helpful guidance:

Sequence questions to provoke developmental analysis

  1. Begin with an examination of the events, issues and characters
  2. Move to an analysis of what lies behind the surface of events
  3. Pull the students deeper into the case with generative questions that call for evaluations and judgments, applications and proposed solutions.

Depending on the course objectives, the instructor may encourage students to follow a systematic approach to their analysis.  For example:

  • 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-maker?
  • What would you recommend — and why?

There are also some tips for designing a case, please visit the Desirable Components/Characteristics of Cases for Small Group Learning.

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