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Preparing Students for Cases and Collaborative Learning


Instructors need to introduce students to case study approaches, especially to collaborative group work. Address student concerns by providing access to specific information on what to expect with case-based learning. Having an assessment plan to share with your students is recommended.

You may find Student Notes for Using Cases (Microsoft Word 38kB Aug17 03) helpful to have on hand as well.


Implementation hints:


The first time you do a case, choose a familiar, but compelling topic. Students are more likely to engage in the issues and generate questions about the case.

Don't be afraid to give explicit directions, such as:

  • "We begin by having one person read the case out loud. Who would like to do this?"
  • "Are there any words you don't know?" Or "what do you think this case is about?"
  • "It will help you later if one individual acts as scribe and writes down the ideas (on the chalkboard). You might want to keep track of facts, questions, issues, and proposed answers to the problem."
  • "We have 10 minutes left and you need to plan for next meeting. What do you see as key issues you'd like to work on?"

Students may find guidelines for how to act during discussions helpful. Have printed guidelines such as:

  • "Don't interrupt one another" ...
  • "Don't attack people personally, focus on ideas"...
  • "Each person must contribute to the group. There are many ways to do this."

General advice books on college teaching like McKeachie's Teaching Tips (1994) or Barbara Gross Davis' Tools for Teaching (1993) will be useful for developing such guidelines, as will colleagues in disciplines that regularly use discussion (psychology, english, history, education, philosophy).