How to Integrate Cases in the Syllabus

Initial Publication Date: November 13, 2009
It is possible to make effective use of a single case in a course, and if that is your intent then you may not be interested in the content of the page. Experienced case teachers find that the best results come from remaking the course syllabus to incorporate the use of the method. Designing a case method based course involves significant back-and-forth between identifying and creating cases and placing them in the syllabus. Sometimes the case comes first, and then the task is to figure out where it might best be used in the course. Other times the process moves in the other direction, with the identification of appropriate subject matter followed by the search for an appropriate case. Either way, a central part of the process is matching the case with the course content and the timing, and you should expect some tinkering to be part of the process.

You will need to make a series of decisions:

  1. How many cases do you want to use? Although it is possible to teach a course using the case method exclusively, as is done at some business schools, most instructors who use cases employ them as one of a number of pedagogical techniques and continue to lecture as an important way of delivering new material.
  2. How will you use the case? Cases can motivate students to learn new material, introduce theoretical concepts or empirical methods, or apply examples to reinforce the learning of theory and encourage students to transform theory into the construction of applications.
  3. What are you going to leave out? Cases are time-consuming, and including them in the syllabus means leaving something else out.
  4. How will you make your assessment methods match your teaching methods? Most instructors expect cases to encourage higher-order thinking, develop group skills, and encourage the ability of students to solve problems by applying theoretical concepts to examples.

Finally, remember that your students will need information and reassurance about the case method. Your syllabus should include a description of your goals for the case method component of your course and specific information about how you will be evaluating student participation in case discussion.