A brief guide to case teaching

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In this introductory guide to teaching with cases we'll ask why teach with cases, explore how to preparing for case teaching, and introduce some tools and techniques. 

Why teach with cases?

The case method combines the power of storytelling with critical discussion, shared experiences, and rigorous academic practice and theory.

Students find their most fundamental beliefs and assertions being challenged as they learn to think differently and more effectively. They will take on board new ideas and concepts, developing the philosophical, theoretical and practical bedrock for their subsequent management careers.

The case method is well-known for being used on postgraduate and executive programmes, but it also increases student engagement and develops a wide range of vital professional and life skills for students at other levels, for example on high school and undergraduate programmes.

Find out more about the case method 

“The case method gives students a feel for the complexities of decision-making…they can develop important skills that help them become industry ready.”
Debapratim Purkayastha, ICFAI Business School (IBS)

Choosing a case

Choose a case that meets your learning objectives and is suitable for the experience and knowledge of your class.

We provide a range of tools to help you select the right case for your teaching needs, including free online educator preview copies and instructor materials.

Discover more about choosing the right case 

"I am still amazed to meet participants who remember cases we discussed in class 15 or 20 years ago. The long-term impact is often more lasting than a lecture or reading a book."
Dominique Turpin, Institute for Management Development (IMD)

Preparing to teach

Abraham Lincoln said: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." You can never quite predict what will happen during a teaching session, but careful preparation is key.

You must be clear about the learning objectives, know the case inside-out, and have at least some idea of who your students will be, both as individuals and as a group. How old are they? How experienced? From what cultural backgrounds?

Many cases will have an accompanying teaching note and other materials for instructors. These can be a great help when preparing to teach the case, so make the most of them.

“My top three tips for successful case teaching are, prepare, prepare, prepare.”
Gina Vega, Organizational Ergonomics

Starting the discussion

A lively discussion can be started in a number of ways. An individual student can be ‘cold-called’, or a general question can be asked of the whole class – for example, ‘What would you do next?’ or ‘What is the problem here?’.

Students can be asked to vote on an issue, and then find out if their views have changed by the end of the session. Alternatively, all the students can be asked to jot down their thoughts with a few invited to share their ideas with the class.

“To me, a great case session leads to a transformation of consciousness, where the first obvious answer is wrong… participants walk out believing the opposite of what they walked in believing.”
Nirmalya Kumar, Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University

Tools and techniques

A successful case teaching session often involves a range of different activities, helping to maintain interest and appeal to different learning styles. These can include role play, group discussion, breakout sessions, and student presentations while in character as the case protagonist.

“I think fun is one of the most underrated aspects of the case method.”
Jan W Rivkin, Harvard Business School

Using multimedia

Multimedia can help to engage and inspire students – particularly those resistant to traditional written cases. Online discussion groups, virtual worlds, social media, video clips, and web-based cases can all be introduced as part of the mix.

The possibilities are endless – from live tweeting during a case session to pre-class online discussion. With a little thought and imagination you can transform your case teaching sessions.

“We are now dealing with a generation of students whose technical sophistication is unprecedented.”
John Heath, Author of Teaching & Writing Cases: A Practical Guide

Online case teaching

One of the key benefits of the case method is its ability to engage students, and this naturally lends itself to increasing the interactivity of online sessions.

For many years individuals and organisations have explored teaching with cases online. However, the COVID-19 pandemic saw in person classes worldwide being moved, with great speed, to online. To support the case community with this rapid shift in teaching, a wide range of resources were produced by case experts around the world.

Browse the online case teaching resources 

Feedback and improvement

Even the most experienced case teachers can learn from constructive feedback. Ask a colleague to sit in on one of your case teaching sessions, and get feedback from your students. Video a session and watch it through with a fellow case teacher – this is a great way to see yourself in action and make improvements.

Those new to case teaching may prefer to begin with a short case as part of a longer teaching session to gain some initial confidence. Another approach is to teach as a team with a colleague or colleagues until you become more experienced.

What next?

We provide a range of services and support for case teachers. The sections below will point you in the right direction, but please do get in touch if you need any further help.

Get in touch

Customer Services Team

Our Customer Services Team are here to help, please do get in touch if you have a query.

e info@thecasecentre.org
t +44 (0)1234 756410 or +1 781 236 4510

What is a case?