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Case Studies

Using Case Studies activity to facilitate problem-solving in a classroom
Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Medium
Student Activity Time Medium
Instructor Response Time Medium
Complexity of Activity Medium
Room Considerations Movable tables and chairs


Case Studies have student teams review a written study of a real-world scenario containing a field-related problem or situation. Case studies usually include a brief history of the situation and present a dilemma the main character is facing. Team members apply course concepts to identify and evaluate alternative approaches to solving the problem.


Use it when you want...

  • Students to bridge the gap between theory and practice and between the classroom and the workplace,
  • To have students engage in critical reflection by considering multiple alternatives for problem-solving or
  • To help students develop analysis, synthesis, communication, and decision-making skills.

What students will need

  • There are no special requirements for this approach.


The following workflow is meant to guide how to facilitate a Case Studies learning activity within a classroom.


  • Identify a case study or develop a new one. The case can be real or hypothetical.
  • Develop a case study handout with questions to guide students’ analysis using Google Docs.
  • Determine how groups will be formed.


  • Form student groups and distribute cases (identical or different) to each team. 
  • Allow students to ask questions about the problem presented in the case.
  • Have students work in groups to study the case from the protagonist’s point of view.
  • Direct students to sort out factual data, apply analytical tools, articulate issues, and reflect on relevant experiences. Have them recommend actions that resolve the problem in the case.
  • Have students prepare a statement describing their assessment of the case, the options they see, and recommendations for a decision.
  • Guide discussion of the cases with the entire class. Students will want to know what happened if the case is a real-world example. Please share this with them after they have reported on it.
  • If students prepare a written statement, have them hand it in at the end of class.


  • Review the students’ statements on the case study.
  • Provide feedback/grades to group participants.
  • Discuss the results of the activity at the next class meeting.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documentation


Example 1

An International Business Professor prepared a case study in which conflict between two countries had escalated to the point that war was imminent. The pressure to find a diplomatic resolution was intense during a period of heightened world tensions. Students broke into groups to support an ambassador charged with resolving the conflict. Students had three class sessions to analyze the conflict's historical, political, and economic roots and propose a solution. Groups needed to develop a learning plan (identifying knowledge gaps and determining how to fill them) and a work plan (identifying how they would formulate their diplomatic resolutions). To facilitate the process, he distributed a template of both plans that groups cause or modify to suit their needs. After all the teams met and completed this proposal, they evaluated the proposals of two other groups and selected the most appealing one. An ambassador from each team that had created the top three proposals presented their group's proposal to the class, and the whole class voted on the most persuasive one. Upon completing the activity, the professor found that it enhanced the student's understanding of the complexity of factors underlying international relations (Barkley 241-242).

Example 2

In Issues in Contemporary Art, the professor wanted to help students prepare for the issues they would face as they tried to make professional careers as artists. To do so, he created a Case Study by drawing on the experience of one of the school's recent graduates. The Chamber of Commerce offered this graduate a commission to create a monument to honor the contributions of the eighteenth-century missionary Father Serra to the city's heritage. The commission promised the young artist significant local and statewide exposure and a substantial payment. The artist accepted and spent considerable time thinking about and creating a model to present to the committee. At the presentation, several community members voiced opinions that Father Serra and the California missions had enslaved and brutalized the Indians. Others believed that the missionaries' work had been essential to assimilate Indians into mainstream society. Both sides felt that the monument should reflect their views. Because the subject of the sculpture generated increased debate and controversy, the commission was in danger of being canceled. The professor broke the class into small groups to discuss the case. Groups were asked, "Identify the steps this young artist might take to move the project forward while staying true to his artistic vision." Students were given 20 minutes to discuss and make recommendations. The class came together to discuss the challenges and possible solutions. The professor felt that the case opened students' eyes to the real-life problems they might be asked to resolve (Barkley 240).


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 238-243.

Keywordscase study, case studies, classroom, active learning psDoc ID104143
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-07-20 09:48:26Updated2024-04-16 12:40:22
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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