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    Using Cases in the Case-Based Collaborative Learning Classroom

    When disciplinary knowledge is presented only in the abstract, students miss a critical opportunity to understand how this knowledge can be applied to solve professional dilemmas. In Barbara Cockrill’s Case-Based Collaborative Learning (CBCL) classroom, students study key medical concepts on their own and then work together in class to apply this knowledge to realistic scenarios they are likely to see in future practice. As a result, students gain a storehouse of contextual knowledge, real-world clarifications of concepts, and practice solving professional puzzles...

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    Designing a Case-Based Collaborative Learning Case

    Crafting a strong case requires not only selecting a problem for students to solve but also thinking through how students will solve this problem. Effective cases require a certain level of productive struggle from students. Effective CBCL case solutions are not merely fill-in-the-blank or, as Barbara Cockrill says, “Google-able.” Instead, instructors may strategically bury key information or include potentially relevant details to add complexity to the case. Often the hardest part of crafting a case is achieving, in Cockrill’s words, “desirable difficulty.”

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    Structuring the Case Discussion

    Well-designed cases are intentionally complex. Therefore, presenting an entire case to students all at once has the potential to overwhelm student groups and lead them to overlook key details or analytic steps. Accordingly, Barbara Cockrill asks students to review key case concepts the night before, and then presents the case in digestible “chunks” during a CBCL session. Structuring the case discussion around key in-depth questions, Cockrill creates a thoughtful interplay between small group work and whole group discussion that makes for more systematic forays into...

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    Experiencing the case as a student team

    Student collaboration is instrumental in effective CBCL classrooms. In contrast to impersonal lecture settings, small groups provide students with supportive, low-stakes environments to wrestle with course concepts and test out solutions before sharing their responses with the wider group. In Barbara Cockrill’s CBCL classroom, small groups of four are maintained through the entirety of the semester. The close relationships that students build with each other are sustained through norms that groups set for themselves. Cockrill reflects that this collaborative...

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    Circulating the room during small group case discussions

    Though small group time is student time, instructors can glean important information about student learning by strategically eavesdropping. In this video, Barbara Cockrill reflects on her rationales for continually circulating during small group case discussions. Among those discussed are listening for and addressing misconceptions, priming particular groups to share out during subsequent whole group dialogues, and finding an opportunity to spotlight quiet students.

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    Sharing relevant experiences from the field

    While too much storytelling from an instructor can pull a lesson off-track, a strategically placed anecdote from the field can substantially enliven a case. In Barbara Cockrill’s Homeostasis I course, instructors are practicing physicians themselves, and they find ways to purposefully share prior field experiences with students to illuminate otherwise abstract concepts. What one student calls “pearls of wisdom” also spur impromptu but vital conversations about the many ethical dilemmas practitioners face.

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    Moving class forward while honoring curiosity spurred by the case

    A central tension many instructors face is how to keep a lesson moving forward while also encouraging students’ inquisitiveness and answering their questions. As Barbara Cockrill describes in this video, curiosity is something teachers should be careful not to “thwart.” However, some insights or questions raised by students can quickly pull a carefully timed class off-track. In this video, Cockrill describes how she honors students’ curiosity while also managing potential tangents that students raise. In particular, she discusses how to manage the especially inquisitive student and...

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    Channeling expertise in the room to enhance the case

    Classrooms, especially those at the graduate level, are mosaics of students with wide-ranging backgrounds and areas of expertise. In case-based classes where disciplinary knowledge is situated in context, drawing on this reservoir of expertise can help incorporate more voices into the classroom and enhance case discussions. In this video, Barbara Cockrill’s students discuss the value of working with peers from different disciplinary backgrounds, and Cockrill solicits input from one particular student to make a high-stakes case even more relevant.

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