Building Structure and Flexibility into Case Lesson Plans

While spontaneity and fluidity are important hallmarks of case discussions, effective case discussion leaders always enter the classroom with a teaching plan. In this video, Julie Battilana discusses the key components of a case teaching plan and how to build flexibility into it. By structuring her plan around discussion blocks and key questions, she ensures that she can cover the most important concepts and issues in the case while letting students lead the conversation. 


Julie Battilana, Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration (Harvard Business School), Alan L. Gleitsman Professor of Social Innovation (Harvard Kennedy School)

Student Group



Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School


Power and Influence

Group Size

85 students

Additional Details

Second year course

  • Most pre-written cases come with a “case teaching note” which provides a suggested plan for teaching the case. Read this over carefully and then modify it to fit your style and class structure.
  • Before class, create an overall outline of your case teaching plan with timings so that you don’t lose track of your larger plan as student discussions unfold.
  • Create your closing slides before you write the rest of your teaching plan so you have a clear sense of the specific concepts you will be guiding students towards during the discussion.
  • The use of case studies, seen from the lens of constructivism, requires active engagement from students. Because constructivism posits that students actively construct their understanding, instructors using case studies should consider how to build flexibility into their lessons to allow for active student engagement (Sudzina, 1997). 
  1. Harvard Business School has developed a wealth of resources on case-method teaching including tips for planning an effective case session.
  2. This comprehensive resource on the ABCs of case-method teaching from Georgetown University provides helpful suggestions for how to prepare to teach a case on pages 43 to 45.
  3. Interested in teaching a case using small groups? This video from The Patricia K. Cross Academy explains how small-group to whole-group activities during case study sessions can be effective.