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.


Barbara Cockrill, Harold Amos Academy Associate Professor of Medicine

Student Group



Harvard Medical School


Homeostasis I

Group Size

40 students

Additional Details

First-year requisite

  • Learn about your students. At the beginning of the semester, ask them about their prior studies, employment, and experiences. Use this background information to solicit students’ expertise throughout cases. 
  • Find opportunities during lessons for students to share their insights from prior experiences. This can enliven cases and build classroom community. It also models a key component of teamwork for students: knowing and utilizing the strengths and expertise of each team member can help students reach the most thoughtful solution.
  • Students are not blank slates (National Research Council, 2000). Assessing student knowledge and expertise can help instructors not only assess potential learning challenges; student voices can also be a source of knowledge in the classroom (Sawyer, 2006).