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.”
Barbara Cockrill, Harold Amos Academy Associate Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
- Identify and/or design cases in which answers are not straightforward, immediately evident, or easily searchable. This will better ensure that students are using each other as resources to apply the concepts they have learned.
- Factor in timing when crafting cases. You might consider working through the case yourself to gauge how long each portion could take (just remember that activity will likely take longer for students who are learning this material for the first time).
- Be careful not to include so much information in the case that its coverage limits student discussion.
- Consider segmenting cases so students are given new information in digestible chunks. When doing this, devise a structure that reflects the way professionals within your discipline might work through a problem of practice.
- Jonassen and Hernandez-Serrano argue in favor of using stories to improve student problem-solving when designing case-based instruction (2002).
- Stark and colleagues compared two case-based formats, example format versus feedback format, and assessed student diagnostic competence. While example format was effective under certain circumstances, feedback format more fully supported diagnostic competence (2011).
- In this essay, Professor Clyde F. Herreid, Director of the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, describes a recipe for writing cases and in another, outlines what makes a good case.
- The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science has a wealth of cases and resources for science and social science instructors to utilize.
- Curious what a humanities case might look like? Yale’s Theater department has a database of cases that can spark inspiration.