Case Studies


Incorporating case studies into instruction is a type of active learning in which students read or watch a scenario. The students are also provided supporting data and documents and an open-ended question or problem that they must propose a solution to. Case studies allow students to link theory to practice and experience reality in the classroom. By completing case study assignments, students practice identifying the problem, recognizing and expressing their point of view, and determining practical solutions.

Possible Instructional Uses:

  • Allow students to respond to a case study assignment in a variety of ways, such as video, audio, text, or in-person presentation.
  • Present a case study based on an ongoing trial so students are able to compare the actual verdict to those generated in class.
  • Provide guidelines to students on how to approach a case study assignment to put them in the appropriate mindset. For example, “You are the CEO of the company. What would you recommend?”  
  • Take a case study assignment a step further by splitting up the class into teams based on their solutions and manage a class debate.

WCU Supported Tools:

Tips for using Case Studies:

  • When formulating a case study assignment, look to real-world situations, such as current events and policies in social science courses (Trujillo-Jenks, 2014) and patient scenarios in medical courses (Popil, 2011).
  • Good case studies involve complex problems that have ambiguous and multiple answers (Campbell, Powers, & Zheng, 2015). 
  • While it is valuable for students to complete case study assignments independently at times, incorporate collaboration on case study assignments so students can clarify each other’s assumptions and challenge ideas (New York University, n.d.). 
  • Whether the case study assignment was completed independently or in groups, dedicate a significant amount of time afterwards reflecting on how students arrived at their solutions and giving each other feedback on their proposed solutions (Campbell et al., 2015). 
  • Before assigning a case study to your students, determine what you want the students to get out of the experience. Don’t engage in case study assignments just because they seem different or innovative. Make sure the students are learning more about the course content by going through the case study (Lang, 2011). 


Campbell, M. G., Powers, T. M., & Zheng, S. (2015). Teaching with the case study method to promote active learning in a small molecule crystallography course for chemistry students. Journal of Chemical Education, 93(2), 270-274.

Lang, J. M. (2011, July 06). Teaching students to write a case study. Retrieved from

Popil, I. (2011). Promotion of critical thinking by using case studies as teaching method. Nurse Education Today, 31(2), 204-207. 

Trujillo-Jenks, L. (2014, February 21). Guiding Students to Think Critically Using Case Studies. Retrieved from