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Case Studies: Research and Resources

Case Studies: Research and Resources

Eliciting and evaluating responses from others to what we say or do.


The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science

A broad and deep collection of materials for teaching with cases in the sciences. Not only does it provide excellent guidance in how to teach with cases, it has a large case bank teachers can use.

Use of Case Studies in the Classroom - Boston University's Center for Teaching Excellence

Addresses topics such as introducing the concept, advantages of case studies, and guidelines for using case studies.

Using Cases in Teaching - Pennsylvania State University

Provides an introduction to case study teaching, tips for writing cases, and teaching tips for case study instruction.


Barnes, L.B., Christensen, C.R., & Hansen, A.J. (1994). Teaching and the case method: Text, cases, and readings. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

A classic in case-based education, this book contains valuable reflections on the case method as well as many cases useful in professional-school and liberal-arts settings.

Davis, B.G. (2009). Case studies. In Tools for Teaching (2nd Edition) (pp 222-228). San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons.

An excellent source of practical advice extracted from a broad base of research.

Lundeberg, M.A., Levin, B.B., Harrington, H.L. (Eds.), (1999). Who Learns What From Cases and How?: The Research Base for Teaching and Learning With Cases. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum.

Though primarily for students of Education, this book explores the research behind case method instruction and explores how it requires "performance of thought" from students.

Lynn, L.E. (1999). Teaching and Learning with Cases: A Guidebook. New York: Chatham House.

A helpful guide for using and writing cases, from casual classroom use to formal field research and publication.


Brown, D. (2005). How the case study method of instruction employs critical thinking to facilitate learning. Inquiry: Critical thinking across the disciplines, 24(3), 37-40.

Outlines the ways case studies engage students in specific thinking skills. First, the discussion of ideas teaches students to organize and communicate their own. In analyzing the main parts of a case, students develop a nuanced understanding of the problem. Inductive and deductive reasoning are used to determine solutions and decision-making skills required to evaluate the merit of many possibilities. Finally, students reflect on what they have learned from the case and the process of addressing the problem.

Dori, Y.J., Masha Tsaushu, R.T. (2003). Teaching biotechnology through case studies: Can we improve higher order thinking skills of non-science majors? Science Education, 87(6), 767-793.

This article focuses on whether teaching science through case studies increased students' thinking skills. Case studies focused on both science related and moral conflicts in order to challenge students to analyze material thoroughly in the application to real world scenarios. This sample utilized students in grades 10 through 12 in Israel. Results indicated:

  • Students in each grade level improved significantly from pre-test to post-test on a measure designed to tap higher order thinking skills related to course content
  • Lower achieving students increased their scores significantly more than higher achieving students

Finney, S., & Pyke, J. (2008). Content relevance in case-study teaching: The alumni connection and its effect on student motivation. Journal of Education for Business, 83(5), 251-257.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the degree to which using case studies relevant to students facilitates learning, specifically motivation. In choosing cases, instructors used examples from alumni of a Canadian university where the participants attended. Results indicated:

  • A significant correlation between student motivation and the degree to which students indicated the case studies presented were relevant to them

Harris, R.C., Pinnegar, S., & Teemant, A. (2005). The case for hypermedia video ethnographies: Designing a new class of case studies that challenge teaching practice. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 13(1), 141-161.

Video cases offer a great way to integrate real world experiences into the college classroom, beyond that available from written case studies. In this way, video brings an authenticity to the teaching of concepts and theory. The authors then suggest principles in the construction of video case studies: 1) authentic video of classroom teaching in the field, 2) ones that show good examples of practice not deficits, 3) multiple perspectives to promote thoughtfulness in discussing what is occurring in the example, 4) examples that highlight theory.

Herreid, C.F. (2006). Clicker cases: Introducing case study teaching into large classrooms. Journal of College Science Teaching, 36(2), 43-47.

The author discusses the use of "clickers," which are electronic student response systems, as a means to introduce case studies in large classrooms in the form of "clicker cases." In this teaching technique, the instructor presents a case to the class in stages, taking time after each stage to pose questions to the class. The students then respond with their clicker response system and the instructor posts the responses in a histogram on a PowerPoint slide for the class to see. The instructor encourages students to consult with peers before "voting" on an answer, thus promoting an interactive process. The professor notes several key findings from data collected using this method including:

  • Attendance increased (90%)
  • Performance on critical thinking questions on exams improved
  • Class grades improved

Johnson, D., Johnson, R., & Smith, K. (2000, January/February) Constructive controversy: The educative power of intellectual conflict. Change Magazine, pp. 28-37.

This article not only describes the method of Constructive Controversy but also provides evidence of its effectiveness when compared to lecture and overall group discussion. In Constructive Controversy groups of four, two students are assigned to "pro" side of a position and the other two are assigned the "con" side. Each pair researches the material necessary to produce as strong an argument for their side as they can. Once each pair is done, their roles are reversed. Finally, all four must synthesize a statement that they feel best characterizes the issue and produces a position statement for the group, based on their own best judgment.

Kolodner, J.L., & Guzdial, M. (2000). Theory and practice of case-based learning aids. In D.H. Jonassen & S.M. Land (Eds.),Theoretical foundations of learning environments (pp. 215–242). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

An important and oft-cited article describing case-based reasoning as its own model of cognition, and offering implications for supporting learning both with and without technology. Using the metaphor of a library, the authors argue that we "index" the episodes of our experience, and -- when trying to interpret new experiences -- review the index for cases from our experience that seem most like the present circumstances. The article offers very practical advice for ways to deliver and embellish teaching cases, such as:

  • Motivating reflection
  • Generating feedback
  • Encouraging quality reflection
  • Not overdoing it

McDade, S.A. (1995). Case study pedagogy to advance critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 9-10.

This article explores case studies as a unique strategy that is ideally suited for enhancing critical thinking through actively involving students in their own learning. The author then posits eleven arguments that support this position including:

  • Models critical thinking by providing a laboratory experience in that real world problems are explored
  • Emphasizes analysis
  • Is contextually based which facilitates nuanced understanding of principles
  • Forces students to identify and challenge assumptions and beliefs
  • Encourages students to explore multiple solutions
  • Facilitates student engagement in other's perspectives

Wood, A.T., & Anderson, C.H. (2001, June). The case study method: Critical thinking enhanced by effective teacher questioning skills. Paper presented at the Annual International Conference of the World Association for Case Method Research and Application.

The premise of this paper is that instructors can enhance the benefits to critical thinking provided by case study instruction through their method of questioning. Recommendations from the authors include:

  • Questions that tap both high and low cognitive experiences
  • A writing-to-learn question activity that follows the case study to facilitate continued reflection
  • Instructors preparing open-ended questions to facilitate the case study process

Yadav, A., Lundeberg, M., DeSchryver, M., Dirkin, K., Schiller, N.A., Maier, K., & Herreid, C.F. (2008). Teaching science with case studies: A national survey of faculty perceptions of the benefits and challenges of using cases. The Journal of College Science Teaching, 37(1), 34-38.

The authors surveyed 101 science faculty across universities in the United States and Canada to better understand instructor perceptions of the use of case studies. Results indicate:

  • A large majority of science instructors use case studies in teaching (84%)
  • Faculty indicated that students in classes that used case study instruction demonstrated better critical thinking skills (88%) and developed a deeper understanding of course content (90%)
  • Using case studies led to students being able to see issues from multiple perspectives (91%)
  • Obstacles to using case studies included: preparation time, some difficulty in assessing student learning, and some student resistance, although the authors note that these present only minor obstacles