Teaching with cases

Advice from leading case writing experts and teachers on how to motivate students and make the most of experimental learning with cases

Teaching with cases

  • Why should I use case studies in class teaching?
  • What resources are available to help teach a case study?
  • How do I teach a case study online?

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Preparing to teach a case study

Why should I use a case study?

“Cases are great to challenge student to comprehensively prepare for a class, perhaps in small groups, and then to engage students in a deeper management decision-making discussion that surfaces relevant theories and practices.”

Michael Goldman, Editor-in-Chief, Emerging Markets Case Studies

“I use case studies when I want to have students apply particular models, theories or concepts that I have taught in class previously. Cases work really well to provide students with examples of how things work in the real world and we want them to apply this knowledge to a particular situation.”

Rebecca Morrison, Editor-in-Chief, The CASE Journal


“Cases also help to bridge gaps. They can link theory into practice but also provide insight into new interesting companies and industries and by seeing things through the eyes of the protagonist help explain how individuals operate in business in the real world.”

Justin O’Brien, Executive Director of Postgraduate Programmes, University of Surrey

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Preparing students to contribute

  • Send the case study to students at least one week prior to the case discussion
  • For written assignments, provide students with assignment questions along with the case
  • Check the teaching note to see if any related readings should be assigned
  • Check the teaching note to see if any related video content should be assigned
  • Prepare copies of the epilogue from the teaching note to distribute in class.

Facilitating in the classroom

  • How to engage students in case studies
  • Using smaller groups and include role play to focus the students on the management dilemmas the companies face
  • Provide a counter-argument part-way through the discussion to encourage students to rethink their perspectives and reasons for their conclusions
  • Revisit an old case that particularly captured the imagination of your students and use it to discuss concepts in other cases they may be struggling more with
  • Vary the learning styles and set-ups especially paying attention to the focus of students at that particular time in the semester or term. They may respond better to more light-hearted or diverting styles if they are otherwise focused on exams or assignments
  • With classes where discussion is challenging, focus on the case context itself and make sure it is as relevant as possible to their situation. That might be through the regional context or the type of company discussed. 

Teaching cases online

Choose short cases

Choice of case is key. We advise using shorter cases with fewer learning outcomes to keep the focus in the classroom.

Encourage engagement via technology tools

During class, make good use of the suggested discussion questions in the teaching notes to ensure students are participating. For increased engagement, use technologies that allow polls and chat functions.

Create discussion topics

In between online classes create discussion topics and use them to maintain motivation among students. This is a great way to monitor student contribution. It may be a good idea to vary the time of day you post to allow for the greatest response.

Support student community engagement

Support your community, particularly as your students will be losing out on face-to-face time with their peers. Encouraging this in an online format will help ensure any out-of-class discussions continue.

Encouraging deeper thinking

As a teacher, your role in any case study discussion is to guide students towards a deeper understanding of the topic at hand.

It is important to continue to bring discussions back to the facts of the case, and to ask challenging questions, to encourage students to deepen their analysis and question initial judgements.

Try and help ensure students don’t jump to quick solutions but that they think through the solution from multiple perspectives.

Help students move outside of making judgements based on their own experience and to try and analyse a case as objectively as possible.

Related topics

Discover our eCase Collections

Find out about our collections which are designed to cover the full spectrum of business and management subject areas.

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Explore eCases on Emerald Insight

Visit Emerald Insight, enter your search terms, and see what you can discover…

Explore insight

View our case competitions

We partner with number of organisations to offer case writing competitions. Apply for an award and open the door to international recognition and a cash prize.

View our case competitions

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