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Getting Started with Cases. Deborah Allen Steering Committee The Science Case Network ASMCUE: Twenty Years of Vision, Change and Leadership May 16, 2013  Denver, CO. Problem-Based Learning & Case Study Method: What ’ s the Difference?. Problem-Based Learning

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Getting Started with Cases

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Getting started with cases

Getting Started with Cases

Deborah Allen

Steering Committee

The Science Case Network

ASMCUE: Twenty Years of Vision, Change and Leadership

May 16, 2013 

Denver, CO

Problem based learning case study method what s the difference

Problem-Based Learning & Case Study Method: What’s the Difference?

Problem-Based Learning

  • Student-centered

  • Small group

  • Problems before concepts

Case Study Method

  • Instructor-centered

  • Whole class

  • Cases as extension,

    application of concepts

The Early Models

The modern synthesis

The Modern Synthesis

  • It starts with a story….. based on complex, real-world situations

  • Students work in groups.

  • Students gain new information through self-directed learning.

  • Instructors act as facilitators and designers of learning experiences and opportunities.

  • Learning is active, integrated, cumulative, and connected.

    Still a difference? Case as application versus case as means to launch new learning?

Perceived problems with medical education

Perceived ‘Problems’with Medical Education

Problem-based learning was devised > 30 years ago to address the following perceptions:

  • Medical students had difficulty transferring basic science knowledge to clinical applications

  • Expanding knowledge base was leading to ‘information overload’


    Learn content in context, and learn how to learn

Getting started with cases

Degradative Cycle (Futile Cycle?)

Energy and Raw Materials

Teachers Teach

hot air









Students Pass Exam

Source: E. J. Wood, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology,

University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Getting started with cases

What Is Case-Based Learning?

“The principal idea behind PBL [case-based learning] is not new, indeed it is older than formal education itself. It is that the starting point for learning should be a problem, a query, or a puzzle that the learner wishes to solve.”

Boud, D. (1985) PBL in perspective. In “PBL in Education for the Professions,” D. J. Boud (ed); p. 13.

Experience it yourself elvis meltdown

Experience It Yourself: ELVIS Meltdown

  • Using light microscopy, you examine the soil samples and the “goo” from the degraded polyurethane. Will this approach allow you to observe all microorganisms present in the samples? Why or why not? What are the limitations of this approach?

  • You use phase contrast microscopy to observe a wet mount of a soil sample (the first picture) and a “goo” sample (the second image below) from the ELVIS. In what ways are the potential ET microbes similar to microbes previously characterized on Earth? In what ways are they different? How could you determine whether the microbes present in the soil or goo samples are phylogenetically similar or distant from known microorganisms on Earth?

More elvis


  • Part II—Suspicious Minds

    • Culture methods and reconciling results

  • Part III—All Shook Up

    • Choosing the best media

  • Part IV—A Little Less Conversation

    • Decision-making - What physical and/or chemical treatments should be required prior to liftoff to minimize the opportunity for contamination by Earth microbes?

Getting started with cases

What Students Do

Presentation or formulation

of problem

Resolution of problem;

(How did we do?)

Next stage of

the problem

Integrate new


Refine questions

Organize ideas and

prior knowledge

(What do we know?)

Reconvene, report

on research;

Pose questions (What do

we need to know?)

Research questions;


analyze findings

Assign responsibility

for questions; discuss


Medical school model

Medical School Model

A good choice for:

Motivated, experienced learners?

Small seminar classes?

Dedicated faculty tutor

Groups of 8-10

Very student-centered environment

Group discussion is primary class activity

Typical medical school case high degree of authenticity

Typical Medical School Case: High Degree of Authenticity

Patient arrives at hospital, ER, physician’s office presenting with symptoms X, Y, Z

What questions should you ask?

What tests should you order?

Physician interviews patient, receives results of tests

Differential diagnosis

Preferred therapy

The instructor as facilitator

The Instructor As Facilitator

  • Questions/probes the thinking and reasoning process

  • Guides/directs/intervenes to keep the teams/ on track

  • Provides information when appropriate

  • Promotes the use of appropriate resources

  • Sets high standards for the group

  • Involves all students in the process

  • Supports good interpersonal relationships

  • Serves as a model for giving and receiving feedback

A typical day in an undergraduate pbl course

A Typical Day in an Undergraduate PBL Course

Pbl models for undergraduate courses

PBL Models for Undergraduate Courses

Floating Facilitator Model

Small to medium class, one instructor, up to 75 students

Peer Facilitator Model

Small to large class, one instructor and several peer tutors

Large Class Models

Floating facilitator model

Floating Facilitator Model

Instructor moves from group to group

  • Asks questions

  • Directs discussions

  • Checks understanding

    Group size: ~4

    More structured format: greater degree of instructor input into learning issues and resources

Floating facilitator model1

Floating Facilitator Model

  • Class activities besides group discussions:

    • Groups report out

    • Whole class discussions

    • Mini-lectures

Instructor roles

Instructor roles

  • Establish learning goals

  • Create great cases

  • Keep teams on track

  • Present information as needed

  • Evaluate outcomes

  • Encourage reflective learning and transfer

Hybrid case based learning

“Hybrid” Case-Based Learning

  • Non-exclusive use of case-driven learning in a class

  • May include separate lecture segments or other active-learning components

  • Floating or peer facilitator models common

    Often used as entry point into using cases

General chemistry course background

General Chemistry: Course Background

First-year students in life sciences, engineering (non-majors): required course

2-4 lecture sections (20 max)

MWF 50-minute lecture schedule

5-7 TA-led weekly 3-hr. lab sections (12-16)

Four to six groups of 4  1 per section

…...Novice, less-motivated learners…….

General chemistry course format

General Chemistry: Course Format

Problem-based group work40%

Lecture/whole-class discussion50%

Demonstrations 7%

Other (Exam, lab review) 3%

How class time is used

How Class Time is Used

General chemistry pbl sequence

General Chemistry: PBL Sequence

  • Problems introduce concepts prior to any discussion in class.

  • Guiding questions are used to focus learning.

  • Groups work in class (texts); meet to finish outside before next class meeting.

  • Group report out via overheads.

  • Summary sheets prepared from/based on reports

  • Problem followed by fuller discussion of related issues, connections to earlier work

Factors in choosing a model

Factors in Choosing a Model

  • Class size

  • Intellectual maturity of students

  • Student motivation

  • Course learning objectives

  • Instructor’s preferences

  • Availability of peer facilitators

Effective pbl cases

Effective PBL Cases…

  • relate to real world, motivate students

  • require decision-making or judgments

  • are designed for group-solving

  • pose questions that encourage discussion

  • incorporate course content objectives, higher order thinking, other skills

But i have to cover content

But I have to cover content…

  • Good cases meet content and process learning objectives.

  • Good cases require learning and applying content.

  • Cases provide a meaningful context, making concepts more memorable.

  • Deep understanding is preferable to wide exposure.

Assessment of learning

Assessment of Learning

  • Written exams, quizzes

  • Oral exams

  • Term papers

  • Reflective journals

  • Projects

  • Oral reports

  • Lab reports

  • Essays

  • Group work

  • Observation

  • Peer or self-assessments

  • One-minute papers

  • Concept maps

  • Dialogues

  • Portfolio analyses

  • Letters

  • Reflective journals

  • In general, a shift towards more

  • opportunities for feedback,

  • particularly formative

Course transformation a balancing act

Course Transformation: A Balancing Act

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