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Cases in the classroom

Teaching cases have been used since ANZSOG’s inception, chiefly because they reflect the world our learners operate in – a world where they frequently wrestle with situations that are ambiguous, involve conflicting goals or interests, and have potential outcomes with serious implications. Humans are also wired for narrative: stories are one of the oldest pedagogical methods, dating back to tales around the campfire.

Case-based learning, where students are asked to consider the problems facing the protagonist or organisation and propose a response, are used in a variety of settings to foster active learning. Research indicates that cases are an effective tool in public affairs education, enhancing student engagement, understanding and recall. Case-based learning also encourages collaborative learning, critical reflection and the integration of knowledge and practice (Careaga-Tagüeña and Sanabria-Pulido, 2022).

In a similar vein, the former Dean of the Harvard Business School, Nitin Nohira, found that his alumni consistently claimed that they had gained their most valuable skills from the process of grappling with cases (Nohira, 2022). These ‘’meta-skills” proved very useful as his former students progressed in their careers and applied them to different situations. They included the ability to:

  • zero in on the most important information and tune out noise,
  • deal with confusing or incomplete data,
  • challenge personal bias and appreciate other viewpoints,
  • make and communicate decisions effectively,
  • run more focused discussions and deliberate productively,
  • assume different roles and build self-confidence.

Below is a selection of articles, papers and reports that explore the how and why of case-teaching and learning in various settings, as well as research on the power of narrative more generally.

Case teaching tips and guides

Teaching with Cases – HKS Case Program (harvard.edu)

Case-Based Learning | Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning (yale.edu)

Using Case Studies to Teach | Center for Teaching & Learning (bu.edu)

Understanding the case method: Teaching public administration case by case – Eckhard Schröter, Manfred Röber, 2022 (sagepub.com)

Building Better Judgement Amongst Policymakers Using the Case-study Method – The Case Centre

Teaching Guide | Open Case Studies (ubc.ca)

The case for case-based learning

Why use the case method in public policy teaching? | Blavatnik School of Government (ox.ac.uk)

What the Case Study Method Really Teaches (hbr.org)

Use of active learning strategies in public affairs education: Advances and lessons from the scholarship and the practice – Maite Careaga-Tagüeña, Pablo Sanabria-Pulido, 2022 (sagepub.com)

Case based learning—a review of the literature: is there scope for this educational paradigm in prehospital education? | Emergency Medicine Journal (bmj.com)

Beyond the Case Method in Public Affairs Education: Unexpected Benefits of Student-Written Cases: Journal of Public Affairs Education: Vol 23, No 1 (tandfonline.com)

Lectures Aren’t Just Boring, They’re Ineffective, Too, Study Finds | Science/AAAS | News (stanford.edu)

The case method evaluated in terms of higher education research: A pilot study – ScienceDirect

Narrative and neuropsychology

The Power of Narratives in Decision Making – The Decision Lab

Storytelling Is Intrinsically Mentalistic: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study of Narrative Production across Modalities | Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience | MIT Press

Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling (hbr.org)

On the Usefulness of Narratives: An Interdisciplinary Review and Theoretical Model | Annals of Behavioral Medicine | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

Narrative impact: How stories change minds (scielo.org.za)

Your Brain on Story: Why Narratives Win Our Hearts and Minds – Pacific Standard (psmag.com)

What Storytelling Does to Our Brains (buffer.com)

Your Brain On Stories | Psychology Today Australia

How Stories Change the Brain | Greater Good (berkeley.edu)

eScienceCommons: A novel look at how stories may change the brain