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Teaching with case studies

The John L. Alford Case Library is a resource for instructors using the interactive teaching approach known as the case method.

Interactive teaching embraces both teaching and learning, encouraging students to engage in active discussion rather than passive listening. It uses teaching objects, such as a ‘case’ based on actual events or circumstances, to illustrate and apply key learning concepts, giving practical shape and illustration to the concepts.

For example, it is one thing to say, “Public servants have multiple accountabilities”. A case that shows a public servant balancing the contending accountabilities to their minister, their manager and statutory codes of conduct, and wrestling how to reconcile them, brings the concept of multiple accountabilities to life.

Case teaching focuses on people as decision-makers so students can ‘stand in the shoes’ of the manager whose circumstances or dilemma are described in the case. It requires the instructor to be expert in the relevant content; adept at leading discussions so they can keep track of the facts of the case, and the theory and concepts being explained; and to keep track of the discussion itself.

How to use cases in your teaching

Ways to use cases and interactive materials in your teaching include:

  • Providing the material to students ahead of class for pre-reading as a general reference on the topic or theory to be discussed in class.
  • Providing the material ahead of class, with specific questions to be prepared.
  • Handing out material at the start of class to prompt discussion on the basis of a quick scan.
  • Using a case in an exam assignment.

If you’d like advice on how to use cases in your teaching plan, please get in touch.

Teaching notes

Teaching notes increase the level of interest in a case study and we encourage the development of teaching notes. A teaching note is an individual instructor’s perspective on the theoretical lessons that can be drawn from a case. A teaching plan gives a more detailed outline about how a case might be presented in class from the perspective of an instructor. It might include the opening question, questions to move to new stages of discussion, and the timing to be allocated to specific stages of the discussion. See the template for teaching notes.

Contact us

For information on the Case Library, including accessing Teaching Notes, please email