Case-based learning is a teaching method in which learners are presented with real or hypothetical cases that simulate real-life scenarios to solve them. It enables students to identify the root cause of a problem, and explore various solutions using their knowledge and skills from lessons and research to select the best solution.

Using the case-based learning approach allows students to fine-tune their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to develop authentic solutions and recommendations to real-life problems. This allows students to solve real-world problems rather than simply memorize answers.

This learning method is also very flexible, as it can be used in both physical and virtual classes. It also has many applications including reviewing legal arguments, business case studies, medical treatments, and more.

What is Case-Based Learning?

Case-based learning, also known as the case method, teaches and assesses students by simulating real-life scenarios. It helps students in acquiring relevant knowledge by posing hypothetical or even real-world problems for them to solve.

Case-based learning enables the understanding of complex problems through the use of previous solutions and optimized recommendations. It’s an effective learning method because it helps students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

It also helps students in developing their research and collaboration skills to solve new and complex problems. Case-based learning is commonly used in professional fields such as medicine, law, business, engineering, and journalism.

Case studies are typically done in groups or as a class, but educators may occasionally allow students to choose case studies individually.

Why Use Case-Based Learning?

The case-based learning method is a highly recommended teaching method because it allows students to apply classroom and research knowledge and skills to solve real-world problems. Here are the major benefits of using case-based learning:

  • Authenticity

Learning from real cases helps students understand how their knowledge can be applied to real problems, which makes their learning experience more meaningful.

Students are more likely to solve problems from their perspectives because they are learning from real-life scenarios, which allows them to apply their critical thinking and creativity skills.

  • Problem-Solving

Using case studies requires students to analyze the scenarios critically and come up with authentic solutions. The process of studying the cases and applying their knowledge and skills to solve the given problem requires students to leverage their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

When students practice problem-solving skills through case studies regularly they improve their ability to process information quickly and come up with efficient solutions to similar problems. This skill is especially useful in most professional fields because it allows you to deal with unforeseen circumstances and provide appropriate solutions on the spot.

  • Transferability

Case-based learning allows students to apply their knowledge and skills from lessons, assignments, and assessments to solve new and unfamiliar problems. This makes their knowledge and skills transferable; they can easily adapt to a new environment effectively.

  • Collaboration

Case studies often include group work, which allows students to practice teamwork and help them develop collaboration skills. Knowing how to collaborate effectively within and across teams is one of the most important soft skills professionals need to build and run organizations effectively.

It also allows students to learn important life skills they can adopt in real-life scenarios.

  • Flexibility

Case-based learning requires students to provide authentic solutions; the solution is frequently adaptable; it can be used to solve more than one case. It also allows for more flexible learning experiences, such as e-learning and hybrid learning.

What Is the Purpose of a Case Study in Education?

The primary goal of using case studies in learning is to provide students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills to solve real-world problems. They are often used in professions that require adaptable solutions, such as healthcare, law, business, and engineering.

Case-based learning can take place at all levels of education, from primary to tertiary. Starting this type of learning earlier allows students to quickly hone their problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity skills, which will become muscle memory when they become professionals.

Here are other goals educators achieve with case studies:

  • Build students’ problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
  • Foster students’ Collaboration skills
  • Equip students to solve real-life problems
  • Help students develop transferable skills and knowledge to solve new problems.

Teaching Strategies for Case-Based Learning

Case-based learning is only effective when it is used correctly to help students develop problem-solving and analytical skills. Here are some tips for creating an effective case-based learning experience:

  • Introduce the Case

The first step in creating a successful case-based learning experience is to introduce the case study into the classroom. Be the first to provide information about the case to your students; this helps them understand the context of the case study and where to apply the knowledge and skills gained from it.

Incorporating case studies into relevant lessons is an excellent way to introduce them. For example, if you want to do a case study on the effect of brand voice, include how to create a great brand voice in a lesson plan.

  • Ask Guiding Questions

When presenting case studies to students, include guiding questions that capture the purpose of the case study. This will direct their critical thinking toward the knowledge and skills you want them to gain from the case study.

Guiding questions also help students avoid being overburdened with information they don’t need, which can lead to intellectual fatigue.

  • Encourage Teamwork

Group assignments help students develop collaboration skills, which will help them understand how to navigate team collaborations in their future fields. It also allows them to brainstorm multiple ideas at once and analyze them to see if they are feasible solutions.

  • Provide Feedback

When students present their solutions and recommendations, provide feedback on their approach to help them solve future problems more effectively. Giving students feedback allows them to continuously hone their problem-solving skills while following guiding instructions.

  • Foster Classroom Discussions

Group discussions and general classroom discussions provide students with different perspectives on how people solve problems. It also enables them to identify what they could do better to achieve a more optimized solution.

Classroom discussion also helps to engage students by allowing them to share their thoughts and provide feedback on what they have learned from the case study.

  • Encourage Reflection

Encourage students to think about what they learned from the case study and how they will apply what they learned to solve future problems.

What Are the Advantages of Case-Based Learning?

  • Active Learning

Case-based learning motivates students to apply their knowledge and skills to develop solutions and recommendations. It also encourages students to participate in group discussions which promote both inside and outside classroom collaboration.

As a result, rather than passively listening in class, students are actively learning and looking for ways to use the information to determine authentic solutions to the problem.

  • Relevant Knowledge

Another major benefit of case studies is that they help students in developing industry and real-world relevant skills and knowledge. The case studies about real-life problems provide students with perspectives on the problems they can expect in their fields in the future and how to deal with them.

Students can focus on acquiring the skills and knowledge that will help them understand real-world cases and how to solve them. 

Traditional learning methods, on the other hand,  provide students with a wealth of information and limited guidelines for problem-solving. Students may become confused and unable to achieve the lesson’s goal if they are overwhelmed by the volume of information.

  • Personalized Learning Experience

Case-based learning allows students to learn at their pace, gain relevant skills, and experiment with different problem-solving strategies. This allows students to investigate problem solutions from their point of view, making their learning experience more engaging.

It also allows students to delve deeply into topics that interest them during case studies to come up with unique solutions to the given problem. This strengthens students’ research skills, which will likely come in handy in their future careers.

  • Develop Students’ Communication Skills

It also allows students to delve deeply into topics that interest them during case studies to come up with unique solutions to the given problem. This strengthens students’ research skills, which will likely come in handy in their future careers.

  • Higher Knowledge Retention Rates

Most students passively learn with traditional learning, making it difficult for students to recall complex and unfamiliar concepts. Case-based learning, on the other hand, encourages students to actively participate in class, research, and collaborate with their peers, resulting in a more personalized and active learning experience.

The likelihood of students forgetting skills and information acquired through personalized learning is much lower than when they are simply passively listening in class.

What Are the Disadvantages of Case-Based Learning?

While case-based learning is an excellent teaching style that helps students develop the skills they need to be exceptional in their professional fields, it does have some drawbacks. The following are some of the disadvantages of using case-based learning:

  • Time and Resource Intensive

Of course, all teaching methods necessitate time and resources, but case-based learning necessitates even more from educators. Unlike traditional teaching methods, educators must spend more time preparing course materials, selecting relevant case studies, grouping students, holding discussions, and more.

  • Limited Scope

Case-based learning has the edge of focusing on relevant cases, which narrows students’ knowledge and skills. However, this has a disadvantage in that students only cover very specific aspects of a topic and end up knowing nothing about other equally important aspects.

  • Student Readiness

While the goal of case-based learning is to help students fine-tune their problem-solving and critical thinking skills without swamping them with information, it can backfire if the students aren’t ready for authentic cases and assessments.

So, before assigning real-life cases educators must ensure that their students are well-developed enough to understand concepts and their relevance in real-life.

  • Group Dynamics

Case-based learning encourages teamwork, which allows students to get answers faster and practice their interpersonal and collaborative skills. But if the group dynamic isn’t working because, for example, the managers are inactive and work is delegated to a small number of group members, the group tasks may end up slowing down the students.

Applications of Case-Based Learning

  • Business Education

 Business students often use case studies to analyze real-world problems and solutions.

  • Law Education

Case studies are often used in law to help students understand legal cases and how to prepare legal arguments.

  • Medicine

Healthcare students use case studies to understand patient conditions and develop the best course of treatment.

  • Professional Development

Case-based learning is a highly effective method for teaching professionals new and relevant skills. They are already familiar with real-world problems; case-based learning allows them to carefully review these cases and find effective solutions that will help them excel in their field.

Examples of Case Based Learning in Education

1. Medical Treatment

Medical students are studying the case of a patient with a rare medical condition. The supervisor gives the medical students a list of symptoms, history, and genetic predispositions that could cause the condition and asks them to diagnose the patient and recommend a treatment plan.

2. Environmental Engineering 

Students are given a case study of a fictional town that suffers from severe air pollution as a result of CO2 emissions from a nearby cement factory; the town also has a large kaolin deposit. The students are to create kaolin adsorbents to capture CO2.

3. Education

A college education professor gives students a case study of a school that has been struggling with low student achievement for three years. The students must determine what happened in the last three years to cause the low performance and how to develop a strategy to improve the student’s performance.


Case-based learning is a teaching and learning method that helps students develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills to solve real-world problems. It can be used in various fields, including business, law, healthcare, and education.

Although case-based earning is flexible and helpful to students in developing the skills they need to be professionals, it can be resource-intensive and time-consuming for educators.

  • Moradeke Owa
  • on 9 min read


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