PIE Media - Partnership for Innovation in Education | What is Case-Based Learning?
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What is Case-Based Learning?

The Innovation Process

What Is Case-Based Learning?

The Case Based “Socratic” Learning Model Features Students as Active Decision Makers and Problem Solvers.

Pioneered at Harvard University, the case-based method is the primary mode of instruction at medical, law, business and engineering schools. Cases present students with open-ended, incomplete scenarios requiring complex solutions. Each case is an account of events and facts particular to the problem, with intriguing decision points designed to encourage critical thinking and student discussion. Cases are solved through the dynamic process of exchanging information, countering and defending varying points of view, and building on the ideas of others.

Student notes for PIE project
at Clark Montessori

Kilgour Elementary School students listen during a group discussion

Final presentation at the Taft
Museum of Art

Building Authentic Real World Skills: Self-Confidence, Perseverance and Grit

Learners who participate in case-based learning develop lifelong learning and career readiness skills. They learn to assess situations based upon a set of facts and circumstances; they discuss the relevance and value of information, with the development of evidence-based arguments. Learners tackle the process of problem-identification and decision-making, by weighing the value and relevance of information, taking sides in discussions and explaining their reasoning.

Learners develop a sense of independence and self-direction as they tackle authentic problems. Case-based learning activities support greater retention of information by creating connections between learners’ knowledge development and solution identification. Learners assess the available information and plan their approach to the problem. They may reorganize the available information, research for more information, or develop initial solution possibilities.

Educators Serve As Classroom Facilitators

Case-based learning is unique to the K-12 classroom. Educators serve as facilitators, allowing students to navigate case facts. Educators steer discussions with strategic Socratic “Why” questioning, encouraging students to create linkages with previous knowledge, learning in other classes, and personal experiences. Educators may ask students to compare and contrast their opinions with known facts or circumstances, allowing students to think more deeply, emphasizing relational thinking. Educators should support learners’ development of creating their own conclusions, emphasizing the flexible and open-ended nature of the case solution.