Teaching and Learning Resources

Case-Based Learning

Case-based learning (CBL) is a form of active learning that involves solving and examining real-world problems in small groups with guided instruction. The case or scenario can be acted out through role playing to deepen learning and gain additional understanding of the problem.  CBL is a more structured approach to learning than problem based learning (PBL) in that it provides a specific real-world problem to be solved with guided inquiry, compared to PBL, which provides you with a more general problem with more open inquiry. The role of the instructor is to provide appropriate cases and guide learning through asking appropriate questions that promote analysis, discussion, and resolution for the specific problem at hand.

CBL further develops essential skills such as problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills through building knowledge and solving problems collectively as a group. It also assists students with recognizing a wide range of applicable social problems and concerns and then provides them with many options for going about solving them. Through experiencing what it is like to be in the decision maker’s shoes, students become more aware of difficult real-world issues and become better prepared to deal with them. CBL develops critical thinking and collaborative skills which are extremely important for any career. This is a useful learning strategy to explore issues and content in more depth. For learning large amounts of factual information, a lecture based approach may be more useful.

Related Resources

Journal Articles available online:
Case Studies across a Science Curriculum
A comprehensive journal article from the Department of Chemistry, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY

National Centre for Case Study Teaching in Science
A link to various articles about CBL

The Scholarship of Teaching
A detailed article on many teaching and learning styles compiled by the Faculty Centre for Excellence in Teaching

Inquiry Learning at McMaster
A McMaster link full of information on inquiry learning

Department of Medicine at McMaster
An article about case based learning within the department of medicine at McMaster

Books available in the CLL library:

Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. London (England): Harvard University Press.
An in depth book about what teachers do to make a difference in students’ lives and what any teacher can do to improve.
Call Number: LB2331 .B34

McKeachie, W. (2002). McKeachie’s teaching tips. (11th ed.). Boston (NY): Houghton Mifflin Company.
An interesting book available in McMaster’s library that talks about several teaching strategies.
Call number: LB 1738 .M154T