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Case-Based Learning (CBL)

What is it?

In case-based learning (CBL), students work through semi-structured, authentic, scenarios and “learn by doing”. This approach often uses group work and students might work together to explore the case and problem solve. 


Advantages of this approach include:

  • Learner-centered approach that can increase engagement
  • Relevancy can promote transfer of knowledge
  • Teamwork creates an environment where students can learn from each others’ thoughts, perspectives, and ideas


Some challenges of this approach include:

  • Students can get off-task or “go down the wrong path” in solving the problem, so it’s important to know when to interrupt strategically 
  • Students may feel more or less comfortable sharing their voice in group settings, so having assigned roles or guidelines for the discussion can be very helpful

Examples and Implementation

Example 1: Students read about a patient’s presenting symptoms. As a group, students determine which questions they would ask the patient. As the case unfolds, students use clinical reasoning to propose relevant tests and labs, develop a differential diagnoses and then a plan of treatment. 


Example 2: Students are presented with information regarding a recent infectious-disease outbreak. Together they have to work through the case materials to determine who patient zero is, how to best contain the infection, and the mechanism by which the disease is spreading.


Interested in learning more about case-based learning or finding resources for cases in your discipline? Try out the Google Plug-in below.


Google Scholar Search