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Med Educ. 2006 Sep;40(9):867-76.

A conceptual framework for developing teaching cases: a review and synthesis of the literature across disciplines.

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Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


Case-based teaching is regarded as a superior instructional method compared with lectures in promoting a learner's critical thinking skills. While much is known about the role a discussion facilitator plays in case-based teaching, the debate on the influence of the format and structure of cases on learning is controversial. We sought to identify strategies for constructing cases based on studies from multiple disciplines, which report the development and use of cases in teaching and learning. The purpose was to offer the medical and other educational communities a conceptual framework that can be examined in future research. Based on a review of 100 studies, we synthesised 17 strategies around 5 core attributes of cases: relevant (level of learner, goals and objectives, setting of case narrative); realistic (authenticity, distractors, gradual disclosure of content); engaging (rich content, multiple perspectives, branching of content); challenging (difficulty, unusual cases, case structure, multiple cases), and instructional (build upon prior knowledge, assessment, feedback, and teaching aids). Despite the wide use of cases in disparate disciplines, there has been no overarching study that synthesises strategies of case development or tests these strategies in research settings. The framework we developed can serve as a menu of case development options that educators and researchers can pilot and evaluate in their local settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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