Learning through Case Construction


Students familiar with case study analysis construct their own cases to capture a specific ethical question. They then lead their classmates through the case. This case construction gives students the opportunity to try to stump one another with new ethical dilemmas in civil and focused fashion.

Introduction: This activity was designed for an introductory course on the ethics of sex, gender, and sexuality. The first half of the semester focused on theoretical groundwork, while the second half of the semester focused on larger themes of practical application. During this more applied second half of the course (~5 weeks), students conducted case analysis during their sections. In the penultimate section, students were asked to construct their own cases. From the onset of the course, the instructor and students established classroom norm and practices to facilitate safe but critical conversations.


  • Tap into student’s creativity and imagination as it relates to course content and everyday life
  • Have students anticipate potential responses and adjust their case to preempt these assumptions
  • Have students practice moderating a discussion
  • Have students practice case analysis and critical reasoning skills
  • Have students engage in difficult, self-guided conversation with one another

Procedure - Before Class: Students should be familiar with case analysis. This can be as a result of using cases at other times in the semester or can be built into the activity itself with a short presentation at the beginning of the class before the assignment is given.

Before class, students were expected to have completed readings. The instructor came prepared with a presentation that listed several guiding questions that would be used by the students as they created their cases.

Procedure - During Class:

  1. Review successful elements of a Case Study
    1. The instructor leads a quick class discussion based around the question “What have been the general characteristics of the case studies we’ve discussed in lecture and section?”
  2. Introduce activity and divide class into two groups
    1. Based on the readings, the instructed picked two different themes she wanted to focus on. She projected relevant questions for each theme on the board. The class was divided into two groups and each group was assigned one theme.
    2. The class was instructed to work with their group to come up with a case based on the questions/themes provided.
    3. The instructor paused for any clarifying questions to make sure each student understood the assignment.
  3. Solo-writing/brainstorming
    1. The class got 10 minutes to independently brainstorm ideas for their cases
    2. Some prompting questions for the brainstorm include:
      1. What questions most interest you?
      2. What scenario best captures that question?
      3. What might the narrative arc or dialogue look like?
      4. What information might you add to add complexity to the case?
  4. Group case construction
    1. Within each group, students assigned a scribe (to record notes) and a moderator (to lead the case study).
    2. Students shared their independent brainstorms and collectively agreed on an issue and then worked to create a case (one paragraph long)
    3. After the case was completed, the scribe sent the instructor the case to be added to the powerpoint.
  5. Group case analysis
    1. After each group added their case to the slide, the moderator read the prompt out loud.
    2. Each group was then provided time to work through a typical case study analysis on the other group’s case.
  6. Whole class discussion
    1. The assigned moderator leads the other team through the case analysis and responds to any questions.
      1. Initial question: What are the ethical concerns presented in this case? What should the characters do?
    2. After the other team finishes the case study, the original team explains the basic premise of their case and the themes they hoped would come up. If anything was left out, the original group can bring it up now.
      1. Reflective question: What, if anything, would the group rewrite or change after hearing the other group’s interpretation?

For specific examples see the attached lesson plan.

Procedure - After Class: The instructor set up a canvas page to continue any discussions that ran out of time. Additionally, students could post any brainstorm ideas that did not get selected for the full case study.

lesson plan.docx19 KB