Case study analysis or scenario-based questions

Case studies and scenario-based assessments allow students to apply their theoretical knowledge to a real organisational issue.

They're powerful learning tools requiring learners to draw from their own experiences and skills to analyse and respond to a situation.

By using cased studies and scenarios, teachers aim to develop student reasoning, problem-solving and decision-making skills (Tunny, Papinczak & Young, 2010; Bloomfield & Magney, 2009).

They allow students to see how their learning can be applied in a real-world situation, without the real-world pressure and constraints.

When to use case studies or scenarios

Use case studies or scenarios to:

  • assess reasoning and decision-making skills
  • assess the application of knowledge and skills to a professional practice learning situation.

Case studies and scenarios are particularly useful where situations are complex and solutions are uncertain.

Advantages and limitations

  • Requires learners to provide an original response.
  • Focuses on the ability to use skills or knowledge to develop solutions to problems.
  • Can assess significant content and a number of outcomes.
  • Simulates real life situations.
  • Can allow for group or individual approaches.
  • Can assess higher cognitive skills including:
    • application
    • analysis
    • evaluation.
  • Involves problem solving and decision making skills in authentic situations.
  • Can require a large amount of instructor time to assess.
  • Requires considerable time in developing the scope of the case study or the parameters of the cases that may be looked at.
  • Needs to be well written as a task to ensure alignment with content and outcomes.
  • May need significant scaffolding if the format is unfamiliar.

Things to keep in mind

When using case studies or scenarios as assessment items, consider the following pointers:

  • Assessment by case study or scenario can involve a verbal presentation or a written submission, or both.
  • Assessment by case study or scenario could occur in a group situation or individually.
  • Case study or scenario based questions generally require:
    • identification of a problem
    • generation of a hypothesis
    • construction of an enquiry plan
    • research or enquiry
    • interpretation of findings
    • investigation of results.
  • You can base case study teaching and assessment on a number of methods, e.g. the Harvard Business School method. Bear in mind that there are critiques of each method.
  • You can use technology to track case discussions and development.
  • You can prepare for a case study or scenario assessment by presenting examples of cases in class prior to assessment. This can provide familiarity and understanding of the relevance of cases.


  • Why are you choosing a case study or scenario format?
  • Which learning outcomes does it align with?
  • Do you want to make sure students cover a specific area of knowledge?
  • Will students develop knowledge of concepts, ideas, theory or technology?


  • How authentic do you want the case study to be? I.e. How will you develop the case?
  • What is the specific focus of the content?
  • Which area of subject content do you want the student to integrate knowledge from?
  • How will you indicate which content areas students need to address?


  • What questions/areas do you want learners to focus on?
  • How should they structure the case study to maintain this focus and cover the content in a way that is authentic to a case study/scenario?
  • Will you provide a structure or template for students to follow?
  • How will you direct analysis in terms of presentation to the audience? Is there an approach you can incorporate?

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