Assessing Students’ Learning through Case Studies

Assessing Students’ Learning through Case Studies

Dr Marwan Albuhtori, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition


Dr Marwan Albuhtori, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition shares his experiences of teaching with case studies to engage students and assess their learning.


After each block of medical sciences lectures, I deliver a tutorial on the Advanced Immunology (IM4005) course, within which I use formative problem-solving case studies in order to assess my students’ learning on the relevant topics and issues covered. The students’ participation and attendance, online or on-campus, are essential to support this formative learning environment. For asynchronous (pre-recorded) lectures, I feel it is particularly important to run these formative learning experiences to develop a strong learning community and to confirm that students have achieved the intended learning outcomes of the lectures.


Utilising a case study approach to explore immunology in tutorial groups, enables the students to draw upon the lecture materials to formulate responses to the case study problems in advance of the session. In peer exchange during the tutorial, students discuss and then identify the diagnosis for each of the case studies. By using real-world problems as case studies, provides students with an opportunity to receive formative feedback on their application of theory to solve immunological-based problems.

I provide the students in advance of the actual tutorial (one week in advance) with two case studies of patients; each have one autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis is one example). A brief description of the case studies is provided to the students, including symptoms and main complaints, in addition to the results of some physical and laboratory examinations. The class has 29 students and the students work in groups of 2-3 where they meet and work remotely. The students are asked to use the knowledge they acquire from the lectures, their critical thinking and independent reading, from relevant literature, in order to identify the correct diagnosis of the cases. They then synthesise and present their findings during the synchronous tutorial to their peers and respond to their peer questions and comments.

The pedagogical value of the case study method is that it provides an effective way for my students to move up the Bloom’s Taxonomy cognitive ladder from the low-level skills, such as knowledge and understanding, to higher level skills such as analysis and synthesis.


The tutorial experience provides an ideal learning environment for students to develop and enhance a range of skills and graduate attributes such as critical thinking, communication, problem-solving and peer exchange. Case study use also impacts on students’ preparation for immunology careers in the research industry and academia, as they illustrate typical issues encountered in scientific research and development. In addition, the use of case studies helps me to reflect on my teaching and the students` learning experience.


The case study materials have been designed and piloted and I plan to evaluate the students’ formative learning experience. Having recently completed the PGCert in Higher Education Learning & Teaching, the topic on evaluating your teaching will be helpful to devise a short evaluation approach. I plan to invite the students to complete a self-evaluation questionnaire at the end of the case study sessions, to check skills development and learning gain. In addition, the Staff Student Liaison Committee will provide an opportunity to learn more about students’ views on case study teaching. This information will also be useful to enhance my case study materials and the session design in order to further develop my teaching practice.


Sharing my experiences of introducing case study assessment methods into my teaching will occur at a number of levels. Firstly, I will discuss informally with my colleagues in Medical Sciences and the wider teaching team the benefits of the case study approach and potential development areas. Secondly, there are other channels to share my practice more widely across the University such as the Annual Learning & Teaching Network Event and/or the Annual Academic Development Symposium.