CDTL    Publications     Mailing List     About Brief



Adopting learner-centred strategies has major implications for faculty and individual students. This issue of CDTL Brief on Learner-centred Teaching/Learning explores how certain learner-centred approaches may be adapted to improve student learning in various contexts.

April 2006, Vol. 9, No. 1 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Case-based Tutorials
Dr Ooi Thian Leong, Joseph
Department of Real Estate

Case study is an effective teaching and learning tool because it brings real life experience into the classroom. Learning to solve real world problems in the case studies helps develop students' ability to think critically and sharpen their decision-making skills.

In this article, I would like to share my experience in conducting case-based tutorials for an undergraduate module RE3381 "Real Estate Development 1". The ideas presented here are based on my personal experience as well as tips from texts on case teaching.

Case Selection and Preparation

First, I select appropriate real estate cases based on the lesson's objectives. Usually, the cases focus on issues in decision-making (e.g. Which site to acquire? How much to pay? Whether to enter into a joint venture? When is a good time to start the project? How to secure the finances and market the project?). To stimulate students' interest, the cases are based on actual real estate projects or prominent local developers that students can relate to.

For case-based learning to be effective, students need to be adequately prepared. Thus, the selected case is usually distributed to students at least three weeks before the tutorial. Students have to read the case and ponder over the decision issue/s on their own. In addition to individual preparation, students are encouraged to discuss the case with their peers before the tutorials.

Case Discussion and Role Play

At the beginning of each tutorial, I provide students with some background information on the case and highlight the learning objectives. I then set aside 30 minutes for students to ask questions arising from the case, assigned readings or lecture materials. This impromptu question and answer session gives me an opportunity to assess students' understanding of the key concepts and clarify their doubts.

I allocate a maximum of 60 minutes to the most engaging part of the tutorial-role play. Before the tutorial, a group of students will be pre-selected to lead the class discussion and present the relevant decision issues. During the case discussion, the selected group will play the role of the main character (i.e. the decision-maker) in the case, whilst the rest would assume other characters (e.g. the directors, board members, prospective clients, partners or investors). After the tutorial, the selected group is also responsible for writing a case summary of the main learning points and sharing it with the whole class.

Where possible, seats are arranged in a rectangle to facilitate face-to-face communication. In addition to the formal presentation, the pre-selected group has to defend their views and answer questions from their classmates. Role playing forces students to think on the spot and helps them develop communication, presentation and critical thinking skills. During the session, I deliberately restrain myself from participating in the discussion. Instead, I record the dynamics of the discussion by observing how many times each student speak during the session as well as the quality of his or her contributions.

At the conclusion of the role playing session, I will use the remaining 15-20 minutes to review the salient points raised in the discussion and give my feedback on the group's performance in terms of the contents of the presentation and their knowledge of the issues.

Charting the Dynamics of Class Participation

To give students a fair assessment of their class participation, I take attendance by noting where each student seats in the classroom at the start of each class. I then use the seating chart (see Figure 1) to record the dynamics of the class discussion. Every time a student contributes to the discussion, I will draw a line connecting that student's name to the previous student who spoke. I also add a star next to the student's name if he/she contributes a good point. At the end of each tutorial, I can count the number of times each student participated and assess the quality (i.e. how many stars) of each student's contribution (see Table 1). The charting method is also a good way for me to get to know the students by name.

Figure 1: Dynamics of a case discussion

Table 1: A sample summary (based on Figure 1) of the number of contributions each student made and the quality of each student’s contribution

Student’s Name
Quality (*)

Students' Feedback

The common student feedback on case-based tutorials is that such a teaching method makes the theories come alive in the classroom. Not only do case-based tutorial sessions stimulate students' interest in the subject, they also facilitate higher learning outcomes such as analytical skills and critical thinking. The following are some positive feedback from students:

  • "The cases allowed us to have hands-on practice in analysing issues. They provoked us to evaluate issues at higher level and understand some of the problems and constraints in the real world."

  • "The tutorials are highly interactive; a group is selected to present and lead the discussion instead of the tutor. Though this approach is pretty new to me, it helps me to think more independently instead of waiting to be spoon-fed with the 'correct' answers. The tutorials have no doubt encouraged and moulded us to be independent thinkers and good presenters."

  • "We are drawn into a complex case that seems to have more questions than answers. In fact, the greatest lesson I learnt was how to ask the right questions. It is only by asking important questions that we can analyse a case critically."

  • "It challenges me to think from various view points which are sometimes conflicting. I guess that's what real life is about-conflicts and the birth of new ideas."


Erskine, J.A.; Leenders, M.R. & Mauffette-Lenders, L.A. (1998). Teaching with Cases. Ontario: Richard Ivey School of Business.

Mauffette-Lenders, L.A.; Erskine, J.A. & Leenders, M.R. (1997). Learning with Cases. Ontario: Richard Ivey School of Business.

Sagalyn, L.B. (2002). Cases in Real Estate Finance and Investment Strategy. Washington D.C.: Urban Land Institute.

 First Look articles

Search in
Email the Editor
Inside this issue
‘Divide and Conquer’: Breaking a Big Class into Small Teams for Tutorials
Teaching Patient-centred Care in the Community
Case-based Tutorials
Learner-centred Practices and the Necessary Changes
The Philetics of Teaching
Teaching Students with Different Learning Styles
Student-led Tutorials