Case base learning: What the heck does that mean?

What is case based learning?

What is case based learning?
  • Case based learning is actively learning in groups
  • Promotes group interaction and discussion of case scenarios
Who is involved?
  • Tutor (s)
  • 6 to 8 medical learners
  • Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick (DMNB), UNBSJ Campus
  • First floor, Tutorial rooms
  • MED I - Clinical Units – Monday and Wednesday mornings
  • MED I – Professional Competency Unit – Tuesday morning
  • MED II – Clinical Units – Monday and Wednesday afternoons
  • MED II Professional Competency Unit– Tuesday afternoon
Typical Week Schedule - Med I and MED II (all units)


  • Promotes integration of prior and newly acquired knowledge
  • Development and improvement in problem solving skills and critical

Case based learning advantages

  • Opportunity to develop and maintain a strong learning community
  • Tutors and learners are able establish a professional rapport and build trust
  • Learners and Tutors work together as a group
  • Provides opportunity to model the process of solving medical problems which is the core activity of most physicians
  • Student centered discussion - allows the students to integrate knowledge gained while exploring the case

Role and expectations of the tutor

  • Arrives prepared for each tutorial discussion
  • Facilitates and encourages group discussion
  • Models professionalism
  • Manages the group dynamic along with the learners
  • Provides positive reinforcement to learners to promote learner engagement
  • Monitors, identifies, and communicates any issues with learner performance
  • Provide informal and formal feedback via assessment tool and verbal feedback
  • Completes and submits assessments to One45 in a timely manner
Does not!
  • Lecture
  • Have all/ share all the answers
  • Dominate discussion
  • Distract and digress focus from intended learning objectives and group discussion

Role and expectations of the learner


  • Arrives prepared for each tutorial discussion
  • Actively engage and participate within group discussions
  • Models professionalism
  • Take ownership and remain accountable for personal learning
  • Contribute comments, thoughts, and insight within the group discussions
  • Active questioning: pose questions to peers and Tutor
  • Seek out guidance and support from Tutor if required
  • Communicate with Tutor about areas of difficulty or struggles related to the cases
  • Identify topics requiring further discussion; seek out support and guidance
Does not!
  • Passive, inactive participation within group discussions
  • Monopolize discussions; share the stage with peers

Case base process and assessments

Tutorial Session:
  • Tutor and Learners come prepared to the case discussion, having already read the objectives and the details of the case.
  • Opportunity to familiarize themselves with the content, and explore some new topics prior to the group discussion
  • Tutor and Learner arrive well-­ prepared to contribute to the discussion
  • NOT reviewing and preparing for the case prior to the session will create challenges to
    keep up with and contribute to the discussion which could adversely affect the assessment of the student.
  • Cases are located on Dal’s Learning Management System (LMS) called Brightspace
  • Faculty and Learners are provided a NET ID prior to their roles
  • Contact the respective Curriculum Coordinator with questions related to cases:

Learner Assessment

Assessment dates: Assessment dates for formative and summative assessments are sent to Tutors in a document titled “Tutor Case Schedule”. This document is sent out by the Med I and Med II Curriculum coordinators in advance of the unit start date.
Sample Assessments: Clinical Units:

Professional Competency Units:

Scheduling Feedback and Assessment Conversations: Based on the Tutor Case schedule where assessment due dates are noted, please arrange a time with each learner individually for a feedback conversation. Ideally a private location if face to face, allot 15 to 20 minutes for the conversation, review notes you may have taken during tutorials, take time to prepare for the conversation and implement effective feedback strategies when speaking with your learner.

Module summary – Case base learning: What the heck does that mean?

  • Who, what, where, when and why of case-based learning
  • Roles: Tutor and Learner
  • Sample assessment forms
  • DMNB Curriculum Coordinator Contact information
  • Check in with learners early on and frequently