Teaching History via the Case Method

Have you ever used the case method to teach history?  If not, you may be wondering what it is.  Based on the Harvard Business School case studies of issues that businesses face, it is an immersive way of studying a moment in time.

According to Christine Gross-Loh writing at The Atlantic:

The case method goes beyond historical skills and factual content; it aims to hone decision-making skills. Each case is a concentrated story about a specific episode in history. … It’s not until after they have fully discussed the case that the historical outcome is revealed to them.

The goal is a lively class discussion of options.  The suspense helps feed class participation, and the story-telling qualities help kids put facts in context.  And by using this method more than once, kids get practice in decision-making — helping them to develop judgment.

And that, in turn, helps foster democratic values.  One teacher quoted in the article put it like this: democracy “is not a machine built to specification.”  By experiencing its complexity, students train the skills they’ll need as adults.

If you’re interested in using the case study method in your classroom, you can refer to the teachers in the article, or you can develop your own.  Harvard Business School defines a case as

A case is a description of a management situation. Most cases range in length from two to twenty-five pages of text and exhibits; the latter often present quantitative material. So-called field cases are largely based on data provided by the organization that is the focus of the case. Library cases are drawn from published material in the public domain. A case is not written to illustrate correct or incorrect handling of an administrative situation, nor is there an editorial bias that implies a particular conclusion.

With that definition in mind, create a case study on something you’ve been studying this semester.  And remember, you can always use WorldView Software’s line of programs as a starting point for your research!


BulbgraphOnOffClicking on a hyperlinked person’s name brings up their biography. For example, Document: Gettysburg Address in American History I links to Lincoln’s bio.

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akamran2014

Dr. Annelies Kamran is Senior Editor at WorldView Software, Inc.

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