Case Based Teaching

Facilitating Case Discussion: Preparing for the Case Discussion

Even for the experienced facilitator who feels he or she has “mastered” a case, the key to a great session remains preparation—especially of the questions that will be used to guide the discussion.

Common sense and educational research emphasize the importance of “knowing your learners.” In general, what level of knowledge and experience do the participants have? Who are they? What are their names? If possible, spend some time “exploring” what you can find out about your participants in advance. If it’s a group that you know, spend a few minutes reflecting on what you expect will happen in the session.

While facilitators of these cases should not be expected to be “experts” about the case topic, it does not mean the facilitator has no need to prepare the case materials and content. Interns who facilitated at our clinic site were often very nervous
about leading a group discussion for residents of all levels. However, since they did not have the content expertise, they were less tempted to revert to didactic style. Senior residents, fellows, and faculty, on the other hand, found it challenging to avoid falling into this trap.

Before the session, every facilitator should: a) review the goals for the case; b) review the case, facilitator guide, handouts, supplemental materials, and references; c) select and prepare individuals prior to beginning the session if the case involves role playing; d) gather any additional materials needed (e.g. state or institutional forms for child abuse reporting); and e) prepare a list of suggested questions for the case.

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