Critical Thinking Strategies: Case Studies

Tamara, 26 years old
Dx of PID
Case studies are designed to promote dialog among students by offering opportunities to discuss real-life situations and nursing challenges in a safe environment. While cases often offer no concrete answers, they stimulate students' critical thinking, provide models of how to think professionally, and force students to use theoretical concepts to illuminate a practical problem (Dowd & Davidhizar, 1999).

Maloy & DeNatale (2001) suggest that educating nursing students using Internet technology, in conjunction with case
studies, is rewarding for both faculty and the learner. Online case study discussions shift to a learner-driven active learning model where the instructor is no longer the "storehouse of knowledge."

The first step in using the case study method is to select or write the cases you want to use in a particular module or course. You probably already know how to write case studies. If not, refer to Dailey (1992) for a systematic, seven-step process for case construction.

The next step is to prepare the case studies for web delivery. Web case study development can be technically simple or complex depending on your web development skills or resources. When you first start, simply convert one of the case studies you have been using in the classroom for the web, either by creating a web page or by linking to a word processing document.

If you do not have easy access to instructional development assistance and you want to build your own web page, you can find several online sources for web page development. You can even create your case study in a word processor and "save as" a web page. Follow your institutional policy for uploading documents to the web. You may want to request an instructional web site or you may request a course site via one of the course management systems (Blackboard, WebCT, etc.).

Students can work through case studies individually or in groups. Either way, feedback is important. You can prepare feedback and post it in the course space or e-mail it to the students. If students are responding to the case study questions by posting responses on a discussion board, they can get feedback from each other. You can emphasize important points or guide them in the right directions by posting hints or comments on the discussion board for all to see and consider.

Try it yourself:

  • Example 1: Imagine you are a first semester nursing student. You have completed a basic nursing skills course and physical assessment course. Work through this case study, which is part of the module on urinary elimination.

  • Example 2: Now, you are a third semester nursing student. You are completing the mood disorder module and come to this case study.


  • Dailey, M. A. (1992). Developing case studies. Nurse Educator, 17(3), 8-11.
  • Dowd, S.B. & Davidhizar, R. (1999). Using Case Studies to Teach Clinical Problem-Solving. Nurse Educator, 24(5), pp. 42-46.
  • Malloy, S.E. & DeNatale, M.L. (2001). Online Critical Thinking: A Case Study Analysis. Nurse Educator, 26(4),pp 191-197.
Critical Thinking Strategies
Online Quizzes 
Return to Web-Based Participation