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Making the Case for Unfacilitated Case Discussion: How Students Make Meaning of Case Studies

Ask almost any case teacher, and they’ll tell you that guided discussion makes or breaks a case study experience. Well, anyone but Charlie Nesson.

Professor Nesson unveiled a new case discussion method in his residential and online courses on the American Jury (taught at Harvard Law School, Harvard Extension School, and HarvardX): participants read the case, receive a stimulus question, and convene in unfacilitated “jury” deliberation groups, with the task of reaching a unanimous verdict. There is no right answer, no right process. Only the urgency to make headway and break impasses—or the spontaneous leadership of a participant—will move the conversation forward. In some sense, it is the simplest of role plays: be yourself, as citizen. Read more...

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Discussion-based case studies on sexual assault in higher education:
Discussion-based case studies on organized crime: Role Play Teaching Note:
Keys to Facilitating Successful
Student Group Work 

     Working in teams is an important part of being an effective learner and employee, yet students from high school through professional schools tend to groan when teachers assign a team project.  How can teachers foster positive attitudes before, during and after group experiences?
     â€œIt’s not about loving the group work; it’s about developing the skills,” said Dr. Maryellen Weimer, professor emerita at Penn State Berks and the keynote speaker at the 2015 spring seminar of Simmons College’s Center for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Weimer, a renowned authority on effective college teaching, presented on successful methods for encouraging effective student group work. She said that although professors typically encourage their students to be “self-directed learners” (rather than “groupies,” who depend on others to learn), educators still must cultivate rewarding group experiences so that students can be productive in a variety of educational and professional scenarios. Read more...

Is Your Case Teaching Learner-Centered?
It's Harder Than You Think

     It might seem self-evident that teaching is learner-centered, but the traditional lecture and rote memorization model actually doesn’t put students first.  To address this issue, Dr. Maryellen Weimer wrote Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. Dr. Weimer, professor emerita at Penn State Berks and 2015 keynote and guest presenter at Simmons College’s Center for Excellence in Teaching spring seminar uses innovative teaching practices to develop students’ independence and empower them to take responsibility for their own learning.
     During her presentation at Simmons College, Dr. Weimer, who has been described as â€œone of the nation’s most highly-regarded authorities on effective college teaching,” explained the five characteristics of learner-centered teaching: Read more...

Spotlight on JuryX:
An Online Case-Based Course
Talking about the Elephant in the Room:
How to Create a Safe Space for
Online Case Discussion
Some case discussion groups have the luxury of preexisting rapport, having already achieved affiliation and understanding. But for ad hoc or online case discussion, case-based learners may find it difficult to share honest opinions, making it hard to reach collective understanding on sensitive issues.
Professor Charles Nesson has developed an exercise to tackle the Elephant in the Room. This activity, designed for Nesson’s JuryX MOOC but replicable in other in-person and online settings, plays with the spectrum of privacy to broach sensitive and personal issues at a supportive pace. Read full article...
New MOOC Blends Multimedia Case Studies and Synchronous Online Participation
The Jury Is In:
New Cases Deliberate Social Issues in Cyberspace

A new suite of free workshop-based case studies convenes participants in juries to deliberate important social issues of our time. Designed for Professor Charles Nesson’s HarvardX online course, JuryX: Deliberations for Social Change, these multimedia case studies include first-hand footage of current events, interviews with key players in the cases, and commentary from Professor Nesson. Participants are challenged to examine and rethink the concept of jury, as well as to be active participants in the deliberative process. Read full article...
For more information, or to discuss how to adapt our case studies for your academic or professional education needs, contact Lisa Brem, Case Studies Program Manager, at
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