Assessment Design: types of assessment task

Case Study

What is it?

There are two possibilities under this heading: to use a case study which you or someone else has produced to demonstrate students’ ability to analyse information, or to ask students to produce a case study which could be used with their peers or with lower level groups. The choice will depend on the learning outcomes for the unit. The former type is more common and more controllable, but the latter allows for synthesis of the material used on the course and creativity – perhaps more suitable for levels 6 and 7.

Recommended levels:

3 – 7

Suitable for groups?


Things to think about

 Case studies of real or fictional situations require students to analyse situations in the context of academic theory and evaluate actual outcomes or make their own recommendations for action in that situation. You can base case studies on publicly available documents such as financial statements, court reports, historical records, medical reports, company policies, newspaper articles and so on, or you could make up realistic fictional versions. The most common outcome for case study activity is a report which reflects the way in which conclusions would be presented in a similar real situation. You could also add a short account which explains how they went about the task.

Asking students to prepare case studies of their own can be useful as it gives them insight into the range of information which needs to be collected and collated to get a full picture of a situation. You can take this a stage further by involving them in the use of the case studies with other groups. The main disadvantage of this type of assessment is that it may be difficult to predict and control the outcomes, which can make marking time-consuming or make the assignment stressful for students. This is the case for all open-ended or creative assignments, though, and both issues can be mitigated by providing clear guidance and assessment criteria.

Assignment length

In most cases, a realistic workplace style report will be requested for this kind of assignment, comprising an executive summary and then a report which reflects the number of students working on it and the credit rating of the unit.

Group work

Case studies lend themselves well to group work as it is possible for work to be divided up, either by individuals taking on roles which reflect those which might be adopted in real situations or by dividing up the research and analysis.

Plagiarism issues

If you use a new, topical case study each year then plagiarism is unlikely to be a problem. The potential can also be reduced by asking for regular short progress reports. You can use Turnitin for summative submissions, particularly if the case study has been used before or if it is a common subject.


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