Engaged Learning Exercises

According to the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, “U-M’s working definition conceives of engaged learning as providing students with opportunities for practice in unscripted, authentic settings, where stakeholders (including the students themselves) are invested in the outcome.” This MSC component can be challenging to craft, and carries additional importance because it separates MSC from traditional online learning platforms. Student authors should work closely with their faculty advisor(s) to develop this component.

It is often helpful to use a backwards design approach. Rather than starting by identifying an activity to do, start by asking, ‘What should students know or be able to do as a result of using this case?’ Once the learning objectives have been identified, design an activity to reach those goals.

The list below is not meant to be comprehensive, only to provide a suite of ideas to draw upon when creating your engaged learning exercise. Note that activities described below are not mutually exclusive, and could be combined in creative ways. Think about choosing a structure for your engaged learning exercise that is meaningful for your case, and one which specifically addresses the concepts, skills, or theories that you want to develop with your students. More information about each activity is available by clicking on the links provided.

Connect to the World

Learn through community service

Service learning combines academic instruction with community service to teach civic responsibility and encourage meaningful reflection.

Do field work

Field work brings students out of the classroom and into the environment, where they can collect their own data, make observations, and solve tangible problems.

Perform an experiment

Experiments ask students to test a hypothesis or demonstrate a physical phenomenon.

Utilize campus and local resources

Expensive and time-consuming travel is not required! Examples and data from around your city and campus can make problems relatable and offer opportunities for data collection and analysis, problem solving, and investigation.

Take different viewpoints or explore viewpoint changes through time

Contrasting narratives examine an issue by considering different points of view or how perspectives have changed through time. Consider using both written narratives and other media such as visual art.

Quotations can be a useful tool for promoting discussion, critical thinking, and analysis. After opposing ideas have been presented and important concepts discussed, students are given a quotation they have not seen before and are asked to determine which position the person being quoted supports.

Quantitative Reasoning

Solve a mathematical problem in the context of the case.

Spreadsheets offer an opportunity to think through a quantitative problem without requiring time-consuming handwritten calculations. Additionally, spreadsheets can make a problem more tractable for those students without strong math skills.

Produce a written explanation of a quantitative analysis

Quantitative writing requires that students understand and apply concepts in order to work through a complex problem. Producing a written explanation of data or trends can be a powerful way for students to develop a deep understanding of the material and to connect ideas.

Assess quantitative claims related to the case

How are data used to advance different arguments within the case? Numbers, statistics, and claims can be analyzed, justified—or rejected.

Work with Real Data

Explore concepts using models.

Models are essential to science and help us understand complex, real-world systems.

Perform an Analysis

Make a choice using qualitative and quantitative methods.

  • Risk analysis attempts to quantify the probability of the occurrence of a hazard, and the characterization, communication, management, and policy related to that risk.
  • A cost-benefit analysis quantitatively considers the strengths and weaknesses of a proposed action.
  • Life cycle assessment examines a product’s environmental impact from cradle to grave.


Make visual art; write a poem, story, proposal, or exposition; build a product; design a plan; craft mock legislation.

  • Creating necessarily requires planning, problem solving, analysis, synthesis, and learning to manage failure.
  • Jigsaw group projects work by asking each student in a group to complete part of a project. The individual parts are then joined together to make a complete product. About jigsaw projects

Play Games

Illustrate a concept through carefully structured play.

  • Games can provide a fun way to convey an idea or to realize consequences. About using games

Discuss and Debate

Explore difficult questions using structured discussion

  • Small group discussions can encourage active participation from a greater number of students, particularly those who may be reluctant to speak up in a large class. Specific tasks can be given to individual students in a group to ensure maximum participation. Discussions can be as simple as asking students to address specific questions, or they may be structured in more complex ways.
  • Role playing requires students to act out a part and defend a point of view. About role play
  • Debates involve students taking opposite sides of an issue and arguing in support of their position. The opposing side is also given a chance to rebut the argument. About debates

Other Resources

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