The opening of a case method class can exert a powerful influence on the success of the session as a whole but there is significant interrelatedness and interdependency among class openings, transitions, and closings. 

Openings generate expectations for closings, and mini-summaries during transitions can provide takeaways that complement or substitute for elements in the closing. Instructors should consider the connections among these core elements of the class session when preparing teaching plans.

 A standard opening includes four parts:

This section will focus on the instructor opening. Please see Questioning, Listening, and Responding and Cold Calls for advice on the other parts of the opening call.

The instructor opening serves three objectives:

Provide Context and Connect

One of the most powerful elements of case method teaching comes from comparing and contrasting lessons and outcomes across multiple cases, which encourages students to think across cases and even outside the cases to identify broader archetypes and paradigms important to their education and future careers.

To frame the class, the instructor may find it helpful to include some or all of the following elements in the opening:

  • Linkages of the day's class to other cases or frameworks included in the current module or course more broadly
  • Core learning objectives for the class
  • Key contextual information related to the case (e.g. industry, company, and protagonist)
  • One or more "hooks" to heighten student engagement (see below)
Heighten Engagement

While preparing the case, it may be useful to develop one or more "hooks" to pique the curiosity of your students. It may be less important to “sell” a case about a well-known, exciting consumer product, as compared to a case on a relatively obscure company or a "boring" industry, but for all cases consider how you can raise student engagement by incorporating comments in the opening regarding:

  • Why this class/case is important to students both novice and expert
  • What the competing facts or theories are that would help create puzzles and highlight key tensions
  • How the case connects to current events or broader course themes
  • Why the case personally interests you as an academic or practitioner, and how it might relate to your work
Shape Discussion

Instructors may frame the class discussion through:

  • Making explicit the scope and direction. Some instructors do this by writing a brief agenda or roadmap on the board
  • ‘Setting the scene’ by using props, product samples, audio and video clips, or visual imagery (e.g. commercials, interviews, physical space images)
  • Contextualizing the opening question/cold call

In addition, the instructor should consider presence and delivery in the opening:


  • Speak slowly and project
  • Modulate tone and speed


  • Standing in a fixed spot (e.g. in front of the doc cam) can help focus student attention
  • Using dynamic body language (e.g., gesturing and nodding) can increase energy