The paper reports a study for determining a suitable process for converting traditional surface science courses into case-based learning ones in two universities in Hong Kong. In this preparative study, a set of baseline data was collected on the current level of students' conceptual understanding and also students' perceptions about the traditional courses. The student data (from 38 students) came from examination results, the Study Process Questionnaire, a course-end survey and a focus group meeting, teachers also kept reflective journals. This set of baseline data revealed factors that both support and inhibit case-based learning. On the one hand, students demonstrate a motivation to be able to solve practical problems in this field; on the other hand, they show an unwillingness to take up a personal responsibility for learning. This finding strengthens our resolve to take into account students' expectations and beliefs in the implementation of case-based teaching and learning.
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