are Case Studies?
studies are stories or scenarios, often in narrative form, created
and used as a tool for analysis and discussion. They have a long
tradition of use in higher education particularly in business and
law. Cases are often based on actual events which adds a sense of
urgency or reality. Case studies have elements of simulations but
the students are observers rather than participants. A good case
has sufficient detail to necessitate research and to stimulate analysis
from a variety of viewpoints or perspectives. They place the learner
in the position of problem solver. Students become actively engaged
in the materials discovering underlying issues, dilemmas and conflict
content will usually reflect the purposes of the course. A history
class might examine the European geopolitical situation that impacted
the Quebec Act of 1760. A french class may look at issues around
teaching english to spanish speaking kids in southern California.
A media studies class could consider the factors in debating the
cancellation of a television program. A biology class may investigate
the ethics of stem cell research.
is its purpose?
as a teaching tool, case studies are tools for engaging students
in research and reflective discussion. Higher order thinking is
encouraged. Solutions to cases may be ambiguous and facilitate creative
problem solving coupled with an application of previously acquired
skills. They are effective devices for directing students to practically
apply their skills and understandings. A proponent of case use,
Prof. John Boehrer, states that cases move "much of the responsibility
for learning from the teacher on to the student, whose role, as
a result, shifts away from passive absorption toward active construction"
Students learn to identify delineate between critical and extraneous
factors and develop realistic solutions to complex problems.They
have the opportunity to learn from on another. For teachers, it
offers an opportunity to provide instruction while conducting formative
do I do it?
studies are suitable for most curricula where students would benefit
from the application of learned facts to a real world situation.
It is particularly useful where situations are complex and solutions
are uncertain. Cases can serve as the basis for a class discussion
or as a project for individuals or small groups. A single case may
be presented to several groups with an expectation of each groups
solutions presented at some date. Alternatively a scenario may be
presented as a launching pad for a discussion.
resource page (link below) for guides and materials.
can I adapt it?
aspects of case studies are found in all grade levels, the cognitive
goals of the activity are best mated to students who are abstract
thinkers. Using a Piagetian position then, the activity is best
suited for middle years and older students. Case studies bridge
the gap between the very teacher centred lecture method and pure
problem based learning. Room is left with cases for teachers to
provide direct guidance and the scenarios themselves provide hints
and parameters within which the students must operate.
and Evaluation Considerations
resolution to a case is only the last component in a process. Assessment
should be based on the teacher's pre stated objectives. Aspects
for observation and evaluation can include:
issues in written material
feasiblity of solutions presented
of consideration of all case factors
studies may be resolved in more than one manner.
link to Case Study Resources will
take you to a page offering a collection of materials and websites
to aid in the development of your own cases