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Using a story with a carefully arranged set of facts to stimulate critical thinking.
The "case study method" is a time-tested method of instruction in which students are given a detailed story about a certain situation and then must discuss the best way to proceed in that situation. The details of the case and the circumstances they describe are carefully chosen by the instructor to maximize opportunities for students to apply course content in their discussion of the case.
Using the metaphor of a library, Kolodner and Guzdial (2000) propose that we "index" the episodes of our experience, and -- when trying to interpret new experiences--review that index for cases from our experience that seem most like the present circumstances. For this reason, some believe the case method to be among the instructional methods best-suited to how we actually learn.
Traditionally, the case study method differs from problem-based learning in that students are usually given all the details of a case at the outset--including the outcome of the event--and discussion focuses on decisions that were made across the course of the case. In problem-based learning there may or may not be an actual outcome to give to students, and details can be delivered sequentially to students, as they make their own decisions along the way.
Brown (2005) noted that students benefit greatly from case study methodology. Herreid (2006) found that the use of case studies in large classes improved attendance, increased students’ grades, and increased scores on exam questions that tapped critical thinking skills. Dori, Tal, and Tsaushu (2003) found that using case studies improved critical thinking skills, especially for lower achieving students. In a large scale survey of college instructors, Yadav et al. (2008) found that case study instruction improved critical thinking skills, that students developed a deeper understanding of course material, and allowed students to see issues from multiple perspectives.
Barnes, Christensen and Hansen (1994, pp. 47-48) identified five fundamental principles underlying case method instruction:
At its simplest, teaching with the case method involves having students read about or watch materials related to case and then discussing what happened, why it happened, what else perhaps should have happened, and so on. Obviously, choosing a good case will make for a better instructional experience, and some teachers have found that choosing cases for specific reasons works best for their course. Some find cases in unexpected but nonetheless very educational places
Though there are many cases and case banks out there, sometimes teachers take the time to write their own cases and have even tapped into their students’ creative energies and asked students to learn everything necessary to write good cases themselves.
Brown, D. (2005, March). How the case study method of instruction employs critical thinking to facilitate learning. Inquiry: Critical thinking across the disciplines, 24(3), 37-40.
Dori, Y.J., Tal, R.T., & Tsaushu, M. (2003). Teaching biotechnology through case studies: Can we improve higher order thinking skills of nonscience majors? Science Education, 87(6), 767-793.
Finney, S., & Pyke, J. (2008). Content relevance in case-study teaching: The alumni connection and its effect on student motivation. Journal of Education for Business, 83(5), 251-257.
Herreid, C.F. (2006). Clicker cases: Introducing case study teaching into large classrooms. Journal of College Science Teaching, 36(2), 43-47.
Kolodner, J.L., & Guzdial, M. (2000). Theory and practice of case-based learning aids. In Jonassen, D.S. & Land, M.S. (Eds.),Theoretical foundations of learning environments. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Yadav, A., Lundeberg, M., DeSchryver, M., Dirkin, K., Schiller, N.A., Maier, K., & Herreid, C.F. (2008). Teaching science with case studies: A national survey of faculty perceptions of the benefits and challenges of using cases. The Journal of College Science Teaching, 37(1), 34-38.