October 16, 2012
Promote active learning and critical thinking skills in STEM by teaching with case studies
Schools of medicine, law and business have a long tradition of assigning cases to help students learn critical concepts and apply them to real-world applications.
Cases can be used to structure class discussion of critical issues or they can be assigned as projects for small group structured learning activities (team learning, problem-based learning, and other types of collaborative learning). A well-written case study will introduce students to essential disciplinary content and concepts. Case studies require students to use disciplinary thinking skills to analyze and propose effective solutions to real-world problems. Thus, students get practice using critical thinking skills on problems that connect course content to important issues and problems they may encounter in current news.
If you are new to using case studies and unsure about how to write a good case study or structure a learning activity based on case studies, you can find an outstanding collection of peer-reviewed cases on the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS) web site (sponsored by the National Science Foundation). Case materials include the case handout (materials students receive when they begin the case study assignment), teaching notes (background material, suggestions for classroom management, discussion of critical learning outcomes for the case, and scholarly references), and an answer key or rubric to help instructors evaluate student work.
The NCCSTS collection includes analysis cases, dilemma/decision cases, cases that include discussions guided through clicker questions, cases for laboratory work, cases designed specifically for problem-based learning, guided discussions, debates, mock trials, jig-saw group learning activities, and role-play activities.
All cases archived on the NCCSTS site are peer reviewed. Faculty at UWF who develop their own case materials might consider submitting their work to NCCSTS as a component of their scholarship of teaching.
Visit the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science and search their collection peer-reviewed cases:
The data base is searchable by keyword, STEM discipline (identified as subject heading in the search engine menus), educational level (lower-division undergraduate, upper-division undergraduate, graduate, professional school, etc.), type of case, or topic area (ethics, scientific method, pseudoscience, social issues, legal issues, etc.).
Look under the Teaching Resources section to find publications, including downloadable PDF files with guidelines for writing and using case studies in teaching.
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