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Teaching with Case Studies

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Teaching with Case Studies
Joe Bandy
Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching
Affiliated Faculty in Sociology
The Melian Dialogue
• What did you notice about our discussion of
the Melian case?
One Word Student Reflections
Enigma, collaborative, interesting, pressed,
inventive, wow, provoking, pessimistic,
frustration, proud, difficult, helpless,
idealistic, catch-22, resist, struggle, liberation,
reality, confusion, courage, bravery,
enlightening, intriguing, illuminating,
wondrous, awkward, overwhelming,
unsolvable, enthralling, unfinished, ambitious,
intense, infinite, complex, exciting,
invigorating, refreshing, intimidating,
uncomfortable, thoughtful, fun, touching,
intractable, inspiring, sad
Defining Case Studies
Complex, real world scenarios
Supporting information
Open-ended problems
Prompts and questions
Defining Case Studies
• Focus
– Descriptive or illustrative
– Decision or action oriented
– Debates
– Simulations or games
• Lengths
– Long form narratives or simulations
– Short-form cases
– Minicases
– Bullet cases
Bloom’s Taxonomy, revised
Affective learning
Responsibility for learning
Oral presentation
Authentic & Engaging Problems
Inquiry based learning
“…careful inspection of methods which are permanently
successful in formal education… will reveal that they depend for
their efficiency upon the fact that they go back to the type of
situation which causes reflection out of school in ordinary life….
They give the pupil something to do, not something to learn, and
the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking.”
John Dewey, Democracy and Education. 1916
Active, social learning
“…the students strive to resolve questions that have no
single right answer. Their differing views and
approaches produce a creative tension that fuels the
enterprise and a synergistic outcome that both
recognizes and exceeds their individual contributions.
In their effort to find solutions and reach decisions
through discussion, they sort out factual data, apply
analytical tools, articulate issues, reflect on their
relevant experience, and draw conclusions they can
carry forward to new situations.
– Boehrer, J. and M. Linsky. “Teaching with Cases:
Learning to Question.” In M.D. Svinicki (ed.), The
Changing Face of College
Passive Learning
Active Learning
Receive ideas
Offer ideas
Answer questions
Raise questions
Hearing analyses
Making analyses
Examining texts
Engaging texts
Accepting assumptions
Challenging assumptions
Faculty-Student dialogue
Student-Student dialogue
Faculty locus
Student locus
Case Teaching Methods
• Clarify objectives
• Plan and Prepare
• Organize discussion
– Small teams
– Clear project goals
– Clear roles
– Clear schedule for writing, presentations
Case Teaching Methods
• Discussion
– Disclose context
– Questioning to explore relevant angles
• Analysis of the problem
• Application of theory
Listening carefully, paraphrasing
Capturing positions and suggested actions
Clarification of debates - differences, compromises
Next steps for research, discussion, action
Case Teaching Methods
• Writing cases
Backwards design
Open ended, no one right answer
Presents enough information for analysis
Presents, not evaluates problem
Allows for multiple realistic positions
Use and edit
• Student cases
– Experience with cases in class
– Heightens benefits of case teaching
– Best cases
Case Sites
• Science
– National Center for Case Study Teaching in
• Engineering and Material Sciences
– Online Ethics Center for Engineering and
– UK Centre for Materials Education
• Business
– Harvard Business School
– University of Washington, Evans School of
Public Affairs
Case Sites
• Political Science or Policy
– Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government,
Case Studies in Public Policy & Management
– McGill University Peacebuilding Simulation
– University of Washington, Evans School of Public Affairs
• Other social sciences
– Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government,
Case Studies in Public Policy & Management
– University of California, Santa Barbara Case List
• History
– Women in World History, Teaching Case Studies
• Multiculturalism and diversity
– Online Ethics Center
– U of Minnesota, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs,
Center on Women and Public Policy
Think of a course and a potential lesson for
which you might like to teach a case study.
What benefits and challenges do you foresee?
If you already teach using the case method,
how might you enhance your use of it?
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