Teaching Materials Using Case Studies
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by Claire Davis and Elizabeth Wilcock
Why This Guide?
Teaching and learning styles are, by their very nature, changing and in recent years there has been a noticeable move from lecture-based activities towards more student-centred activities. Case studies are an increasingly popular form of teaching and have an important role in developing skills and knowledge in students. This guide explores the use of the case-based approach to support engineering education and, more specifically, their role in Materials Science related Higher Education courses. This will include looking at the 'traditional' Materials Science and Engineering courses as well as the more multidisciplinary courses (e.g. Biomedical Materials Science, Sports and Materials Science etc.). This guide highlights the good practice we have identified, and also discusses our experiences (both good and bad) of the adoption and implementation of this type of learning activity. We hope that by explaining our rationale for the adoption of case studies, and by discussing their development and structure, you will be encouraged to consider your own teaching methods and whether this approach, or aspects of it, is appropriate to you. At the end of the guide are 5 examples of case studies that illustrate some of the different topics discussed below. Perspective adopted
In this guide, we consider the topic of case studies in its entirety. We begin by outlining our reasons for incorporating case studies into the teaching syllabus and then look at different aspects of case studies, including subject choice and content development, running and structuring of case studies, and assessment methods. Good practice, and examples of ideas that have been tried and found wanting, are discussed. Gaining feedback on our case studies from both students and staff has been an important aspect of our research and this is also reviewed. What Is a Case Study?
It is now documented that students can learn more effectively when actively involved in the learning process (Bonwell and Eison, 1991; Sivan et al, 2001). The case study approach is one way in which such active learning strategies can be implemented in our institutions. There are a number of definitions for the term case study. For example, Fry et al (1999) describe case studies as complex examples which give an insight into the context of a problem as well as illustrating the main point. We define our case studies as student centred activities based on topics that demonstrate theoretical concepts in an applied setting. This definition of a case study covers the variety of different teaching structures we use, ranging from short individual case studies to longer group-based activities. Examples of different styles of case studies are given at the end of this guide. It is at this point that it is important to make a distinction between this type of learning and problem-based learning. The structure and format of our case studies can be likened to project-based learning as described by Savin-Baden (2003). Savin-Baden highlights the differences between problem-based learning and project-based learning and these can be summarised as follows: |Project-based Learning |Problem-Based Learning | |Predominantly task orientated with activity often set by tutor |Problems usually provided by staff but what and how they learn | | |defined by students | |Tutor supervises...
References: Bonwell C C and Eison J A (1991) Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom, ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1. The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development, Washington, DC.
Fry H, Ketteridge S and Marshall S (1999) A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Kogan Page, Glasgow, pp408
Grant R (1997) A Claim for the Case Method in the Teaching of Geography Journal of Geography in Higher Education Vol
Christensen C R (1981) Teaching and the Case Method; Text, Cases and Readings
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