The University of Western Australia

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Alternative Modes of Teaching and Learning

Alternative modes to delivery

Case Studies

Definition

Case studies are written summaries or syntheses of real-life cases that require students to tease out the key issues involved and to identify appropriate strategies for the resolution of the 'case'. Whereas a simulation or role play may require students to 'enact' or simulate the workings out of a particular problem, a case study only requires thinking through the issues. Case studies are most often used in law, social work, psychology, management, medicine and education.

The case study is in a sense a kind of simulation of a real-life situation in which the experience is secondhand and probably condensed. The important merit of the case study is that it allows a problem to be studied in a complex form, including elements of real-life events which it might be impossible to reproduce in the classroom. Typically the students are provided with case notes in advance and are expected to prepare their own solution to the problem or problems presented. Case studies open up opportunities for role play where it becomes necessary to shed light on particular encounters rather than general issues. In some ways, case studies have the edge on simulations in that students are not tempted to trivialize; there is, however, little of the sense of risk-free competition and personal involvement which appears to be an inherent part of games and simulations.
The main virtue of case studies is the way in which they can efficiently integrate a wide diversity of subject matter. (Jaques, 1994, p. 94)

Jaques, D.,Learning in Groups. 1994, Kogan Page Limited: London. p. 75 - 114.

Advantages

  • Provides users with the opportunity to tackle complex problems that can't be simulated in the classroom
  • Provides a condensation of multiple issues expressed through the one problem
  • Concretises the learning experience
  • Can be used in a group learning context
  • Can lead to role plays and simulations and other project work
  • Can be used to introduce new ideas or to refine them
  • Can be reused or applied in different situations

Disadvantages

  • Hard for the learner to engage with an abstraction of a real problem
  • May be confusing for some learners

Resources and References

Case Teaching in Higher Education

http://bestpractice.net

Gateway to Harvard Business School Publishing

http://www.hbsp.com/

IS World Net Page for Teaching and Learning

http://www.cba.bgsu.edu/amis/facstaff/
smagal/teaching/home.html

Teaching English as a Second of Foreign Language - Electronic Journal

http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/

TILT - Teaching with Independent Learning Technologies - University of Glasgow - home page

http://www.elec.gla.ac.uk/TILT/TILT.html

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