Case study findings
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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. 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. 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. 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. It is at this point that it is important to make a distinction between this type of learning and problem-based learning. In practice there is overlap between the two teaching modes and we should not worry too much about clear distinctions. Many of the discussion points in this guide will be relevant to both case studies and problem-based learning topics.
Why Use Case Studies in Teaching? The discipline of Materials Science and Engineering is ideal for using case study teaching because of the wealth of practical, real life examples that can be used to contextualise the theoretical concepts. Educational research has shown case studies to be useful pedagogical tools. Allow the application of theoretical concepts to be demonstrated, thus bridging the gap between theory and practice. Provide an opportunity for the development of key skills such as communication, group working and problem solving.
Increase the students’ enjoyment of the topic and hence their desire to learn. Most courses already have some case study teaching in them and we have introduced a greater extent of case-based approach in all of our courses for the above reasons. Well, it’s real stuff isn’t it? Otherwise you can feel like you’re just doing something for the sake of it.
When you do a case study you go out and find information that is being used in real life. It’s something different where you actually apply case study findings you’re learning. Did We Find It Hard to Introduce Case Studies Into Our Teaching? In our experience, an important factor in the introduction of case studies into a course is the style or structure of the course itself.
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Some lecturers had been teaching their modules for a long time and were reluctant to change the tried and tested formula. Others, however, were keen to experiment with different types of learning as opposed to the traditional ‘talk and chalk’ method. Those who were open to new types of teaching were generally more involved in the planning and teaching of the newer courses. Where case studies have been included in the place of lectures and practicals covering similar topic areas in our traditional courses, we initially did not replace sufficient existing time-tabled teaching to allow for students to carry out background reading and additional research. We have found it easier to increase the number of cases running in our courses in a gradual manner as we identify the resources, time and support that is needed. How Do You Develop a Case Study?
There are a number of ways to develop case studies, some more successful than others. The following list covers the main methods and also discusses other options and experiences external to our institution. Developing a case study based on the research interests of staff. Requesting students to develop case studies based on personal interests. However, problems may arise when trying to involve students. This approach may involve contacting or visiting other institutions to find out what methods and topics they are using. Invite external lecturers, for example from industry, to develop, or contribute to, a case study.
Involving external sources can add new dimensions to the learning activity. One of our case studies looks at materials used in tennis equipment and we invite a tennis coach to brief the students on the topic at the start of the case study. This has been well received by the students who felt it added further insights into the topic. Developing a case study to replace more traditional teaching on the same topic. The topics covered in this case study were previously taught through lectures. We decided to adapt this part of the module to a team case study approach that is continuously assessed with no examination question. Use of Case Studies to Develop Key Skills We have found the case-based approach to be a useful method to develop transferable skills.
The benefits of group working are well documented, and we have found that a team case study approach can add to the learning experience. Care is needed with group working activities e. Many case studies require resource investigation and encourage students to utilise a number of different sources, i. Internet, library, laboratory results and contacting experts in industry. Longer case studies require students to really consider how best to carry out the work so that it is completed to the set deadline.
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