Case Studies as a Teaching Aid

Case Studies as a Teaching Aid

  • Arya Vishwaroop
    Arya Vishwaroop

Introduction

Most students grasp better through examples rather than through theory or deductive reasoning. Case studies are a great resource that can be used to teach, as they are nothing but detailed examples that demonstrate the application of the concept being taught. Case studies are already very popular in the top b-schools around the world. With growing awareness in school education, more and more curriculums are designed to incorporate case studies, even in lower classes. For example, rather than learning the laws of inertia, students can be taught the principles using their application in day-to-day life. This will remove the fear of physics in the minds of students. The teachers can teach the concept through questions that apply to the situation rather than asking some abstract hypothetical questions.

Thus, complex and abstract concepts become easier for students to understand and remember through the use of case study examples.

Advantages of Using Case Studies in Class

One of the major advantages of using case studies in the classroom is that students become an active part of the learning process. It is no longer a one-way teaching process. It helps achieve the following:

Better Conceptual Clarity

Unlike in an instructor-led approach, students learn through application. This enables better conceptual clarity. Students also get to participate in the learning process, making it easier for them to realize their doubts and queries.

Development of a Problem-solving Attitude

Case study discussions involve solving questions based on the reading material. Thus, unlike the traditional learning process, where students listen to lectures and solve homework or assignments after going home, here students have to solve problems to understand a concept. This promotes the development of a problem-solving attitude in them.

Improved Decision-making Skills

In situation-based questions, students have to take decisions on the spot. This leads to improved decision-making ability, which is a practical skill needed to succeed in life.

Removal of the Fear of Complex Topics

Concepts and subjects seem difficult when they are taught in an abstract fashion. Case studies help connect topics to real life. This helps remove the fear of them in the minds of students.

Guidelines for Using Case Studies in Class

Though the usage of case studies might seem very attractive, it is not that easy to implement. As an instructor, you need to have a very systematic and planned approach to implementing it, in order to derive the best outcomes out of this process. It is recommended to use the following framework in general:

Classroom Setup

If possible, change the seating arrangement in your classroom to a circular or U-shaped arrangement. The open part of the U should face the board in the classroom. This allows all students to face each other and get a more real-life experience. This also allows you to navigate throughout the classroom easily. As an instructor, keep using the blackboard to jot down important points mentioned by students and to write a summary of the discussion at the end. Use visuals like a mind map to connect points. This way you can bring a structure to the entire exercise.

Ask Students to Read the Material

The focus while learning through case studies should be analysis and problem-solving. The precious time of the class duration should not be spent reading the printed material. Hence, it is very important that you plan the course curriculum and hand out the case studies in advance to all the students in the class. Every student in the class should come prepared for the class. This includes reading the text material, researching it, and if possible preparing the answers to the questions provided in the case study. This will ensure that the learning process is efficient and not just one-way.

Prepare a Set of Questions to be Asked in the Class

One of the important components of case study-based lessons is the series of questions used to solve it. Prepare a list of questions that can help cover all aspects of the concept involved in the case study. For example, if you are teaching the topic โ€˜Constitution of Indiaโ€™, involve various types of questions such as the application of constitutional principles, exceptions to the principles, dilemmas involved in solving complex cases, how the constitution is based on the principle of maintaining harmony in any group of people, etc.

Encourage Independent and Critical Thinking

A case study discussion is fruitful when rather than teaching students, you encourage them to think independently and naturally grasp a concept. Hence, it is important that rather than spoon-feed concepts, you encourage your students to think for themselves, ask questions, and think in a critical fashion. Encourage them to contest a thought that they do not agree with.

Suggested Read - How to Help Students Improve Critical Thinking Skills

Encourage More and More Students to Participate in Discussions

Case studies are intended to teach through thinking and discussions. To derive the maximum benefits for every student in the class, you should encourage active involvement from everyone. Especially, the shy students need to be encouraged to speak up. You can do this in various ways. For example, you can ask a few students to introduce the case study, some can summarize the discussion and some students can answer questions in turns.

Enhance the Discussion Using Different Engagement Methods

Teaching case study examples need not be boring. You can use techniques such as role-plays, voting, skits, debates, and more to make the discussions more lively and engaging.

Arrive at a Conclusion and Summarize the Learnings

While case study discussions can go on forever, it is important that as an instructor you summarize and consolidate the learnings from your students. This way the case study session will not end up being just a discussion but becomes a premise for conceptual understanding.

Conclusion

The case-based method acts as a bridge between theory and practice and promotes skills such as communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, and others. Though this method of teaching has its historical roots in instructor-led methods of the Socratic dialogue and cold-calling, it is possible to take a more learner-centered approach. For the same, you need to start by identifying the learning outcomes. Prepare the materials beforehand, establish a structure and ensure the class is in sync with your plan. With the right preparation, we are sure you will ace your next case-study-based class and drive excellent results for your students!