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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. 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 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 Mini case studies in management, ; Sivan et al, 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 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.
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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 Savin-Baden highlights the differences between problem-based learning and project-based learning and these can be summarised as follows: Project-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 Tutor facilitates Students are required to produce a solution or strategy to solve the problem Solving the problem may be part of the process but the focus is on problem-management, not on a clear and bounded solution May include supporting lectures which equip students to undertake activity, otherwise students expected to draw upon knowledge from previous lectures Lectures not usually used on the basis that students are expected to define the required knowledge needed to solve the problem Table 1: Differences and similarities between project-based learning similar in structure to case study 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.
Grant outlines the benefits of using case studies as an interactive learning strategy, shifting the emphasis from teacher-centred to more student-centred activities. Raju and Sanker demonstrate the importance of using case studies in engineering education to expose students to real-world issues with which they may be faced.
Case studies have also been linked with increased student motivation and interest in a subject Mustoe and Croft, In our experience of using case studies, we have found that they can be used to: 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. 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.
When you do a case study you go out and find information that is being used in real life. In our experience, an important factor in the introduction of case studies into a course is the style or structure of the course itself.
We offer a number of separate courses in our department and have recognised that they fall into two distinct types defined here as Type I and Type II.Read all customer case studies and success stories, powered by the AWS cloud.
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