Professional Reflections on “Why Should We Use Case Studies in the Classroom?”

Supatra Pradubpongse, Ed.D., Faculty of Education, Rangsit University  
Case studies have been recognized as  an effective learning tool in various disciplines, such as medicine, business, law, science, mathematics, and education, to name but a few.  The increasing use of case studies as a learning tool has stemmed from its provision of opportunities for engaging students in analyzing and solving problems.  Particularly, students working in groups on case studies will be able to help each other develop their understanding and interpersonal skills needed for effective group work.  Cases also help students apply their knowledge and principles to real experiences.
Potentiality of cases has been emphasized in a number of previous studies in the field of education. Quite a few researchers have reported interesting findings on case study benefits, particularly cognitive skills in an analytical mode, decision making and independent thinking (Cameron et al, 2012), problem solving skills and discussion (Chaplin, 2009; Yoon et al, 2006; Latthasaksiri, 2016)  and enhanced analytical thinking skills (Kunpol, 2014),  critical thinking skills (Popil, 2011; Iqbal & Rubab, 2012; Gallego et al, 2013). Some other studies pointed to affective benefits for students  to increase their motivation and interest in learning (Koç, 2011; Ayyildiz & Tarhan, 2012; Casotti et al, 2013) as well as their self-confidence (Cameron et al, 2012). Moreover, students would be engaged  in the learning process as active learners (Yadav et al. , 2010). 
As reported in the literature on case studies aforementioned, those researchers covered a wide range of problems created for analysis. Cases generally deal with real or daily life events, often involving complex issues, conflicts, or problems to be resolved, or requiring logical decision making.  Case studies in fact serve as a form of problem-based learning on a problem or situation with relevant case background;  students  are assigned to work in small groups to seek out relevant information for group analysis or discussion for a practical solution.  
Using case studies in the classroom is a challenge to both the teacher and students in class discussion that in turn prompts  the latter’s  participation in support of their thinking process. As known, quite a few course instructors are more likely to develop their own cases related to their subjects.  Though rather time consuming, cases can be designed with specifications pertinent to the target discipline and learning outcomes.  
Kunpol (2014) showed a good example of creating 30 mathematics cases for Primary  6 students at Satit Bilingual School of Rangsit University (SBS).  The researcher  covered her case design and construction by integrating  a wide range of mathematical  problems based on real or daily life events; such as, Thailand’s Damaging Floods in 2011, Building Public Parks in Lak Hok Manicipal Area, How Students Make Buying Decisions at Supermarkets, and SBS Yard Sale, to name but a few topics. The researcher gave her students  opportunities to  analyze  real-life situations  and apply relevant math formulas for practical solutions to the given cases.  The learning outcomes on students’ analytical thinking skills were at a high level; the tasks included matching, classifying, analyzing errors, generalizing, and specifying a steady increase in the given learning period.  The students became enthusiastic with their attempts at applying math formulas to real-life situations.  They were able to see for themselves the relevance of mathematics to their daily life rather than a mode of abstraction in thinking. 
From the author’s point of view, this type of learning can greatly engage students in their learning process, and thus motivate them to develop analytical thinking and other higher-level thinking skills, if desired.  From my past communications with my colleagues in business administration who used case studies in their undergraduate teaching, they agreed upon cognitive and affective benefits for their students.  They recognized the importance of case studies as relevant to students’ prior knowledge and experience. Lack or insufficiency of relevancy in given cases might result in students not being engaged in class discussion or challenged to find a well-justified solution. It should be noted that case study creation truly requires excellent knowledge, superb reasoning and questioning skills from one who wants to attempt case-study design and writing up.
In conclusion, case studies though somewhat difficult to create, have benefits in helping students develop their high-order thinking ability. In addition, small group discussion can engage students in sharing their learning experience and problem-solving skills for a specific purpose on the target learning outcome—be it a solution, a recommendation, or a justified plan with facts or concrete/ predicted evidence as required in the given case. Moreover, case studies have wide applications in various disciplines as seen fit by the teacher or course instructor from the secondary to tertiary levels of education.
The Author
Supatra Pradubpongse, Ed. D. is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research and a staff member of the Doctoral Program in Educational Studies at the Faculty of Education, Rangsit University.  Her past research dealt with Educational Technology, Educational Leadership, and Thinking Skills Development. 
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Ayyildiz, Y.,  & Tarhan, L.  (2012).   Effect of case studies on primary school teaching students’ attitudes towards chemistry lesson.   Hacettepe University Journal of Education, 43, 62-70. 
Cameron, A.F., Trudel, M.C., Titah, R., & Léger, P.M.  (2012).  The live teaching case: A new IS method and its application.   Journal of Information Technology Education:  Research, 11,  27-41.
Casotti, G.,  Beneski, J.T.,  & Knabb, M. T. (2013).  Teaching physiology online:  Successful use of case studies in a graduate course.  Advance in Physiology Education, 37, 65-69.
Chaplin, S.  (2009).  Assessment of the impact of case studies on student learning gains in an introductory biology course.  Journal of College Science Teaching, 39, 72-79.
Gallego, A.,  Fortunato,  M.S., Rossi, S. L.,  Korol, S.E., & Moretton, J. A.  (2013).  Case method in the teaching of food safety.  Journal of Food Science  Education,  12,  42-47.
Iqbal, N., & Rubbab, H.   (2012).  Teaching pediatrics nursing care to second year nursing students using case study method.  Medical Channel, 12(1), 13-16.
Koç, M. (2011).  Let’s make a movie:  Investigating pre-service teachers’ reflections on using video recorded role playing cases in Turkey.  Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(1), 95-106.
Kunpol, S.  (2014).   Development of mathematics learning process that integrates collaborative learning with case study method learning for enhancement analytical thinking skills of  Prathomsuksa 6 students at Satit Bilingual School of Rangsit University in Pathumthani Province.  The Golden Teak:  Humanity and Social Science, 20(2.4),  35-46.
Latthasaksiri, N.  (2016).  The development of training program to enhance problem 
solving and decision making skills for supervisors of the ISUZU Service Center of the Automotive Industry in Eastern Thailand.   Journal of Education and Social Development, 11(2), 235-246
Popil, L.  (2011).  Promotion of critical thinking by using case studies as teaching method.  Nurse Education Today, 31, 204-207.
Yadav, A., Shaver, G.M., & Meckl, P.  (2010).   Lessons learned:  Implementing the case teaching method in a mechanical engineering course.  Journal of Engineering Education, 99(1),  55-69.
Yoon, S., Pedretti, E., Bencze, L., Hewitt, J., Perris, K. & Van Oostveen, R.  (2006).  Exploring the use of cases and case methods in influencing elementary preservice  science teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs.  Journal of Science Teacher Education, 17, 13-15.