Case studies support authentic, active learning experiences centered around real world situations that present an account of a particular set of circumstances for learners to engage with. Case studies can be fact-driven, requiring deductive Reasoning to reach a correct answer or context-driven with multiple reasonable solutions. Case-based learning allows learners to investigate and discuss real-life problems from multiple perspectives, which promotes critical thinking, a part of Problem Solving, Cognitive Flexibility, and Motivation. Instructors and learning experience designers have the opportunity to introduce concepts of diversity and inclusion connected to real-life cases, which can foster cultural intelligence.
Case studies are most effective with adult learners when paired with experiential learning and discourse centered around critical thinking and multiple perspectives. Common tools used for case studies include newspaper articles, essays, medical files, legal cases, and business cases presented as text, audio, and/or video.
Instructors can bring abstract concepts to life and make theories coherent, meaningful, and memorable through cases. Case-based learning provides ways to deepen conversations, prompt new questions and perspectives, make connections, and open minds to diversity. To foster intrinsic Motivation, interest, relevance, and self-directed learning, instructors could provide a selection of cases from which to choose. Alternatively, the learners could locate a case study or create one themselves that exemplifies an idea, concept, or theory.
Characteristics of highly effective cases include a clear focus, enough data to make the case comprehensible, details that could be used as evidence, perspectives of various stakeholders, an element of mystery or controversy, depth requiring analysis, and an opportunity for learners to generate new insights. Effective use of case-based learning provokes rich discussion and helps deepen learners' awareness of their diverse community of learners.
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