CASE STUDIES have a long history in business, law, and medical education. Their use in science education, however, is relatively recent. In our 20 years of working with the method, we have found it to be a powerful pedagogical technique for teaching science. Cases can be used not only to teach scientific concepts and content, but also process skills and critical thinking. And since many of the best cases are based on contemporary, and often contentious, science problems that students encounter in the news, the use of cases in the classroom makes science relevant.
We have also found the method to be extraordinarily flexible. We have seen it used as the core of entire courses or for single experiences in otherwise traditional lecture and lab courses. Moreover, cases can be presented in a variety of formats and taught in a variety of ways, ranging from the classical discussion method used in business and law schools to Problem-Based Learning and Team Learning, with their emphasis on small-group, cooperative learning strategies.
The mission of the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science at the University at Buffalo is to promote the development and dissemination of materials and practices for case teaching in the sciences. Our website provides access to an award-winning collection of peer-reviewed case studies. We offer a five-day summer workshop and a two-day fall conference to train faculty in the case method of teaching science. In addition, we are actively engaged in educational research to assess the impact of the case method on student learning.
Our work over the years has been generously supported by the National Science Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the U.S. Department of Education.