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Clyde Freeman Herreid
Department of Biological Sciences
University at Buffalo
A Case of Cheating? 

This case is based upon a real experience. It is written as an exercise for faculty to discuss, perhaps in a brown bag seminar at lunch time. In many ways it represents a rather common type of problem, cheating—what to do about it and how to prevent it. What makes the case more interesting is the cultural questions it raises and the issues associated with the use of peer evaluation and cooperative learning strategies in general.

A Need for Needles - Acupuncture: Does it Really Work?

In this case study, students evaluate information about the use of acupuncture and consider the possibilities of alternative therapies while at the same time questioning their effectiveness. To complete the case, students collect information from Internet sources and journal publications from both a "pro" and "con" point of view, with an emphasis on carefully evaluating the credibility of the information they collect. The case would be suitable for introductory level courses in biology and science.

A Search for the Right Answer: Fetal Tissue Research and Parkinson's Disease

In this role-playing case study on Parkinson’s disease, students learn about brain injury and brain repair mechanisms, the physical and psychological effects of a degenerative disease on a patient and her family, the ethics of fetal tissue research, and the sociological implications of an aging population. The case has been used in a "Great Discoveries in Science" non-majors’ course for juniors and seniors as well as in a seminar in neuroscience for University Honors freshmen and sophomores.

A Word to the Wise: Advising Freshmen

Freshmen frequently struggle with major decisions both inside and outside of school. Even if they have required advisement sessions, they do not always know what questions to ask and what information to share with an advisor. This is true even for many science students who think they have certain career goals and a clearly delineated set of requirements. This case was designed to sharpen freshmen honors students’ understanding of the advisement process. It could also be used early in the semester in a general science course as an icebreaker, especially in courses where case studies will be used.

AIDS and the Duesberg Phenomenon 

Renowned virologist and member of the prestigious National Academy of Science, Peter Duesberg has argued that AIDS is not caused by HIV, but is the result of recreational and anti-HIV drugs.  In this PBL case, students read Duesberg’s 1999 article in Science magazine titled “HIV is Not the Cause of AIDS” as well as a response to it titled “HIV Causes AIDS” by medical researchers Dr. William A. Blattner and colleagues.  Students work in groups to identify the issues as well as any terms or concepts they don’t understand, then research these out of class to pool their information as they learn about AIDS and HIV.

Amber's Secret 

This problem-based case focuses on the female menstrual cycle and early stages of pregnancy of an unwed teenager. Working in small groups, students identify the learning issues for each part of the story and research answers to their questions. They are then given more of the case to evaluate. The cycle of analysis, information seeking, and sharing is repeated for each stage of the case. The case can be used in numerous settings including general health, biology, and sociology classes or in more specialized courses such as physiology, endocrinology, nursing, medicine, human development, social services, or counseling.

An Antipodal Mystery 

The discovery of the platypus had the scientific world in an uproar and kept it tantalized for decades. Here was the strangest animal ever seen. How was one to classify it? It had fur. So, was it a mammal? But then what to make of its duck-like bill? And how did it produce and suckle its young? Based on the book by Ann Moyal titled Platypus: The Extraordinary Story of How a Curious Creature Baffled the World, the case focuses on classification and evolution and models the scientific process, with scientists arguing, debating, collecting more information, and revising their opinions as more data become available.

And Now What, Ms. Ranger?: The Search for the Intelligent Designer

Intelligent Design continues to be a hot political and educational topic in some parts of the country. This discussion case study uses the dramatic setting of a public school board as it considers whether district science teachers should be made to read a statement to their classes identifying Intelligent Design as a competing theory to evolution that is worthy of scientific consideration. The relevant statement is in fact the one that was at the center of the 2004 controversy in Dover, Pennsylvania. This case would be appropriate in general biology or advanced courses where the focus is on evolution.

Andrea: The Death of a Diabetic 

In chronicling the life and death of a woman who developed diabetes as a teenager, this case study explores such basic science topics as metabolism, hormones, cell receptors, eye anatomy, and immunology as well as issues in nutrition, exercise, stem cell research, transplantation, drug delivery systems, genetic engineering, and health care. The case has been used in a physiology course as part of a unit on metabolism and hormonal control.

Bad Blood: A Case Study of the Tuskegee Syphilis Project

The ethics of human experimentation are explored in this case about the infamous syphilis studies performed at the Tuskegee Institute from the 1930s to the 1960s. Sponsored by the U.S. Public Health Service, 399 African American men with syphilis were recruited for a research study on the progression of the disease when left untreated. The case examines the science underlying the experiment as well as the ethical and racial issues. One of its goals is to help students understand the evolution in our thinking on issues of science, human experimentation, and race, and how they are conditioned by our culture. The case could be used in any course that explores the ethics of science.

Equal Time for Intelligent Design?: An Intimate Debate Case

Whether Intelligent Design should be taught in a science classroom is a serious problem. This case study tackles the issue head-on by using intimate debate, a pedagogical structure in which small student groups are subdivided into opposing student pairs that take turns arguing each side of the issue. There is no audience for these concurrent mini-debates, and the session concludes with groups reaching consensus. This case study would be appropriate in general biology or advanced courses where the focus is on evolution.

Extrasensory Perception: Pseudoscience?: A Battle at the Edge of Science

The overall purpose of this case study is to teach students to be skeptical of scientific claims, particularly those that are sensational and fall outside the boundaries of normal scientific explanation. Students read the case and then evaluate information to determine whether they believe there is enough scientific evidence to confirm the existence of extrasensory perception. The case was developed for use in an introductory science or psychology course, but would also be appropriate for courses in human biology in which the nervous system is explored.

Hemophilia: The 'Royal Disease'

This case deals with the genetics of the hemophilic condition that afflicted the royal families of Europe.  Students trace the pedigrees of the descendants of Queen Victoria and the passage of the recessive X-linked trait from ancestor to ancestor. The case is suitable for courses in general biology at either the high school or college level.

Life on Mars: A Dilemma Case in Planetary Geology

This case explores the question of whether there was ever life on Mars and in doing so explores how we define life. The backdrop for the case is the 1996 revelation by NASA of evidence of life on Mars. Through a fictionalized account of the events, the case explores what constitutes life as well as the ethics of announcing scientific discoveries directly to the public instead of following the traditional process of peer review and publication. The protagonist of the story is a young planetary geologist who must decide whether or not to join his colleagues at a press conference announcing the "discovery."  Originally designed for a course in planetary geology, where it was used in the last class in the semester as a capstone experience, the case could also be used in a general biology class to discuss the characteristics of life.

Little Mito: The Story of Where He Came From

This case presents a fanciful story about the origin of the eukaryotic cell, a major milestone in the evolution of life. The characters of the story are Mito, Chlora, Flag, ER, Nuc, Golgi, Ves, and Ly, all members of an extended cellular family. Written for college and high school introductory biology classes, students learn about cellular structure and functions in addition to the two major theories for the rise of the eukaryotic cell.

Mendel Dreams: The Beginning of Genetics

In this PowerPoint-based clicker case, developed for use in either a general biology or general genetics class, students are introduced to the life and work of Gregor Mendel.  The initial slides set up the story as we see Mendel, who is ill, reminiscing about his pea plant experiments.  As the storyline unfolds, students are placed in a position where they have to think their way through some data the way that Mendel presumably had to do himself. The case covers the highlights of early genetics including monohybrid and dihybrid crosses, and discusses the downfall of the blending hypothesis.

Mom Always Liked You Best: Examining the Hypothesis of Parental Favoritism

This interrupted case study is based on a journal article on the parenting behavior of American coots. Working through the case, students develop hypotheses and design experiments to test their hypotheses as they are given pieces of the case in an interrupted, or progressive disclosure, case format. The case teaches students about the scientific method. As such, it would be useful in any course where one wishes to emphasize how scientists go about solving problems. The subject matter of the case makes it suitable for courses in biology, especially those focusing on evolution and ecology, and the case can be used with both science majors and non-science majors.

Morgan: A Case of Diabetes 

This case teaches about the causes and effects of Type 2 diabetes by working through the various options available to a young Native American woman suffering from the disease. The case can be used in a variety of settings, including nutrition classrooms, herbal drug courses, physiology courses, medical schools, nursing schools, pharmacy schools, diabetes workshops, and even weight loss clinics.

Of Mammoths and Men: A Case Study in Extinction

The discovery of a mammoth frozen in the Siberian tundra is the backdrop for this case study, which explores theories for the extinction of the great Ice Age mammals and Homo neanderthalensis. Students research evidence for and against the different hypotheses and then discuss in class the merits of each.  The case was designed for use in a freshman evolutionary biology course, where it was used as the last case in the term after studying the general principles of evolution, genetics, and biodiversity.  Instructors of courses in anthropology and paleontology might also find it appropriate.

Paul Seymour, Assistant Professor: A Dilemma Case in Teaching

This case study explores two of the major issues that confront new faculty when they experiment with a new method of teaching like case study teaching. The first issue is how to introduce the new method into the classroom successfully when both the instructor and the students are novices. The second issue concerns the possible consequences of focusing heavily on teaching in an environment where research, not teaching, is not the primary criterion for promotion and tenure.

Revolt of the Fungus People: Mycorrhizae in the Ecosystem

This interrupted case study for the flipped classroom examines the interaction of plants and their mycorrhizal partners. The latter is one of the most widespread and vital symbiotic relationships in the world and can be seen in the videos that students should view before discussing the material in class. Thousands of different species are involved, some obligate and others facultative. The case examines the recent studies identifying the spectacular and wide array of intraspecific and interspecific chemical communication among organisms, giving us a glimpse of the enormously complex interactions in an ecological community. The case can easily be used as a springboard for discussion about the social and political issues that might arise when humans disrupt these ecosystems. The case was developed for college general biology but can easily be used in environmental science, ecology or evolution classes. In fact, several of the questions raised address issues that are most appropriate for advanced students. What is essential is that the students have a general knowledge of fungal anatomy and mycorrhizae before starting the activity.

Seven Skeletons and a Mystery 

This problem-based learning case uses Archaeopteryx, the most famous fossil in the world, to show the vital role that fossils play in understanding evolutionary history and to explore the different theories for the origin of flight and the debate over a bird-dinosaur connection. The case was designed for an introductory biology course where the focus is on evolution.  It would also be appropriate for classes in geology.

Sex and Vaccination 

This case study focuses on the controversy surrounding the decision by Texas Governor Rick Perry to mandate the compulsory vaccination of girls in the Texas public school system against the human papillomavirus (HPV) prior to entering the sixth grade. The interrupted case method is particularly appropriate for this subject, with successive sections providing a general overview of the disease, the reasons for and against such a mandatory vaccination program, and a disclosure of what ultimately transpired in Texas. Designed for an ethics or public policy course, the case could easily be adapted to emphasize biological and medical topics.

The Case of the Dividing Cell: Mitosis and Meiosis in the Cellular Court

The Honorable Judge Cellular is presiding over the case of The State vs.Egg Cell Number 6624223. As the prosecuting attorney calls each witness to the stand and the courtroom drama unfolds, students learn about the stages of mitosis and meiosis and their particular characteristics, and how cell division in prokaryotes differs from that in eukaryotes. The case is suited to an introductory biology course and would also work well in high school biology classes.

The Dating Game: A Case Study in Human Evolution

In this role-playing case study, students attempt to determine the identity of a variety of human fossils based on characteristics described during a “quiz show.”  The case was designed to be used in a general biology class for freshman students where the focus is on evolution. It could also be used in an anthropology or paleontology course.

The Death of Baby Pierre: A Genetic Mystery

This directed case study on a genetic disorder was developed for an exam on genetics for a general biology course.  The case is based on an article by scientist and author Jared Diamond titled “Founding Fathers and Mothers” that appeared in Natural History magazine in June 1988.  In the article, Diamond illustrates the significance of the “founder effect” in small isolated populations like the one described in this case.

The Galapagos 

Using problem-based learning and role-playing, students analyze the geological origins of the Galapagos Islands, their colonization, species formation, and threats to their biodiversity in this story of a graduate student caught between local fishermen and government officials fighting for control of the islands’ natural resources. The case was designed for an introductory biology course where the focus is on evolution. It would also be appropriate for courses in ecology, conservation biology, and natural resources management. [Please note: no answer key is available for this case, although further details are provided in the teaching notes.]

The Medicinal Use of Marijuana: An Intimate Debate Case

Whether marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes has been contested for decades. The claims, counter-claims, issues, and judgments in this high profile controversy make it an excellent candidate for “intimate debate.” While similar to traditional debating formats and ground-rules, the method of intimate debate has important differences. There is no audience, each student argues each side of the issue seated across from their opponents in pairs, and the session concludes with opposing teams reaching consensus. The case is suitable for any course where medical issues and social issues of science are discussed and in any classroom setting, from high school to professional school programs such as nursing and pharmacy.

The Petition: A Global Warming Case 

The goal of this dilemma case study is to teach students about global climate change.  The setting is a faculty meeting where the discussion has turned to a petition circulating in the scientific community against signing the Kyoto Treaty.  Students read graphs and interpret data and consider the political, economic, and ethical issues surrounding the controversy.  The case would be appropriate for use in a variety of courses, including biology, geology, chemistry, physics, meteorology, economics, political science, and ethics.

Torn at the Genes: One Family's Debate Over Genetically Altered Plants

The setting for this case is the family dinner table, where a heated discussion about genetically altered foods is taking place. Marsha Cumberland’s brother-in-law has joined the family for dinner. Ed is an industry official whose job it is to decide whether or not new products need pre-market approval by the FDA. He has just returned from a conference on transgenic foods.  When it turns out that some of the food on the dinner table is genetically modified, a debate ensues with different members of the family at different ends of the spectrum. Written for an introductory biology course, the case considers the scientific and ethical issues of genetically altered plants.

Wake-Up Call 

The main character of this case is Denise, who we first meet in the early morning hours as she wakes up in a cold sweat, gasping for breath. But it is her husband, Jeremy, who has been diagnosed with heart disease, not her. What’s going on? In this interrupted case study, in which the other main character is Denise’s heart (who we get to know through a series of “interior” monologues), students learn about the risk factors, symptoms, and consequences of a heart attack. The case is suitable for a course in pathophysiology, first year nursing, enzymology, advanced biology or anatomy, or nutrition.

Why Sex is Good 

This interrupted case is based on a 2005 article in Nature written by three scientists from the Imperial College London that deals with the issue of sexual vs. asexual reproduction and their relative merits—a question that has bedeviled biologists for over 100 years. The article serves as the final stage of this case focusing on why sex is good (at least in some circumstances). Written for a general biology class where the question of evolution is considered, the case would also be appropriate for use in an evolution or ecology course.