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Case Studies in Physics Teaching. ~ Based on the writings of Clyde Freeman Herreid, University at Buffalo, State University of NY ~. Case Study in Science. Discussion designed for an end. A powerful way of achieving otherwise elusive goals of science teaching:

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Case studies in physics teaching

Case Studies in Physics Teaching

~ Based on the writings of Clyde Freeman Herreid, University at Buffalo, State University of NY ~


Case study in science
Case Study in Science

  • Discussion designed for an end.

  • A powerful way of achieving otherwise elusive goals of science teaching:

    • Understanding the nature of scientific knowledge

    • Understanding the values of scientists

    • Understanding the assumptions of science


A case study
A Case Study

  • Starts with a narrative statement posing some sort of problem or dilemma that might or might not have a concise or acceptable solution.

  • Continues thorough a series of questions that require critical thinking and might not have any generally agree-upon solution.


Conducting a case study
Conducting a Case Study

  • Case study is drive by an issue or a difficult question the solution of which might result in disagreement.

  • Assumes a strong ability to conduct successful classroom discussions.

  • Herreid gives 12-pointers for bringing a case study to a successful conclusion.


Consider student preparation
Consider Student Preparation

  • Should you wish students to prepare for the discussion, provide them with the case before the discussion.

  • Background preparation might include such things as the following:

    • Contents from a prior class

    • Readings, including problem statement

    • Video or TV program


Write a controversial case
Write a Controversial Case

  • Controversial cases more interesting

  • Keep the case current

  • Chose a case with relevance

  • Keep the case description short

  • Tell a story and include dialogue

  • Create empathy for main character

  • Case must have teaching function


Set the scene for the case
Set the Scene for the Case

  • After reading the case to or with the students, don’t plunge right in to the first question.

  • Spend some time explaining the value of the case, it relevance, its implications, and applicability.

  • Set social ground rules for good behavior - not all know them.


Pose a good initial question
Pose a Good Initial Question

  • Start by getting the facts of the case straight.

  • Make certain that the issue or dilemma is clearly understood by students.

  • Don’t ask for a conclusion at the outset; this will following only after a proper analysis of the case.


Involve as many as possible
Involve as Many as Possible

  • The more involved the students, the greater the likelihood they will both learn and remember.

  • Ask questions of the uninvolved to get them involved.

  • Use wait time appropriately.

  • Restate question or rephrase it as appropriate, but do not answer it.


Ask non threatening q s
Ask Non-threatening Q’s

  • Use “easy” questions to draw reticent students into the discussion.

  • Avoid intimidation and derisive statements in response to student statement.

  • Avoid letting students attack one another - attack ideas, not people.

  • Restate rules of behavior as needed.


Control the discussion
Control the Discussion

  • Don’t let individuals dominate.

  • Keep the discussion on track.

  • Recite the key question periodically.

  • Use wait time appropriately.

  • See “How to Conduct a Discussion” - check out the PHY 310 syllabus.


Write key points on board
Write Key Points on Board

  • Emphasize key issues and concerns.

  • Give importance to what students have been saying.

  • Shows progress of the discussion.

  • Provides a sense of structure.


Correct factual errors
Correct Factual Errors

  • If students do not correct errors of fact, the the discussion leader should see that they are corrected.

  • Best to point out contradictory evidence and let students draw their own conclusion.

  • Otherwise, point out confusion that you have as an instructor.

  • Opinions should not be “corrected.”


Structure the discussion
Structure the Discussion

  • Sequence student thinking.

  • Use focusing behavior as you ask your questions; avoid the use of funneling behavior.

  • Move from divergent to convergent questions.

  • Align questions to objectives.

  • Manage time effectively.


Non random movement
Non-random Movement

  • Body language can have an effect on a discussion.

  • Find a “center” other than the teacher.

  • Consider sitting down to “level the playing field” a bit.

  • Acknowledge student contributions.

  • Pay attention to what is being said.


Achieving closure
Achieving Closure

  • To achieve or not to achieve closure, that is the question.

  • Pros of closure:

    • Students might not draw conclusions

    • Leader can summarize process

  • Cons of closure:

    • Students continue to discuss

    • Non-closure more closely imitates life.


Practical application
Practical Application

  • Always have several case studies at the ready in the event that you have unplanned time and need a filler.

  • Be certain to include case studies in your formal assessments.


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