II. TEACHING STRATEGIES
Using a case study approach
There are dozens of "mini-cases"
embedded in each chapter of World History, and each
mini-case can function, on its own, in a case study format.
The mini-cases, the big ideas to be examined, and higher-order
discussion questions are identified below. If you are interested
in using a case study approach, it is suggested that you first
read the Introduction to Case Method Teaching below. Then,
choose the case, have students view the section of World
History that addresses the issue, and finally, use the
discussion questions to promote thoughtful reflection about
the big ideas. As a follow up study to the case discussion,
it is suggested that students be directed to gathering supporting
data from the websites, or from text and library sources.
Introduction to Case Method
Scenes from the Classroom
The teacher stands at the front of the classroom
as the students prepare to join their small study groups.
She reminds them about the rules for group discussion: that
all students have the right to express their own ideas; that
all students' ideas are to be heard and treated respectfully.
She calls out names of people and indicates their group assignments.
In preparation for this case study, the students have viewed
the section on Fear of the Unknown, in Chapter 4: Ancient
Egypt. This case highlights issues about the deep fears people
have felt throughout history, of life's uncertainties, and
the ways in which they have dealt with those fears.
- Study groups form, and each group addresses the higher
order questions that the teacher has distributed:
- What, in your view, made the people of Ancient Egypt so
fearful of natural forces, like storms, drought, flooding?
- What makes people turn to religious rituals? What are
your thoughts on it?
- How did the religious rituals of the Ancient Egyptians
seem to protect them from events in nature?
- How do you connect people's fears of natural forces with
the use of mummification?
- What, in your view, explains the Egyptians' use of mummification?
- To what events in modern culture do such practices relate?
What are your ideas about it?
These questions are open-ended and designed
to promote discussion of the big ideas, rather than lead students
to single, correct answers. On the first question, about the
need for a system of written down numbers, the students are
immediately engaged. Differences of opinion activate the discussions
and the 20 minutes allocated to small group discussion passes
quickly. At the end of this portion of the period, the teacher
brings the whole class together to debrief the case. While,
during the study groups the teacher's role is that of non-participant
observer, debriefing requires the teacher to play an active
role in leading the discussion. In debriefing, artful questioning
and responding skills allow the teacher to work with students'
ideas, helping them to examine assumptions, calling for data
to support their ideas, elevating inconsistencies in thinking
and differences in points of view. All of this is done respectfully,
without judgment in word or tone, and the climate is safe
for any student to venture an opinion.
Important goals of debriefing are for students
to examine issues critically, to learn to reason from data
and to assume responsibility for their ideas. In this way,
the students learn to think more intelligently about the issues
and their understanding grows. More and more students volunteer
their ideas, and the amount of class participation is high.
No one notices that the class time is up; no one wants to
leave. The teacher reminds the students that they may obtain
more detailed information from the data links and gives the
CD-ROM to those who wish to pursue those inquiries. The discussion
will continue at the next class session, where ideas will
have been further informed by data gathering, from the websites
or from text sources.
In this brief scenario are found the key
ingredients of case study teaching: a case with a compelling
narrative, that raises provocative questions; students' active
engagement in small group discussion to examine issues and
air their views; teachers' active leadership in debriefing
the case, during which time big ideas are examined and students
learn to reason from the data; follow-up studies that involve
gathering information from text and Internet sources; more
discussion. Each stage of this case study process requires
students to reach for deeper and more extensive examination
and analysis of the issues. Since working through a case demands
their active, cognitive involvement, students come to greater
understanding of the issues.