Case studies provide a way to systematically analyze problems and issues for a variety of purposes including testing hypothesis; determining causes, effects, and solutions; and guiding future courses of action and lines of investigation. Case studies vary in types from those that examine unique events, problems or issues to those that examine common ones. Case studies are particularly useful in that they offer teachers a way to take a large amount of information or a pressing problem and have students learn about it through the lens of a single, generalizable case. Cases developed for study can be real, fictional, or hypothetical.
- Select or write a case story involving an event, episode, or court case that embodies the concept or understandings that you want students to acquire (e.g. eminent domain). Scenarios that serve as the foundation may be extreme, critical, or prototypical (i.e. highlight common characteristics of an issue or phenomenon).
The following are frequently cited characteristics of good cases: they are short, tell a compelling story, trigger differences of opinion, demand a decision, evoke empathy toward one or more characters, and are relevant to our lives.
1. Develop the Case: include
- a description of the facts
- an overview of the problem or issue
- court cases may include a decision or be left open-ended for students to decide.
2. Identify and analyze the facts. Which ones are most important and why?
3. Frame the issue. What is the problem, issue, matter to be resolved, or decision to be made (e.g. is the use of the takings clause constitutionally justified in this case)?
4. Identify the alternatives. What are the various positions or courses of action that one might take?
5. Analyze the alternatives (may involve research). Which positions or courses of action seem most and least reasonable?
6. Debate the issue.
7. Reach a decision or formulate a hypothesis, conclusion, or interpretation.
8. Debrief: Ask students…
- Why is this case significant?
- How might this case impact what happens in the future?
- In what way(s) might this case be relevant to our lives?
- Is this an isolated case or one that is generalizable? Explain.