Case studies


1.      Professor Julian wants his first-year students to be able to theorize about the notions of law. He gave several lectures about the notions of law, explaining in detail that there are different perspectives to approach the study of law, such as positivism, legal anthropology, sociology of law, natural law, etc. Julian designed a test at the end of the course unit where he asked his students the following question: Discuss why there are so many perspectives to approach law. To his surprise, most students explained the different approaches to law, but did not theorize about why there are different perspectives on law. After describing the different perspectives, some students simply wrote that they like some perspectives over the others or that they agree with some but disagree with the others. This frustrates Julian. He wants to know what went wrong and what to do so that students will theorize about the different notions of law at a relational or extended abstract level.


2.      Professor Chris teaches Sociology of Crime, a second-year course. She is aware of the importance of constructive alignment. She wants their students to compare and contrast the different sociological theories on crime. Her course meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She devoted one week for each of the 12 theories she selected. She lectured on Tuesdays and used small group discussions after every lecture for students to discuss some aspects of the selected theory. Then on Thursdays, she gave a problem to students to work in small groups where they had to apply the theory of that week to solve the problem. At the end of the term, she gave their students a final exam where the question was: “Select one of the sociological theories of crime discussed in the course, think of a problem related to crime in your community, and try to offer solutions to that problem by applying the selected theory.” She was shocked to see that most of the students simply explained the theories without actually applying them to a problem. Was her course aligned? What went wrong? Why?


3.      Professor John teaches theories of education for future childhood educators at a two-year college. He has no control over the course outline. The course outline does not list learning outcomes. He wants his students to be able to apply, relate, explain causes, and compare different theories of teaching and learning. He prepared a series of case studies to use throughout the course. He does not lecture. Students like the cases, but feel anxious because they do not know if they are learning. The exam, which is worth 70% of the final grade, is a new case, which they have to solve. Most of the students do poorly. John is shocked because student production was much better during the term. What happened? What can John do to improve student production in the exam?



4.      You teach a course on teaching and learning for future teachers. One of your main learning outcomes is that students demonstrate appreciation for deep learning. What teaching and learning activities can you think so that students will develop appreciation for the importance of deep learning?


5.      Professor Claude teaches Spanish 4101. He would like their students to be able to use critical thinking skills (Level 5 of the Solo Taxonomy) in Spanish when they discuss about the topics he assigns them. He has always used drills where students repeat grammatical structures, fill-in-the blank exercises, and verb conjugation activities. For the final, he asked students to debate about the reasons why soccer is so popular in Latin America. While students used grammatically correct sentences, they did not show any signs of critical thinking skills in their analysis. Claude wants to know what went wrong. What can he do so that new students taking this course can apply critical thinking skills while communicating in Spanish?


6.      Professor Ruth wants their students in her Political Economy I course to develop analytical skills (Level 4 of the SOLO taxonomy). She gives their students problems to solve. She lectures occasionally to contextualize the topics and theories she wants their students to apply, and she organizes debates and role playing. She constantly gives students bonus points when they do good jobs. Every time their students grapple with a very important issue, she tells them that a similar issue will be on the final exam. Her students did relatively well. Most of her students took Political Economy II in the following term. Professor Paul teaches Political Economy II. He gave his students some active student-centered activities similar to those they did with Ruth, but they seemed to be disengaged. Paul talked to Ruth and she was very surprised. She told Paul that her students were very motivated with her. What happens? Why aren’t students engaged? Why don’t they use analytical skills to work in Paul’s class?


7.      Professor Alex teaches Film Studies. He wants his students to be able to understand Francis Coppola’s films. He showed The Godfather trilogy, The Conversation, The Rainmaker, Apocalypse Now, Peggy Sue Got Married, and Rumble Fish. He introduced each film by anticipating the plot and talking about the context. He asked their students to write a paper comparing two or more of the films shown in class. The quality of the papers was very poor. Alex was shocked that some of the students even downloaded papers from the Internet. Why? What happened? What can Alex do to do help students produce quality papers?


8.      The following is a promissory syllabus. What teaching and learning activities can you design to help realize the promises in this syllabus?


In this course, you will have an opportunity to explore some of the exciting research being done at this university on biological clocks. In the process, you will develop considerable insight into the nature of science and the research lives of scientists. You may or may not become a research scientist, but you may some day have to decide about funding for a research endeavor. This course will help you make those decisions wisely. It will also help you understand more about how your own internal clock and the clocks that exist in every animal work. Why do college students often like to stay up late while their parents are “early to bed and early to rise” people? Why do people suffer from jet lag? How do we find out about how Biological Clocks work? How do scientists draw conclusions? How certain are those conclusions?




9.      Professor Viviane teaches first year French. She wants her students to use Level 5 skills of the SOLO taxonomy in French language. But her students speak limited French and they complained the first class when she handed out the course syllabus. She needs help from you. She wants to know if it is possible to expect students to use Level 5 skills, and if so, how to design teaching and learning activities that will help her students achieve such a high level of understanding.  


10.  Create an expectation failure for students in one of your courses.




 Remember that an expectation failure is a situation in which existing mental models of reality will lead to faulty expectations. An expectation failure is usually created from some sort of intellectual challenge or cognitive dissonance. Teachers must carefully select mental models or paradigms which students bring to class that can cause this incongruity. We need to put the learners in a situation where their existing paradigm does not work and then encourage them to rebuild it from there. Learners must care that their mental model does not work strongly enough to stop and grapple with the issue at hand.


11.  Think of a critical incident in your teaching –a situation in which you thought that your teaching or assessment had not gone quite how you would have liked it to have gone. Consider the following questions: (i) what was the problem?; (ii) what were the causes of the problem? ; (iii) how did you deal with the problem? (iv) how did your solution to the problem relate to your theory of teaching and learning?


12.  Take a topic you are teaching and turn it into Problem-Based Learning.