Evaluation and assessment

of case-based student learning

There are many opportunities to evaluate students' performances when they are using case-based learning approaches. Here are some assessable activities students might engage in as they work on their investigations:

· their participation and contribution to work in groups,
· the kinds of issues they identify,
· the questions they develop,
· the investigations they propose,
· where and how they locate resources,
· how they conduct investigations, and
· the presentations they make.

You may wish to ask if learners are:

· actively acquiring information about a biological topic within this problem space?
· re-organizing this information?
· using strategies to select resources beyond text materials?
· using a problem-oriented approach? (Is there a question for investigation?)
· collaborating with other individuals in problem posing or problem solving?
· choosing among alternative approaches to solve problems?
· negotiating, arguing, or attempting to convince others?
· generating graphs, tables, charts, or other graphics?
· presenting conclusions?
· presenting evidence to support their conclusions?
· generating further questions as a result of this activity

There are many ways to evaluate the quality of student work on these kinds of activities, including:

1. observations of students at work,
2. evaluations of the products they create,
3. case-based exams (in which students individually analyze a case and generate
4. peer evaluations of presentations,
5. group self-evaluations.

A very good resource for assessment tools and rubrics is The Handbook of Engaged Learning, a compilation of projects that use technology for teaching science. While these are designed for K-12 science, many of the high school projects are sophisticated and suitable for undergraduates. This web-based resource has excellent teacher-produced projects that include assessment plans, rubrics and resources. Assessment information is in each project's summary page. The project on inheritance of diseases suggests alternative assessment tools, like concept maps and projects logs (Peretz, 1998) The prairie project has three very useful rubrics for scoring performance on technology use, research, and presentation (Fraccaro, et al., 1998). The project index address is http://www-ed.fnal.gov/help/index.html

At this index, choose individual projects to explore.


Assessing the effectiveness of a specific use of a case


Some questions to ask once the case has been used for teaching and learning:

1. How well does the case work as a learning tool with students?

2. What were stumbling blocks for the students?

3. Were the students led "down the wrong path" by anything in the case?

4. Was the time allotted for case study adequate?

5. Were the students able to generate questions that they could investigate? Was there a problem with the case in this regard (too vague, difficult, long)

6. Did student discussion generally address the objectives of the case? Were there any other important objectives that should be included?

7. Were the students able to locate useful additional resources? Were the resource materials and readings useful?

8. How well did the case study fit with other elements of the course (lectures, labs, discussions, recitations)?

9. What worked especially well?

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