Why Use Cases?

One clearly defined criticism of biology education for undergraduates lies in the inability of most students to link the biology they learn in college with the biological issues they face day to day.

  "... school-acquired knowledge remains apart from everyday matters, so that it is difficult to meet the aim for science to illuminate people's lives." p. 190

White, Richard T. 1988. Learning Science. Basil Blackwell Ltd. Oxford, UK.

  "...study in botany has often become too mechanical, too stereotyped, too restrictive, too dependent upon a laboratory manual which lays it all out on the line and which thus gives the student little opportunity for independent work, for display of initiative for the exercise of imagination, for the satisfaction of personal curiosity." p. 495

Fuller, H. J. 1958. Fifty Years of Botany : The odor of botany. McGraw-Hill Book Company, NY.

If we believe that biology learning should result in applicable, flexible knowledge of the living world and how to investigate it, then case-based learning may help. When used to generate open-ended investigations, however, case-based learning offers promise of meeting the needs of biology learners. Cases, coupled with powerful tools for investigation, are about meaningful, real-world problems and how to approach them collaboratively using science knowledge and processes. Learning with cases puts the learners more in control of the problems to be studied and the resources used than most other types of learning.

Some kinds of teaching in biology may actually limit the interactions students have with the discipline. Curiously, even the labs which were often described as giving the student an opportunity to explore methods and questions with greater autonomy than in lectures have been recognized as problematic. In fact, they have been criticized for years.

Reform in biology education has been called for so that all biology students may become familiar with the process of science and value this approach to problem-solving in their own lives:

 "... an effective way of presenting first-year biology involves an emphasis on the conceptual framework of the discipline, a ruthless de-emphasis of the incredible terminology that plagues many introductory courses and texts, an explicit concern with important human problems for which the biological sciences may suggest solutions, and an emphasis on the strengths and limitations of scientific procedures."

Moore, J. 1988. Science as a Way of Knowing, "Understanding Nature - Form and Function". American Zoologist 28: p.449.

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