LifeLines OnLine

Workshop Announcement


July 11 - 13, 2004

NSF Chautauqua Short Course #10:
Investigative Case Based Learning

Christian Brothers University
Memphis, TN

Investigative Case Based Learning (ICBL) is a variant of Problem Based Learning that emphasizes student investigations. This short course is designed to support participants in the development of ICBL modules for their own classes. We will introduce several accessible online cases developed by undergraduate faculty that utilize realistic, meaningful and contemporary problems to engage students in scientific investigation. These case modules also include identification of resources, support activities, student products, and multiple assessment strategies. The use of online computational tools, data, and models to support student inquiry in these cases will be emphasized.

Investigative case-based learning provides students with short, realistic narratives (i.e. the cases) about people dealing with science-related situations, such as:

  • investigating the spread of West Nile Virus,
  • controlling gull populations at airports,
  • conserving food-stained artifacts,
  • identifying illegal whale meat products using bioinformatics,
  • exploring potential impacts of increased caffeine levels in fresh water habitats,
  • considering the technology behind genetically engineered pharmaceuticals.

By working with such cases, students learn biology in meaningful contexts as they employ scientific information and methods to investigate these realistically complex situations. Multiple research studies of case-based learning show that when learning occurs around a real problem, there is an increase in both retention of information and in the ability to apply concepts to similar situations.

There are three phases in ICBL. In this first phase, students read the case and then work collaboratively to complete a Case Analysis. By methodically analyzing the cases, the students begin to structure their own learning of both science process and content. Students recognize the value of their own prior knowledge as well as that of their peers. At the same time, they identify areas they need to learn more about and the resources they will use for that learning. In the second phase, students define and undertake investigations in which they use observational skills, propose hypotheses, design experiments, gather data, use models, interpret graphs, and support their conclusions with evidence. In the last phase of ICBL, they present their findings to others using a wide variety of potential formats. This three phase process: problem posing, problem solving and peer persuasion (the BioQUEST “3P’s”) follows closely the activities of practicing scientists.

Participants in this very interactive course will:

  • Try out investigative case based learning
  • Explore online investigative case modules developed by faculty from over sixty different institutions and departments
  • Use computational tools and modeling to investigate biological problems
  • Develop their own case module,
  • Access web-based biology materials for their own courses, and
  • Plan for implementation and assessment of student learning in their own classrooms

For college teachers of: biology, environmental science, chemistry, or geoscience. High school science teachers of advanced courses welcome if space is available. Prerequisites: Participants should bring a syllabus for a course in which they would like to develop one or more cases. Basic familiarity with preparing electronic documents (word processing) and with using web browsers and web searching is assumed. No special knowledge of any other software is required.


Workshop Staff

Margaret Waterman

Associate Professor of Biology
Southeast Missouri State University
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701

Dr. Waterman, Associate Professor of Biology at Southeast Missouri State University, is a specialist on case development and problem based learning and has extensive experience in faculty development as Director of Faculty Development at the University of Pittsburgh and as medical educator at Harvard. She has over 20 publications in plant pathology and science education.

Ethel Stanley

Director, BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium
Co-Editor, Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching
Biology Department Beloit College
700 College Street Beloit, WI 53511

As Director of the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium and member of the Biology faculty at Beloit College, Ethel Stanley participates in a wide range of projects at the national level and presents on reform in undergraduate science education. With two decades of teaching experience in the biological sciences at both two-year and four-year institutions Prof. Stanley strongly supports reform in undergraduate science education to include the collaborative use of computer models and simulations in introductory biology and the use of case-based investigation as opportunities to develop lifelong problem posing, problem solving and persuasion skills. She has over 30 publications, including co-editor of Microbes Count! (2003) ASM Press. She is also editor of Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching.


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