Implementing Investigative

Case-Based Learning in Biology

Margaret A. Waterman,
Southeast Missouri State University


          This page includes links to materials that I used to implement the case "Zea's Wild Roots" (Waterman and Stanley, 1998) in a general education biology class, BS 218.  The case was used to open a unit on ecology early in the course. Students were to consider the farm as an ecosystem and to research relationships among the components of that ecosystem. 

            Three 50 minute classes were set aside for in-class work.  On Day 1, investigative case-based learning was briefly described, the case was handed out and students were divided into three groups of about 10 students each.  I handed out the case, and a worksheet. They read the Zea case and then went to the directions.  Students discussed the questions in their group for about 12 minutes, followed by a large group discussion of  ecosystems and their components.  Then the groups began to explore resources about corn growth, plant diseases, and fungal growth.

        Day 2:  Class wass held in the computer lab.   Students are provided with selected resources to get started and then conducted their own web-based searches to further understand plant growth and fungal diseases. An instructor was available to help groups find resources and develop their own questions.

        Day 3:  Students brought in briefing papers on the ecological interactions they studied, with enough copies for each member of their group.  In the groups, each student made a 90 second presentation of their findings.   When all were done, the group identified common features of the interactions that were studied.  The exercise ended with a whole class discussion of the nature   of interactions within ecosystems.  Because of the host-pathogen interactions, discussion also included basic population biology, species interactions, and human population growth.


M.A. Waterman and E.D. Stanley.  1998.  Investigative Cases and Case-Based Learning in Biology.  In J.Jungck and V. Vaughan, Eds., BioQUEST Library V,  CA: Academic Press.


  Return to Extended Activities