Cases, Social Networking, and Workspaces

Case studies and problem-based learning  enable us to engage students productively in inquiry learning about our discipline using data, tools, and methodologies from multiple disciplines. Not surprisingly, working on and writing cases are both excellent faculty development strategies as well. Implementing case-based learning to take advantage of social networking can support collaboration with access to workspaces before, during, and after the meetings, workshops, and conferences.      

Cases Social Networking Workspaces  ppt file 1.8 MB

Introducing:  The Case Study and PBL Network

In August 2011, NSF awarded a collaborative project proposal focused on expanding the use of and knowledge about case studies and problem based learning (PBL) that have been shown to help undergraduates develop superior skills in question formulation and data analysis while they learn as much content as with traditional methods.

The Case Study and PBL Network is being jointly funded by the Directorate for Biological Sciences, Division of Biological Infrastructure and the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, Division of Undergraduate Education as part of their Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education efforts.

The project will:

  • support the development of a Research Collaborative Network in Undergraduate Biology Education for biology faculty who use, develop or conduct research on Case Study and/or Problem Based Learning (PBL) pedagogies for undergraduate biology teaching.
  • draw together the expertise and resources of several existing, but essentially independent, centers for case study and PBL for furthering their work and supporting other members of the network.

In addition, the potential for these pedagogies to frame the learning of biology utilizing emerging technologies, data analysis and quantitative reasoning is not fully tapped.

Case study and PBL methods, while documented as effective for science learning, are not as widely used as might be.

These methods support the recommendations in A New Biology for the Twenty-First Century (NRC, 2009) for problem centered interdisciplinary biology education. The Network will address the communication of research and practice to support the New Biology called for in the AAAS report Vision and Change in Undergraduate Education: A Call to Action (2010).

“Clearly, better communication is needed about the success and effectiveness of these new approaches to designing and implementing a more student-centered and outcomes-oriented undergraduate biology curriculum. One recommendation consistently emerged to help in this effort: the need for a consolidated resource of research and classroom experiences documenting what works and classroom experiences documenting what works and why” (p. 13). 

Using a series of small and large network conferences and a robust and multifaceted electronic communication platform, the RCN UBE will focus on two elements:

    1. Supporting research on case study and PBL effectiveness in a wide variety of undergraduate institutional settings
    2. Providing a workspace where individuals using or wanting to use these pedagogies (such as faculty educators, administrators, developers, researchers, etc.) can find key information, opportunities, and support for their work as well as share their own questions, experiences, and findings.

The Case Study and PBL Network plans to:

    • stimulate pedagogical innovation while furthering understanding of the effectiveness of these methods
    • bring together the expertise and resources of several existing U.S. centers for case studies and PBL in a unified effort to engage other biology faculty in using, developing or conducting research on these teaching approaches
    • enhance the potential for these pedagogies to utilize emerging technologies, data analysis and quantitative reasoning in biology learning while addressing NRC recommendations for problem-based, interdisciplinary biology education
    • encourage and support participation by members of traditionally underrepresented groups: minority faculty and minority serving institutions, community college faculty, graduate students and post docs
    • invite institutional types from a wide range of geographic locations (including international members) to participate
    • organize and disseminate resources, findings, and opportunities
    • encourage members to develop new projects and research proposals


This project is a collaboration between Case Study and PBL PI’s and was developed during an incubator grant.

Case Study and PBL Projects: 

Building a Case Study and PBL Network in Undergraduate Biology Education   NSF Award 0957359