Did you know that as recently as the 1990s, the use of case studies in teaching was almost nonexistent? Over the past twenty years, more and more health science instructors are seeing the value of using case studies in their teaching, with the lecture-only method quickly losing steam. To keep learners’ attention, educators must provide interactive, engaging content, with an emphasis on how the subject studied relates to and expresses itself in real-life situations.
Case Studies and Teaching Critical Thinking Skills
One benefit of using case studies in teaching is that it positions the learner as a participant. As a participant, the learner is then invited to problem solve, which demands use of critical thinking skills over rote memorization techniques. Oftentimes, the answer to a problem requires more than just accessing a learned fact – students must apply their knowledge to a specific situation.
“When we teach, we want our students to learn more than just a collection of facts – we also want them to become better critical thinkers. We believe that carefully constructed cases can provide pedagogical tools that teach not only content knowledge, but also critical thinking skills.”
National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science
According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural Education, using case studies in teaching allows students to not only experience certain issues for themselves but allows them to learn by doing – by solving problems in a real-world situation. It brings a certain authenticity to the classroom, all while developing a learner’s critical thinking skills.
Case Studies and Student Motivation
When learners are presented with situations that they will potentially encounter in their future career, research shows that their motivation to learn and engage in the content increases. The Journal of Microbiology and Education published a study showing that when those problem-solving mechanisms are employed, it “facilitates development of the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning, moving beyond recall of knowledge to analysis, evaluation, and application.”
This conceptual learning experience enables students to develop a real understanding of the subject matter, which leads to greater levels of confidence and therefore greater levels of engagement. Using case studies in teaching gives more weight to the topic introduced as students see the relevance to their field of study or chosen career.
In the ARCS model of instructional design, there are four factors that determine a student’s level of motivation:
- ATTENTION – Are the students interested in the topic at hand?
- RELEVANCE – Is the topic relevant to their perceived needs or goals?
- CONFIDENCE – Does the student believe they will be able to achieve some level of success in understanding this topic?
- SATISFACTION – Are students satisfied with their efforts to learn the material? Does it bring a sense of accomplishment?
Using case studies in teaching employs all four elements of the ARCS model, helping ensure learners stay motivated and engaged.
Case Studies for Better Outcomes
When it comes to teaching, there are many methods and tools that educators have at their disposal. However, when it comes to accountability, teachers want results.
One specific study, investigating the results of teaching using cases studies vs more traditional methods, found that,
“Case study teaching has been shown to improve exam performance in an anatomy and physiology course, increasing the mean score across all exams given in a two-semester sequence from 66% to 73%.”
Additional research has been conducted over the years as the popularity of using case studies in teaching has grown exponentially, and teachers report satisfaction with increased student success, engagement, and motivation to learn.
Case Studies and NHA
At NHA, we are committed to helping our certification holders before, during, and beyond their certification exam. One recent way that we have innovated in our resources provided to certification seekers (and the programs that train them) is by developing two foundational courses that are relevant and engaging.
Our Medical Terminology and Anatomy & Physiology learning resources are interactive, online tools that teach core terms, principles, and concepts by using real-life case studies, practice, and learner assessment throughout the entire experience. For both educators and students, this all-in-one tool replaces weighty textbooks and the need to toggle from one website to another to find adequate examples and relevant content.
Understanding the importance of combining case studies and teaching, our product developers intentionally built the training around real-world scenarios that both challenge students’ critical thinking skills and touch on the relevance aspect of learning. By providing these examples, students are equipped to apply their knowledge to the best of their understanding and then receive feedback on how those responses line up with desired outcomes.
Our Conclusion? Case Studies for the Win!
Empowering others to access a better future involves not only awarding national certification, but also helping ensure frontline healthcare workers have the foundational knowledge to support career longevity. By using real-life situations to develop that knowledge, educators help students retain important information that will assist them in their real-life careers.