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The case study teaching method

The case study teaching method, also referred to as case-based teaching (Ali et al., 2018; Jyothirmayi, 2012; Schwartz, 2015; Tan et al., 2014) and case method (Golich, Boyer, Franko, & Lamy, 2000; Ray, 2018; Schwartz, 2015; Speechley et al., 2015), is consistent with a teaching philosophy that posits that a major objective of higher education is the empowerment of students to think critically, and apply the concepts and facts they learned to new practical situations (Golich et al., 2000). If used properly, it is a powerful student-centred teaching strategy that can effectively nurture critical thinking, communication, and interpersonal skills of students (Schwartz, 2015). The use of case studies in teaching and learning encourages students to “express and experiment with their ideas”, resulting in the improvement of their critical thinking skills (Gholami et al., 2017). Students can relate content learned in class to real situations in professional practice. In addition, students are challenged to solve problems that are posed in simulated real-life situations (Harman et al., 2015; Miller & Pessoa, 2016). Arrue & Caballero (2015)conducted a study to design and implement a teaching sequence that offers students the opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values using case study teaching method among nursing students. Findings exposed the case method of teaching as a satisfactory tool that can effectively facilitate the acquisition of the skills that every nurse would need during their career, and that this method was well received by nursing students. A study by Bayona & CastaƱeda (2017)concluded that the case method is highly effective for promoting educational outcomes. In addition, the authors suggested that this method could be used for junior students to gradually improve both their declarative knowledge and situation analysis skills.

Waldrop & Thomason (2016) conducted a study design and implement a curriculum-spanning, vertically and horizontally integrated case-based active learning activity specifically structured on the medical model of morning report. Findings revealed significant increases in content knowledge demonstrated all students following the activity. Findings further exposed that most students felt that the activity was a positive learning experience, and over 90% of students believed the activity helped them to better understand how their current pharmacy studies are applicable to future courses. (Farashahi & Tajeddin, 2018) conducted research to compare simulation, case study and lecture as the most commonly applied teaching methods in the business education. Findings of their study revealed that students perceived simulation as the most effective teaching method for developing their interpersonal skills followed by case study and lecture methods respectively. Authors also found that with regards to problem-solving skills, simulation and case study were perceived by students as being similar but more effective than lecture method.

Another study by Gholami et al. (2017) which explored the experiences of Iranian undergraduate nursing students of the implementation of case-based teaching method revealed that that case study method is a stressful but pleasant and empowering experience for the nursing students. Students perceived this method of teaching beneficial in developing critical thinking and stress management skills, improving diagnostic abilities, and assisting them in acquiring professional competencies for use in their future practices as nurses. Iahad et al. (2013)also found in their study that most students showed positive perception of using the case study as a teaching method and that they agreed to learn using the same method in the future.

These studies, however, mostly focused on exploring the impact or consequences of using case studies as a method of teaching, and participants were mostly in a health discipline. In addition, these studies fell short of exploring students’ reflections (experiences, attitudes, and perceptions) on the use of case studies in teaching. In order to address this gap, this study explored students’ reflections on the use of case studies in teaching and findings could assist students who showed negative attitudes towards case studies to enhance these attitudes. Furthermore, findings could equip teachers, including those with no experience in using case studies in teaching, with strategies to use this method of teaching effectively and also to provide students with enjoyable experiences in case studies discussions in the classroom.

Despite the huge benefits of using case studies as a method of teaching, there are several challenges identified in the implementation of this method. These challenges include lecturer’s unfamiliarity with case teaching, time-consuming case study preparation, case complexity which may be problematic for students, lecturer’s strategies for introducing case study in the classroom, teaching style of the case study leader, students’ participation in case discussion, students’ communication in case study discussions, questioning techniques that may be difficult for students and focused case discussion(Mostert, 2007). These challenges are however significantly outweighed by the numerous advantages case studies have in teaching and learning.