What makes a good case study?

There are a variety of goals that the use of case studies can meet.  Case studies allow students to apply what they are learning to complex, real-world problems (Stanford University, 1994).  Students experience a wide variety of issues that are made concrete through the use of case studies.  These are the same issues they will likely face as they enter the workforce.  Students will also gain important teamwork skills as they work together to identify possible solutions for each case.  While it is clear that case studies are beneficial learning tools, it can often be difficult to choose a “good” case study.

When writing a case study it is easiest to base the case on actual events or experiences.  A common case study often includes a “decision-maker” facing a problem, a description of the context, and supporting information (Boston University, 2016).  The case should supply the students with the answers to the following questions:  Who? What?  Where?  When? and How?  While the case study should be informative, it is important that it is also thought provoking.  Case studies do not offer all of the details, but instead, present an open-ended problem to be solved.  This requires students to deeply analyze the problem and define all of the possible solutions.  Based on the solutions they have identified, students can determine what they recommend the decision-maker do and why.  This will place students in the position of the decision-maker in order to improve upon decision-making skills.

What are some experiences in plant breeding you have had that can be written as a case study?  Share your ideas and case studies in the discussion below.

Boston University (2016). Using case studies to teach. BU Center for Teaching and Learning.

Stanford University. (1994). Teaching with case studies. Speaking of Teaching 5(2).