Implications of Using Case Study Instruction in a Foreign/Second Language Methods Course

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To dale, very little has been written about what kind of experiences foreign and second language teachers had during their preservice teaching internships and the implications of these experiences on the quality of foreign and second language instruction in the United States in K-12 settings. This article presents the case study of one student teacher intern involved in his 15-week experience in a linguistically and culturally diverse secondary school setting and how his case was used in a foreign/second language methodology course. It examines the extent and nature of the student's critical reflections in determining the basis of sound methodological and pedagogical approaches to second language instruction. Furthermore, it demonstrates the design and development of this case as a case study and the benefits of its use in one particular teacher education program. Additionally, this article highlights, within the case study, the utilization of reflection and the creation of the professional development portfolio. Results indicated that the case-based method can be an instructional tool in a methods class. Students studying this case in the teacher education program discovered that they were able to link theory to practice and could understand and use educational theories and principles in becoming effective educators.


In a 1998 Special Topics issue of TESOL Quarterly, Freeman and Johnson (1998) argued for a reconceptualization of the knowledge base of English-as-a-second-language (ESL) teacher education: "Essential to this reconceptualization is the premise that the institutional forms and processes of teacher education frame how the profession responds to the basic sociocultural process of learning to teach." Furthermore, Freeman and Johnson contended that the core of the new knowledge base must focus on the activity of teaching itself; it should center on the teacher who does it, the contexts in which it is done, and the pedagogy by which it is done (Freeman & Johnson, 1998, p. 413). In this same vein, I support the notion of a need to examine our teacher education practices, which ultimately constitute our professional self definition. This article represents my use of case study research and critical reflection to examine the sociocultural process of learning to teach.

Case-Method or Case-Based Instruction in Teacher Education

For the purposes of this article, the focus will be on the use of case-based instruction as it was used in an advanced foreign/second language methodology course in a graduate school of education teacher training program. case-based instruction is considered valuable in teacher education because it allows the student to make connections between theory and practice while examining his or her own beliefs about teaching and learning. case-method instruction is not a new phenomenon. The method in which case-method instruction is used shapes the learning that results from it. A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century described,

An approach to instruction that should be incorporated [in teacher education] ... is the case method, well developed in law and business, but almost unknown in teaching instruction. Teaching "cases" illustrating a great variety of teaching problems should be developed as a major focus of instruction (Carnegie Forum, 1986, p. 76).

To choose cases as a pedagogy is to embrace a belief that while theoretic principles may be important and must be learned by those who teach, simply knowing a principle is of little use (Merseth, 1991, p. 13). Use of case methodologies assumes that what we need are teachers who are able to apply principles and even to devise new ones (Kennedy, 1987; Schon, 1983).

Proponents of case-method instruction have argued that it can be employed for any purpose, including illustration of theoretical principles, providing precedents for practices, posing moral or ethical dilemmas, modeling "thinking like a teacher," and providing alternative images of practice. …