Student-Authored Case Studies as a Learning Tool in Physical Education Teacher Education: Students Can Prepare for Real-Life Situations with This Learning Tool
Richards, Andrew K., Hemphill, Michael A., Templin, Thomas J., Eubank, Andrew M., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
Teaching is not easy. The variety of complex and interrelated situations that occur in the classroom make meaningful instruction more difficult than it may seem to the casual observer. The argument could be made that teaching physical education is more complicated due to the nature of the environment and an intricate combination of managerial and organizational concerns. Colleges and universities use a range of strategies to prepare teachers for the dynamic environment of the gymnasium. Many physical education teacher education (PETE) programs now offer early field experiences, and the advantages of such experiences are well documented (LaMaster, 2001). Another way of exposing students to authentic teaching experiences is the use of case studies, which have been cited as elements of a well-designed teacher preparation program (Darling-Hammond, 2000). Case studies use storytelling to highlight the complexity of the teaching environment. Some authors have also noted the potential value of asking students to write their own case studies in order to explore more deeply the issues that they see as particularly significant in physical education (Wilson & Williams, 2001). The purpose of this article is to share the authors' experiences using written case studies as a learning tool in a junior PETE seminar course. The benefits and challenges associated with the method are also discussed, and concluding recommendations for teacher educators are given.
Case Studies in Physical Education
Case studies are "richly detailed, contextualized, narrative accounts" of situations or experiences related to a given field that are intended to promote critical thinking about real-life events (Levin, 1995, p. 63). They can promote vicarious learning by allowing individuals to discuss real-life situations in a nonthreatening environment (Veal & Taylor, 1995). Case studies have long been used as teaching tools in the fields of business, law, and medicine, and they are becoming more common in education (Beck, 2007; Merseth, 1991). The first case-based text in PETE focused on the administrative aspects of sport and physical education (Zeigler, 1959). Since then, two textbooks have been published emphasizing the case study approach in PETE--one in physical education (Stroot, 2000) and a second specific to adapted physical education (Hodge, Murata, Block, & Lieberman, 2003). Additionally, several articles have appeared in publications such as JOPERD that provide examples of cases as well as a rationale for their use in training future physical education teachers (e.g., Boyce, 1998, 2000; Wilson & Williams, 2001). Case study texts have also been written in related fields, such as sports psychology (Rotella, Boyce, Allyson, & Savis, 1998) and athletic coaching (Baghurst & Parish, 2010).
There are several recommendations in the literature for implementing case-based pedagogy in PETE. Boyce (1995) recommended asking students to read the case before getting to class so that they have time to think about the issues that are raised. The instructor should be well versed in the case in order to effectively facilitate discussion, which can take place either in small groups or with the whole class (Collier & O'Sullivan, 1997; Levin, 1995). Alternatively, conversations can begin in small groups and then transition into a whole class discussion. Colbert, Trimble, and Desberg (1996) drew attention to the potential role that multimedia can play in students' understanding of a case (e.g., viewing video clips related to various issues) and noted that reenacting cases through role play can add additional meaning.
Advocates of the case study method note that case studies can be used to promote reflection and help students make connections between theory and practice (Beck, 2007). Boyce (1996) explained that traditional classes may not adequately prepare students for the realities of classroom teaching (e.g., student diversity, classroom management, collegiality; etc.), but cases can be used to construct a bridge from methods courses to the real world. Additionally, it is assumed that case studies can motivate students to learn more than traditional lecture situations (Beck, 2007) and can be used to promote good decision making and ethical behavior (Goeke, 2008). Boyce (1996) also commented that reading cases helps future teachers to develop alternative solutions to problems and to evaluate the feasibility and potential consequences of their actions.
In addition to reading case studies written by others, it has been suggested that PETE students can benefit from writing their own cases. Wilson and Williams (2001) tied the writing of case studies to reflective practice during student-teaching experiences. Their students responded positively to the experience and appreciated the opportunity to document and explore events that were influential during their student teaching. Wilson and Williams also noted that, through the cases, students were able to connect theory to the practice of teaching. Finally, by sharing their experiences with classmates, the student teachers were able to compare their decisions to those made by others and consider alternative responses.
Case Studies as Shared Inquiry
Related to the benefits stated above, the construction and discussion of case studies can promote shared inquiry among preservice teachers through the review of hypothetical teaching dilemmas without having to face the consequences they would encounter in the real world (Harrington & Garrison, 1992). Student-written cases can promote vicarious learning and decision making through self-directed and student-centered inquiry. Moreover, because the problems posed are often complex, students quickly find that there is not always one correct answer and that solving one problem can potentially create or neglect others.
Case studies promote shared inquiry by allowing students to search for answers to the problems posed by the text. The shared inquiry cycle (Thomas & Oldfather, 1995) includes several features. First, the instructor selects an inquiry focus. Second, open space and time should be provided to probe the possible solutions. Third, students should be included as valued participants from the beginning, which gives them an opportunity to shape their own learning. Fourth, multiple sources of data should be included in the dialogue, such as observations, anecdotes, relevant literature, or other classroom experiences. Finally, solutions to the problems generated through shared inquiry can be shaped and discussed by a dialogue leader.
Student-Written Case Studies in a PETE Course
As the culminating experience in a junior PETE seminar course that was taught using the case study approach to promote shared inquiry, the authors asked a group of 19 students to write a case related to a topic or issue that was particularly salient to them as future physical educators (see table 1). The intent was to provide flexibility for the students to explore issues and challenges that they face as they prepare to enter the teaching profession. Leading up to the assignment, the instructors introduced the students to cases in Stroot's (2000) edited book and several that had been published in Joperd. Following the recommendations of Boyce (1992), students were asked to read the cases before class and respond to discussion questions. During class they discussed each case in groups and received feedback from course instructors. Beyond helping the students learn about the issues raised in the cases, this helped to provide them with an understanding of case studies, as well as with indices of well-written cases.
It should be noted that two graduate students assisted the primary instructor in the design and implementation of the assignment. While it may be atypical for three individuals to contribute to the teaching of one course, the graduate students were primarily involved with the collection of data related to student perceptions of the case study method for a research project.
In introducing the student-written case assignment, the authors presented the students with Boyce's (1995) fOPERD article, which outlines tips for writing case studies. Students were asked to read the article, after which the instructors led a class discussion related to the writing of cases. Suggestions presented in Boyce's article include discussing the issues pertinent to the case with someone who has experience in the area (i.e., an informant), investing adequate time in the development and revision of the case, developing an outline before beginning the writing process, and deciding whether to write the case in the first or third person. Additional strategies discussed were related to good writing techniques, such as starting the case with a catchy title and introductory sentence, using flashbacks to provide necessary background information, being attentive to case flow and transition, and using peer reviewers to provide insight and guidance throughout the writing process. Students were given the option of ending the case with a resolution (Wilson & Williams, 2001) or leaving the primary issues unresolved. They were also prompted to write questions related to the primary themes presented in their case, which has been cited as a critical element of case development (Boyce, 1995; Stroot, 2000).
Careful attention was paid to allowing the students to naturally progress from conceiving an idea to writing and revising a case. Within a specified timeline during the second half of the semester (11 weeks), the students were asked to complete several steps, which were organized to provide them with a protracted period of time to focus on the development of their cases (see table 2). Students were asked to submit a proposal detailing the topic they would be writing about. This proposal was reviewed by the instructors and returned with feedback. Students then worked on a first draft of their case and received feedback from a classmate via a peer review. During the peer-review sessions, students read one another's cases and provided verbal and written feedback related to areas that could be improved. Also, some students had their cases reviewed at the university's writing lab for technical and grammatical assistance. After these reviews, students met one of the instructors to receive additional feedback on areas of their case that could be expanded upon or improved. A final draft of the case was then submitted in the last week of the semester.
Throughout the writing process, attention was paid to providing multiple opportunities to get peer and instructor feedback before final submission. Students were provided with a rubric detailing assignment requirements, due dates, and criteria for success based on Boyce's (1995) strategies for writing effective cases. The goal was to prompt critical thinking and reflection on the part of the students as they worked alongside their instructors and peers in order to enhance the quality of their cases. Additionally, by recommending that the students take their case to the university's writing lab, the assignment facilitated the refinement of the students' written communication skills. In sum, students received formative feedback from various sources in order to improve the quality of their case. For evaluation of the final product, Boyce's (1995) criteria were incorporated into a rubric that was used by the course instructor to assign a final grade.
Table 3 presents an overview of the topics chosen by the students, as well as a brief description of each. In reviewing the topics, it is notable that multiple students chose to write about issues stemming from marginalization, assessment, and ethical decisions in physical education. The majority of the cases (11 of 19) focused on dilemmas faced by beginning teachers, who are most likely to experience uncertainties in facing the school environment. The reality of school life as compared to experiences during teacher preparation was definitely on the mind of the student-authors. Similarly several of the cases suggested that the main character work to implement a new strategy, curriculum, or assessment model despite resistance from colleagues and administrators. Finally, six cases followed teacher-coaches and the ways in which the role of coach interacts writh that of teacher.
Reflections on the Case Study Experience
As indicated in the introduction of this article, the case study approach has many benefits, and the authors have observed many of them in their experience. The project promoted engagement in a creative-writing process, which was enhanced through reviews by peers, the instructor, and the writing center. It also encouraged critical thinking related to real-life professional events that students may encounter in the gymnasium. By working with the students in the development of their cases, the authors were also able to connect theory to practice by showing them how the issues relate to the physical education literature.
The experience also helped students to see that issues they may encounter are often more complex than they appear. An individual's reaction to a given problem could trigger a series of consequences that can either solve the initial problem or perpetuate it. Writing cases helped the students to see the multiple angles of every situation. The various topics they wrote about revealed that teaching and the processes connected to it are indeed complex. In this way, the class introduced students to the complexity of life in schools and prompted them to think critically about it.
Finally, by challenging the students to choose their own topic and then develop a case, the assignment promoted active, student-centered learning and allowed them to explore a topic they viewed as particularly salient. That is, it gave them the opportunity to take control of their own learning experience and co-construct the knowledge gained through the course as opposed to having information lectured to them by an instructor.
While there are benefits to requesting students to write their own cases, the authors recognize that there are also challenges that must be considered. Related to both the case study method and the writing of cases, one such challenge is that students and the instructor are asked to engage in a novel learning experience. This creates a climate different from that which exists in most PETE courses. It requires the instructor to be willing to relinquish control of the class and the students to rise to the challenge of accepting the control that is given to them. Students with limited writing experience may be challenged by the task of developing a substantive case. In this situation the instructor must be willing to support the students' efforts and be diligent in providing assistance, which may be labor intensive. The demand of helping students brainstorm topics, reading cases, copy editing, and assisting students with revisions can be significant. Nonetheless, the experience described in this article indicates that this process helps students to take ownership of their work and become active, self-directed, and engaged learners.
This experience also suggests that maintaining a balance between physical education and coaching cases is difficult. As has been documented in research on the profile of PETE students, many of them come to teacher-training programs with a desire to coach as well as teach (Curtner-Smith, 1997; Dodds et al., 1992), and this was evident in their cases. Although the intention was for the cases to focus solely on issues related to physical education, it was important to provide the students with the flexibility of choosing a topic that they viewed as particularly significant to their future career. It was also understood that the dual role of teacher and coach is an important issue that many physical educators face. Thus, the students were allowed to develop cases in which teacher-coaches experienced challenges in the context of athletics. However, they were encouraged to consider how the issues affected their character's role as both teacher and coach.
Based on these experiences, the authors encourage PETE faculty to consider the use of a student-written case assignment. Despite the challenges, students derive several benefits from the experience. In an effort to reduce the challenges and maximize the benefits, the following recommendations are provided to inform practice:
* Before beginning the writing process itself, it is important that students have an opportunity to read cases and become familiar with the hallmarks of a well-written case. Without this tutelage it may be difficult for students to construct quality cases that meet the objectives of the assignment.
* The instructor must prepare him or herself for the volume of reading and editing that will be needed in order to make the project a success. Students will likely require feedback and guidance related to their writing, which takes time and effort on the part of the instructor.
* Similarly, it is important to discuss the assignment at length with the students and prepare them for what they will need to do in order to meet expectations. Providing students with guidelines for the assignment, as well as a rubric for how they will be evaluated, will likely increase their success.
* It is important that the instructor monitor student progress and engagement throughout the assignment. In order to promote reflection and student-centered learning, students must be asked to engage in the assignment for a protracted period of time. Those who choose to write the entire case the night before it is due will not get as much out of the assignment as those who take the time to write, reflect, and rewrite the case over the course of several weeks. The authors found that asking students to meet several assignment checkpoints over the course of the semester not only got the students working on the assignment early, but provided them with feedback from several sources (i.e., peers, instructors, and the writing lab) and encouragement to improve their writing.
Student-written case studies have the potential to improve the preparation of preservice teachers in physical education. However, as with most teaching strategies, the ultimate success of student-written cases depends on the instructors' commitment to making the assignment meaningful and the degree to which the students buy into the idea of generating their own knowledge. These processes often influence one another--instructors can affect students' motivation, and student enthusiasm can affect the way in which the instructor teaches. Instructors should also understand that they do not need to implement this strategy in exactly the same way. As with all teaching methods, a written case study assignment can be adapted to the particular teaching setting.
Although it may be impossible to prepare preservice teachers for every situation they will encounter in the field, it may be possible to encourage the development of reflection and critical-thinking skills through the case study approach. The experience described here confirms this notion and highlights the important role that student-written cases can play in the development of reflective physical educators. However, instructors should realize that they probably will not see the ultimate benefits of the writing project within their class. Since one of the primary objectives of such a project is to prepare students better for situations they will encounter in the future, it will be hard to determine whether or not the desired knowledge, skills, and dispositions have been instilled until the students confront a situation similar to what they wrote about.
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Table 1. Model for Using the Shared Inquiry Cycle in PETE Shared Connection in the Course Inquiry Phase Inquiry Students write case studies in physical education. focus Open time and Students develop their case over a 12-week period space with several key benchmarks built in. Involving Each student-authored case goes through a peer students as review, and each student participates in weekly valued dialogue during class and online. participants Including Students are encouraged to consult their multiple classmates, instructors, notes from previous sources of courses, examples of published cases, and the data research literature to inform their writing. Reflection Issues in the case are discussed in the classroom. and These discussions encourage self-reflection and discussion inform the students' case studies. Table 2. Semester Timeline for Student-written Case Studies Week Course Requirements 7 Introduce writing assignment and brainstorm potential case topics in class. 8 Students submit a proposal for the topic of their case along with a skeleton outline of the major event(s) they will write about. 10 Students submit a first draft of the case to be reviewed and returned with recommendations for improvement. 12 Students conduct peer reviews and submit an updated copy of their case indicating where changes were made based on the reviews. 14 Students take the case to the university's writing lab for feedback related to spelling, grammar, usage, and sentence structure. 15 Students participate in a 10 - to 20-minute meeting with one of the instructors outside of class to discuss the case and recommendations for improvement. 17 Students submit a final version of their case along with all of the previous versions they had submitted so that the instructor can discern a progression of writing. Table 3. Topics and Descriptions of Student-Authored Cases Case Focus or Description of the Case Topic Adapted PE A veteran PE teacher must change her classroom management policy when students with disabilities are integrated into her classes. Assessment A beginning PE teacher attempts to implement a new assessment policy only to meet resistance from his coworkers. Assessment A beginning PE teacher tries to implement new assessments only to be held back by her more experienced mentor teacher. Classroom A new PE teacher at a large, urban high school management struggles to maintain control of her classes. Collegiality A beginning PE teacher attempts to improve the PE issues program at his school, but meets resistance from his veteran colleagues. Contemporary A young PE teacher begins receiving inappropriate issues text messages from a student and must decide how to respond. Curricular model A beginning PE teacher implements curricular models turmoil he learned in college, but meets resistance from his peers. Ethical An experienced PE teacher and coach has his values decisions tested when a star player skips class the day of the championship game. Ethical A third-year PE teacher is at risk of losing his decisions job when he is arrested for driving while intoxicated. Ethical A PE teacher is confronted with an ethical decision decisions when he learns that one of his students was being abused at home. Ethical A star basketball player's parents move out of decisions town, but the player continues to illegally attend the school to play basketball with the help of his coach/PE teacher. Ethical A beginning PE teacher and coach learns that decisions several of his student-athletes are using performance-enhancing substances. Hazing and A first-year teacher and coach finds himself in a mistreatment difficult situation when rumors of hazing begin to circulate in the school. Liability A PE teacher and coach allows his team to celebrate issues a win with a party at his house, but the students begin drinking alcohol. Marginalization An extraordinary beginning PE teacher is at risk of losing her job due to district budget cuts. Marginalization A PE teacher is placed in a difficult situation when a student performs poorly in class and the administration encourages him to give her an A even though she did not earn it. Marginalization Two PE teachers win a grant to help improve their program, but the administration plans to use the funds to renovate classroom space instead of the gymnasium. Role conflict A teacher with dual certification in PE and elementary education is hired to teach PE, but wishes she were teaching fourth grade. Teacher-student A young PE teacher and coach puts his career on the relationships line by engaging in an intimate relationship with a student-athlete.
K. Andrew Richards (email@example.com) is a graduate teaching assistant, Thomas). Templin is a professor, and Andrew M. Eubank is a student, in the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, IN 47907. Michael A. Hemphill is a visiting professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at the College of Charleston, in Charleston, SC 29424.…
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Publication information: Article title: Student-Authored Case Studies as a Learning Tool in Physical Education Teacher Education: Students Can Prepare for Real-Life Situations with This Learning Tool. Contributors: Richards, Andrew K. - Author, Hemphill, Michael A. - Author, Templin, Thomas J. - Author, Eubank, Andrew M. - Author. Journal title: JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. Volume: 83. Issue: 3 Publication date: March 2012. Page number: 47+. © 2009 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.
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