The Case Method: Bridging the College Classroom and Secondary Classrooms

By McCombie, Sally M.; Zimmer, Patricia | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, November 2007 | Go to article overview

The Case Method: Bridging the College Classroom and Secondary Classrooms


McCombie, Sally M., Zimmer, Patricia, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


Teacher educators have a challenging task of preparing students to enter today's classrooms. Teacher educators in family and consumer sciences (FCS) face unique challenges due to the diversity of content that comprises the discipline. It is imperative that FCS teacher educators use effective instructional methods. This article describes the use of the case method in a teaching methodology course. An FCS teacher educator joins a master classroom teacher to help preservice teachers connect what is learned in the college classroom to authentic secondary classroom experiences.

Teacher educators have a challenging task of preparing students to enter classrooms ready to take on the many responsibilities facing a classroom teacher, and, FCS teacher educators face unique challenges due to the diversity of the content. FCS education graduates must be prepared to teach students how to manage finances, make major purchases, and recognize the dangers of credit card spending. In addition, they must be ready to teach about the responsibilities of parenting and child development, conflict resolution, wise lifestyle choices, job-hunting skills, proper diet and nutrition, and childhood obesity (Tucker, 2004). FCS teachers equip students with insight and knowledge necessary to become productive, contributing citizens in a complex world (Card, 2004). It is imperative that FCS teacher educators use effective instructional methods to prepare preservice teachers for the challenges of teaching in FCS.

Shulman (1992) pointed out the ineffectiveness of teacher education; however, a study conducted by Jensen and Rowley (2002) concluded that the instruction preservice teachers received clearly made a difference in their preparation for classroom teaching. Constructivist theorists suggested that learning is more effective when instruction involves student-centered learning and active learning experiences (Winitzky & Kauchak, 1997). It is important that teacher educators help preservice teachers connect declarative and procedural knowledge. One method used to help students make meaning of knowledge in practical settings is the case method of instruction.

The case method uses true-to-life experiences to facilitate learning through analysis of verbal or written descriptions of actual events. In teacher education, cases are usually problem-centered accounts of actual classroom situations in which a teacher was faced with a dilemma that required resolution (Silverman, Welty, & Lyon, 1992). case method is different from case-based instruction. case method is a general descriptor for teaching through the use of cases or problems. It is used in conjunction with other teaching methods throughout a course. It can be introduced as one teaching method. In comparison, case-based instruction describes the structure of the curriculum or a course that is delivered using only actual cases or events (Fauske, 2000).

This article describes the use of the case method in an FCS education teaching methodology course. An FCS teacher educator joined a master classroom teacher to provide a bridge to preservice teachers between what is learned in the college classroom and actual secondary classroom experiences.

Implementing the case Method

The case method is used in a required teaching methodology course before the student teaching experience. The various topics covered include teaching strategies and classroom management. The master classroom teacher provides actual classroom management situations encountered as a junior/senior high school FCS teacher. These cases are sent to the teacher educator in written form.

The teacher educator uses the cases in various cooperative-learning exercises. Students work in groups to respond to the cases. They are given the case description and must generate various strategies that could address the dilemma. Students list issues that may be involved in every situation and project consequences for each strategy.

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