Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Creating Case Study Presentations: A Survey of Senior Seminar Students

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Creating Case Study Presentations: A Survey of Senior Seminar Students

Article excerpt

Senior seminar students were surveyed on their opinions of a course that required them to create and present original formal case studies; this resulted in an accumulation of quantitative and qualitative data that were supportive of the case study method. The survey also revealed statistically significant correlations that support the case study method as an important pedagogical tool for learning scientific information.


The Senior Seminar in Biology course at Kean University teaches students who have taken core biology courses and achieved senior status to research primary literature on current topics in biology and produce a traditional seminar presentation that includes a written report and a clear and comprehensive oral talk with ensuing discussion. Within my senior seminar sections, I have adopted the formal case study presentation format as an alternate method for producing oral and written presentations (Field 2003).


Based on current case study literature, senior seminar students follow a general model to create their presentations:

* They write an original case study, using factual information from the primary literature, which includes thought-provoking discussion questions.

* They provide teaching notes that describe how the case should be conducted in the classroom.

* Before presenting the case study, students deliver an oral presentation in which they familiarize the audience with relevant background information.

* The class is divided into discussion groups to answer case study questions.

* Each student facilitates an all-class discussion of the case study questions (Field 2003; Herreid 1997/1998; Herreid 1999/2000; Herreid 2000).

To determine how valuable this format is to senior seminar students, I designed a survey to elicit their opinions about the formal case study presentation method. Fifty-six students from four separate sections of the senior seminar course (during the spring 2003 and spring 2004 semesters) completed a copy of this survey at the end of the course. Within this survey, students read and numerically rated the value of 10 statements involving the use of case studies. The quantitative results from these surveys strongly reinforce the use of the case study method for presenting seminars and produce highly significant correlations among some of the statements (about characteristics of the case study method). Qualitative data in the form of written comments to specific questions also strongly support the case study method.

Methods and results

The survey required students to read 10 statements that supported the use of the case study method in the senior seminar course, decide if they agreed or disagreed with each statement, and then rate each accordingly to a basic scale in which 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = agree, and 4 = strongly agree (Figure 1). Students were also encouraged to submit written comments to specific questions covering the knowledge of case study usage and seminar format gained before and after the instructor's evaluation of the case study presentation (Figure 2).

To secure more objective results (to reduce the bias toward pleasing the instructor), students were told that this type of research depends heavily on the honesty of its participants and to complete the surveys truthfully and anonymously. I conducted a statistical analysis using SPSS on the numerical data to produce statistical frequencies for the 10 statements and any possible correlations among the results.

Quantitative data. The means of the 10 survey statements indicated that participants felt that the case study method is a valuable primary pedagogical method of learning. All means were between 3 (agrees with the statement) and 4 (strongly agrees with the statement); statements 1 (broader applications for case study use), 4 (improving critical-thinking skills), 7 (probing the audience for alternate views), and 8 (effective interdisciplinary medium) yielded the highest means (Table 1, p. …

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