Case Study Training for Seeing School through Adolescents' Eyes

Article excerpt


This paper describes the first of two years of training in case study activities, adapted from the program originally developed by Fritz Redl, Daniel A. Prescott, and others at the Universities of Chicago and Maryland in the 1940s (Brandt & Perkins, 1956; Commission on Teacher Education, 1945; Eliot & Gardner, 1985; Prescott, 1948, 1957, 1962). According to Prescott (1957), the "program is not a course of instruction which participants receive. Rather, it is a program of guided experiences that participants undergo and through which they gradually learn to see school situations through the eyes of individual children". Participants are asked to remind themselves of this purpose as training in case study activities progresses.

Since 1985, the authors have been working to reestablish case study training groups in Ohio schools. This work has been sponsored by the School of Education at the University of Dayton and is intended for all school personnel, including classroom teachers, supervisors, principals, counselors, school psychologists, librarians, and nurses working in elementary or high schools, as well as other educational settings. The focus of the case study activities presented here is on adolescents in the high school setting.

To carry out the case study activities, high school personnel organize themselves into voluntary case study groups. Each group is moderated by a participant who is specially trained as a leader. This leadership training is required even of those who already have had training in case study activities.


The leadership training is held at the site where high school personnel are initiating a case study group. A leadership workshop should have a minimum of eight and a maximum of twelve participants who agree to serve as leaders and/or coleaders at host facilities. At the end of the first year, the leadership candidates will:

1. Understand the developmental tasks and goals that every adolescent student is trying to accomplish. Havighurst (1972) has defined a developmental task as "a task which arises at or about a certain period in the life of the individual, successful achievement of which leads to . . . happiness and to success with later tasks, while failure leads to unhappiness in the individual, disapproval by the society, and difficulty with later tasks". Developmental tasks have their origins in biological forces, social/cultural pressures, and the individual's values and aspirations (Havighurst, 1980).

2. Be aware of the problems adolescent students face in addition to meeting the school's expectations.

3. Take into account students' strengths in terms of their backgrounds, personal relationships, interests, and learning capacities.

4. Understand what adolescent students are up against as they strive to accomplish their developmental tasks and goals.

5. Know what high school personnel have done and might do to help students with their developmental tasks and goals.

6. Have conceptual and practical knowledge of the case study activities used during the first year of the program.

7. Have an overview of the leader's tasks in case study groups.

8. Master the skills involved in leading small groups.

9. Be familiar with current scientific knowledge about the growth and learning of adolescent students in today's world.

This leadership training qualifies high school personnel to lead and/or colead a case study group over the period of a year. Prescott (1957) sums up the role of group leaders: (a) convene the group; (b) behave in such a way that neither they nor others see them as instructors; (c) facilitate the case study processes the group must carry out; (d) be knowledgeable about group processes; (e) know how to insure that every group member gets an opportunity to participate; (f) prevent a talkative participant from monopolizing a group; (g) raise meaningful questions when a group gets bogged down; (h) sincerely value human beings, including every group member and every student being studied; and (i) set the professional tone and the ethical standards of the group's activities. …