Student self-report measures have been reported in numerous studies to assert that the use of ease studies in college psychology courses can help students to better understand the relevance of course topics; however, few studies have directly measured the impact of case studies on students' learning. The present study differs from previous studies involving case studies in that a pretest-posttest design with within-test control items was utilized to investigate the effectiveness of four National Public Radio's Teenage Diaries used to facilitate students' (N=35) learning and retention of course concepts in an adolescent psychology course. The present study also sought to determine if other educational variables, such as prior coursework in psychology and reading ability, had any influence on students' test scores. The statistically significant results indicated that the use of the diaries was an effective instructional intervention, and that reading ability in part plays a role in students' academic achievement.
The application of case studies have long been used by psychology instructors to illustrate course material and to increase students' appreciation of the relevance of course concepts outside of the classroom context. The research involving the use of case studies has suggested that increased understanding of course material is perceived by college students (e.g., Cabe, Walker, & Williams, 1999; McDade, 1995; Sheldon, 2000, 2004; Tsui, 2002). To date, however, few studies have directly examined the impact of case studies on students' actual learning of course concepts. According to Tsui (2002), studies that have addressed classroom experiences tend to rely too heavily on student self-report data rather than observational data. Also, among the research that has examined the use of case studies to promote students' understanding of course material, the focus of teaching varies, thus studies addressing the same teaching elements have produced varied findings. Given that the use of case studies in college courses is an increasingly popular activity to enhance course materials, educators need to determine if these activities really do help students to learn about course concepts.
Sheldon (2004) described a single case study assignment using the National Public Radio's Teenage Diaries series (Richman & Radio Diaries Inc., 2000) to facilitate college students' understanding of concepts in an adolescent psychology course. Consistent with past studies, Sheldon (2004) reported high levels of student self-reported satisfaction with the presentation and relevance of the diary; however, it was not determined if the use of the diary actually had an effect on students' course performance. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to further investigate Sheldon's (2004) findings, and to replicate the research to the extent that college students listened to Teenage Diaries in conjunction with the presentation of course content and end-course self-report student satisfaction data were obtained. This study is different from the Sheldon (2004) study in that a pretest-posttest design with within-test control items was used to determine if exposure to four Teenage Diaries had any direct effect on the students' learning. This study also examined how aspects of the students' educational experiences, such as previous coursework in psychology and reading ability, interacted with the measures.
College students (N=35) enrolled in an undergraduate Adolescent Psychology course consented to participate. There were 28 (80%) females and 7 (20%) males. The participants self-reported if they had previously taken any courses in psychology either in high school or college. Of the 35 participants, 19 (54.29%) indicated they had previous introductory-level coursework in psychology, while 16 (45.71%) indicated they had none. In addition, 3 (8.6%) of the participants who indicated they had previous introductory coursework also indicated they had taken a course in developmental (infant and/or child) psychology. …