Storytelling: Using a Case Method Approach in Administrator Preparation Programs

By Diamantes, Thomas; Ovington, June | Education, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Storytelling: Using a Case Method Approach in Administrator Preparation Programs


Diamantes, Thomas, Ovington, June, Education


This is to explain how a modified case method is being used to teach concepts of school administration to educators entering public school administration. While traditional methods may be effective in covering many aspects of educational leadership, the case method offers an interesting alternative. The case method approach can be modified to include discussion-starters for limited use with graduate classes in educational administration. Complete narratives or scenarios are not given. The discussion-starters contain just the question or dilemma of the selected issues in educational leadership. This is to facilitate in-class use of the problem description without prior reading assignments and study. Strategies for implementation of this teaching technique are discussed in a later section of this paper.

A distinction between case study and the case method is made by Kowalski (2001). He defines the former as a general description of a situation while the latter has specific reference to using the case study as a teaching paradigm. The term case study itself means different things to different people. Also, some confusion arises when terms such as case history (commonly a medical term) and case work (commonly a social work term) are used.

Malouf (1995) defines a case study simply as a situation or event to be analyzed. But case studies are more than just the case material. Merseth points out that the "cases and the discussions of them are complementary and are both important" (Merseth, 1991a, p.5). The case study, unlike the lived experience, can be held still for repeated examination (Florio-Ruane and Clark, 1990.) It can approximate the immediacy of actual experience while providing a sample of the complexity of the subject in question or dilemma.

When Sykes and Bird (1992) surveyed a variety of cases, descriptions of case teaching and arguments about cases in teacher education, five categories emerged that speak to the diversity of theory and practice surrounding the case idea:

* textbook cases;

* casebooks;

* conversations and videotapes;

* subject-specific cases; and

* context-specific cases.

They found a number of dimensions, in cases, including the medium, the genre, the length, and whether the case is actual or 'contrived. They see the task ahead for case method users as the "creation and use of rich and interesting case materials in a variety of settings for a variety of purposes" (Sykes and Bird, 1992, p. 509.)

Doyle (1990) states that the use of case methods in teacher education depends on one's understanding of teaching and the learning to teach process. He stresses the importance of theoretical knowledge about teaching when defining, selecting, designing and classifying cases; "only with this theoretical knowledge can an instance be designated a case of something" (Doyle, 1990, p. 14.)

Maloufs (1993) view of the case study yields the following advantages:

1. involvement and interaction by students;

2. material can be covered in depth and detail;

3. application of knowledge and skills is possible; and

4. most closely resembles reality.

Two disadvantages that he found were: "stereotyped" answers might be produced; and the additional time required for reading of the case study itself.

Merseth (1991 a) offers the following advantages of the case study method; cases:

1. help students develop skills of critical analysis and problem solving;

2. encourage reflective practice and deliberate action;

3. bring reality into the arena of theory;

4. involve students in their own learning; and

5. promote the creation of a community of learners.

While this discussion seems to show the advantages of using the case method to outweigh the disadvantages, Welty (1989), cautions that the added burden of preparation for case study use should be a major factor in deciding to use this strategy. …

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Storytelling: Using a Case Method Approach in Administrator Preparation Programs
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