Case Studies and Activities in Adult Education and Human Resource Development

By Carpenter, Matthew | Adult Learning, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

Case Studies and Activities in Adult Education and Human Resource Development


Carpenter, Matthew, Adult Learning


Case Studies and Activities in Adult Education and Human Resource Development by Steven W. Schmidt. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing Inc., 2010, ISBN 13: 978-1617350733. Soft Cover, 198 pages.

Steven W. Schmidt presents the history of the use of case studies and the methodology he deems most effective in their use in the "andragogical classroom" (p. 23). The text is clearly written with adult educators as the main audience, as the goal is to better prepare those educators who plan on using case studies in their classroom. However, this text is also potentially useful to graduate students, who are exposed to case studies on a constant basis. By understanding the true goal of case studies, graduate students can be better prepared to learn through this unique teaching style that emphasizes the importance of personal knowledge and experience.

The first chapter begins with an introduction into what case studies are, likening them to be stories that "serve as examples of best, worst, or typical practice" (p. 2). While cases need to be believable for students to want to take part in the exercise, Schmidt raises the issue of whether cases should be based in reality or entirely fictional. While real events often provide the opportunity to see how the situation played out after a decision was made, fabricated case studies provide the opportunity to increase the complexity of the situation and decision, requiring students to take more facts into consideration when weighing the best course of action. The second half of the first chapter focuses on the development of the use of case studies, from their introduction in law studies at Harvard Law School in 1870 and subsequent adoption by business, medicine, and education, and the underlying theories used in case studies, mainly constructivist and social learning theories.

Chapter 2 focuses on the implementation of case studies in the classroom. Schmidt's biggest points are the understanding of Malcolm Knowles' concept of andragogy, and tailoring the use of case studies to fit into the "andragogical classroom". Schmidt also covers the importance of preparation for case studies, particularly the important role that the instructor plays. The instructor's purpose in cases is to ensure that the students are taking the facts and analyzing them to make the best decision possible. As Schmidt writes (p. 26):

   The important thing is that students examine
   the cases and build substantiating evidence for
   their decisions. … 

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