Student-Authored Case Studies as a Learning Tool in Physical Education Teacher Education: Students Can Prepare for Real-Life Situations with This Learning Tool

By Richards, Andrew K.; Hemphill, Michael A. et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Student-Authored Case Studies as a Learning Tool in Physical Education Teacher Education: Students Can Prepare for Real-Life Situations with This Learning Tool


Richards, Andrew K., Hemphill, Michael A., Templin, Thomas J., Eubank, Andrew M., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Teaching is not easy. The variety of complex and interrelated situations that occur in the classroom make meaningful instruction more difficult than it may seem to the casual observer. The argument could be made that teaching physical education is more complicated due to the nature of the environment and an intricate combination of managerial and organizational concerns. Colleges and universities use a range of strategies to prepare teachers for the dynamic environment of the gymnasium. Many physical education teacher education (PETE) programs now offer early field experiences, and the advantages of such experiences are well documented (LaMaster, 2001). Another way of exposing students to authentic teaching experiences is the use of case studies, which have been cited as elements of a well-designed teacher preparation program (Darling-Hammond, 2000). Case studies use storytelling to highlight the complexity of the teaching environment. Some authors have also noted the potential value of asking students to write their own case studies in order to explore more deeply the issues that they see as particularly significant in physical education (Wilson & Williams, 2001). The purpose of this article is to share the authors' experiences using written case studies as a learning tool in a junior PETE seminar course. The benefits and challenges associated with the method are also discussed, and concluding recommendations for teacher educators are given.

Case Studies in Physical Education

Case studies are "richly detailed, contextualized, narrative accounts" of situations or experiences related to a given field that are intended to promote critical thinking about real-life events (Levin, 1995, p. 63). They can promote vicarious learning by allowing individuals to discuss real-life situations in a nonthreatening environment (Veal & Taylor, 1995). Case studies have long been used as teaching tools in the fields of business, law, and medicine, and they are becoming more common in education (Beck, 2007; Merseth, 1991). The first case-based text in PETE focused on the administrative aspects of sport and physical education (Zeigler, 1959). Since then, two textbooks have been published emphasizing the case study approach in PETE--one in physical education (Stroot, 2000) and a second specific to adapted physical education (Hodge, Murata, Block, & Lieberman, 2003). Additionally, several articles have appeared in publications such as JOPERD that provide examples of cases as well as a rationale for their use in training future physical education teachers (e.g., Boyce, 1998, 2000; Wilson & Williams, 2001). Case study texts have also been written in related fields, such as sports psychology (Rotella, Boyce, Allyson, & Savis, 1998) and athletic coaching (Baghurst & Parish, 2010).

There are several recommendations in the literature for implementing case-based pedagogy in PETE. Boyce (1995) recommended asking students to read the case before getting to class so that they have time to think about the issues that are raised. The instructor should be well versed in the case in order to effectively facilitate discussion, which can take place either in small groups or with the whole class (Collier & O'Sullivan, 1997; Levin, 1995). Alternatively, conversations can begin in small groups and then transition into a whole class discussion. Colbert, Trimble, and Desberg (1996) drew attention to the potential role that multimedia can play in students' understanding of a case (e.g., viewing video clips related to various issues) and noted that reenacting cases through role play can add additional meaning.

Advocates of the case study method note that case studies can be used to promote reflection and help students make connections between theory and practice (Beck, 2007). Boyce (1996) explained that traditional classes may not adequately prepare students for the realities of classroom teaching (e. …

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