Before an instructional developer can develop and use case studies, an understanding
of what they are and why they are useful is necessary.
1.4.1 What Are Case Studies, and Why Use Them?
A case study is a presentation of real or hypothetical situations used to stimulate
analytical and problem solving approaches. The key words to note here are "...analytical
and problem solving approaches." By design, a case study requires a trainee to analyze the
situation and solve the problems using previous or newly acquired knowledge or skills.
An instructional developer can help motivate the trainees to learn by designing lessons
that allow them to participate in the learning activity. Trainee interest is aroused and
maintained by making them active rather than passive participants. The trainees examine
situations that have actually occurred, could have occurred, or are occurring. The trainees
are given specific facts about events and are then required to think through the case study to
arrive at a conclusion.
Case studies can help the trainee develop judgment skills and the ability to think
independently and maturely, which in turn prepares them for job experiences. Trainees can
make comparisons and draw their own conclusions to arrive at a solution in an environment
that is risk-free. They also learn how to listen better and improve their ability to convey
Often, the trainees work in a group to analyze a case study. This helps the trainee to
establish a give and take attitude. Trainees see that people approach the same problem
differently; that there is no "one correct way" to solve problems. Trainees develop a
willingness to see problems from all points of view.
1.4.2 Adult Learners and the Case Study
Adult learners bring many characteristics to the learning environment. These
characteristics, (e.g., rate of learning, experience, relevance of the training to the job, need
for self-direction, differences in learning styles, and a need for problem-centered situations)
are described in detail in many different textbooks on learning theory. These characteristics,
and how they apply to case studies, are briefly summarized here.
The rate of learning of an adult can be affected by many events. For example, a
"typical adult" has been out of the classroom environment for some time. They may have
lost effective study habits, which in turn may inhibit their ability to study independently.