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Making Learning Relevant With Case Studies

The open-ended problems presented in case studies give students work that feels connected to their lives.

Students working on projects in a classroom

To prepare students for jobs that haven’t been created yet, we need to teach them how to be great problem solvers so that they’ll be ready for anything. One way to do this is by teaching content and skills using real-world case studies, a learning model that’s focused on reflection during the problem-solving process. It’s similar to project-based learning, but PBL is more focused on students creating a product.

Case studies have been used for years by businesses, law and medical schools, physicians on rounds, and artists critiquing work. Like other forms of problem-based learning, case studies can be accessible for every age group, both in one subject and in interdisciplinary work.

You can get started with case studies by tackling relatable questions like these with your students:

  • How can we limit food waste in the cafeteria?
  • How can we get our school to recycle and compost waste? (Or, if you want to be more complex, how can our school reduce its carbon footprint?)
  • How can we improve school attendance?
  • How can we reduce the number of people who get sick at school during cold and flu season?

Addressing questions like these leads students to identify topics they need to learn more about. In researching the first question, for example, students may see that they need to research food chains and nutrition. Students often ask, reasonably, why they need to learn something, or when they’ll use their knowledge in the future. Learning is most successful for students when the content and skills they’re studying are relevant, and case studies offer one way to create that sense of relevance.

Teaching With Case Studies

Ultimately, a case study is simply an interesting problem with many correct answers. What does case study work look like in classrooms? Teachers generally start by having students read the case or watch a video that summarizes the case. Students then work in small groups or individually to solve the case study. Teachers set milestones defining what students should accomplish to help them manage their time.

During the case study learning process, student assessment of learning should be focused on reflection. Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick’s Learning and Leading With Habits of Mind gives several examples of what this reflection can look like in a classroom: 

Journaling: At the end of each work period, have students write an entry summarizing what they worked on, what worked well, what didn’t, and why. Sentence starters and clear rubrics or guidelines will help students be successful. At the end of a case study project, as Costa and Kallick write, it’s helpful to have students “select significant learnings, envision how they could apply these learnings to future situations, and commit to an action plan to consciously modify their behaviors.”

Interviews: While working on a case study, students can interview each other about their progress and learning. Teachers can interview students individually or in small groups to assess their learning process and their progress.

Student discussion: Discussions can be unstructured—students can talk about what they worked on that day in a think-pair-share or as a full class—or structured, using Socratic seminars or fishbowl discussions. If your class is tackling a case study in small groups, create a second set of small groups with a representative from each of the case study groups so that the groups can share their learning.

4 Tips for Setting Up a Case Study

1. Identify a problem to investigate: This should be something accessible and relevant to students’ lives. The problem should also be challenging and complex enough to yield multiple solutions with many layers.

2. Give context: Think of this step as a movie preview or book summary. Hook the learners to help them understand just enough about the problem to want to learn more.

3. Have a clear rubric: Giving structure to your definition of quality group work and products will lead to stronger end products. You may be able to have your learners help build these definitions.

4. Provide structures for presenting solutions: The amount of scaffolding you build in depends on your students’ skill level and development. A case study product can be something like several pieces of evidence of students collaborating to solve the case study, and ultimately presenting their solution with a detailed slide deck or an essay—you can scaffold this by providing specified headings for the sections of the essay.

Problem-Based Teaching Resources

There are many high-quality, peer-reviewed resources that are open source and easily accessible online.

  • The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science at the University at Buffalo built an online collection of more than 800 cases that cover topics ranging from biochemistry to economics. There are resources for middle and high school students.
  • Models of Excellence , a project maintained by EL Education and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has examples of great problem- and project-based tasks—and corresponding exemplary student work—for grades pre-K to 12.
  • The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning at Purdue University is an open-source journal that publishes examples of problem-based learning in K–12 and post-secondary classrooms.
  • The Tech Edvocate has a list of websites and tools related to problem-based learning.

In their book Problems as Possibilities , Linda Torp and Sara Sage write that at the elementary school level, students particularly appreciate how they feel that they are taken seriously when solving case studies. At the middle school level, “researchers stress the importance of relating middle school curriculum to issues of student concern and interest.” And high schoolers, they write, find the case study method “beneficial in preparing them for their future.”

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Case studies.

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Case studies are stories that are used as a teaching tool to show the application of a theory or concept to real situations. Dependent on the goal they are meant to fulfill, cases can be fact-driven and deductive where there is a correct answer, or they can be context driven where multiple solutions are possible. Various disciplines have employed case studies, including humanities, social sciences, sciences, engineering, law, business, and medicine. Good cases generally have the following features: they tell a good story, are recent, include dialogue, create empathy with the main characters, are relevant to the reader, serve a teaching function, require a dilemma to be solved, and have generality.

Instructors can create their own cases or can find cases that already exist. The following are some things to keep in mind when creating a case:

  • What do you want students to learn from the discussion of the case?
  • What do they already know that applies to the case?
  • What are the issues that may be raised in discussion?
  • How will the case and discussion be introduced?
  • What preparation is expected of students? (Do they need to read the case ahead of time? Do research? Write anything?)
  • What directions do you need to provide students regarding what they are supposed to do and accomplish?
  • Do you need to divide students into groups or will they discuss as the whole class?
  • Are you going to use role-playing or facilitators or record keepers? If so, how?
  • What are the opening questions?
  • How much time is needed for students to discuss the case?
  • What concepts are to be applied/extracted during the discussion?
  • How will you evaluate students?

To find other cases that already exist, try the following websites:

  • The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science , University of Buffalo. SUNY-Buffalo maintains this set of links to other case studies on the web in disciplines ranging from engineering and ethics to sociology and business
  • A Journal of Teaching Cases in Public Administration and Public Policy , University of Washington

For more information:

  • World Association for Case Method Research and Application

Book Review :  Teaching and the Case Method , 3rd ed., vols. 1 and 2, by Louis Barnes, C. Roland (Chris) Christensen, and Abby Hansen. Harvard Business School Press, 1994; 333 pp. (vol 1), 412 pp. (vol 2).

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  • J Microbiol Biol Educ
  • v.16(1); 2015 May

Case Study Teaching Method Improves Student Performance and Perceptions of Learning Gains †

Associated data.

  • Appendix 1: Example assessment questions used to assess the effectiveness of case studies at promoting learning
  • Appendix 2: Student learning gains were assessed using a modified version of the SALG course evaluation tool

Following years of widespread use in business and medical education, the case study teaching method is becoming an increasingly common teaching strategy in science education. However, the current body of research provides limited evidence that the use of published case studies effectively promotes the fulfillment of specific learning objectives integral to many biology courses. This study tested the hypothesis that case studies are more effective than classroom discussions and textbook reading at promoting learning of key biological concepts, development of written and oral communication skills, and comprehension of the relevance of biological concepts to everyday life. This study also tested the hypothesis that case studies produced by the instructor of a course are more effective at promoting learning than those produced by unaffiliated instructors. Additionally, performance on quantitative learning assessments and student perceptions of learning gains were analyzed to determine whether reported perceptions of learning gains accurately reflect academic performance. The results reported here suggest that case studies, regardless of the source, are significantly more effective than other methods of content delivery at increasing performance on examination questions related to chemical bonds, osmosis and diffusion, mitosis and meiosis, and DNA structure and replication. This finding was positively correlated to increased student perceptions of learning gains associated with oral and written communication skills and the ability to recognize connections between biological concepts and other aspects of life. Based on these findings, case studies should be considered as a preferred method for teaching about a variety of concepts in science courses.

INTRODUCTION

The case study teaching method is a highly adaptable style of teaching that involves problem-based learning and promotes the development of analytical skills ( 8 ). By presenting content in the format of a narrative accompanied by questions and activities that promote group discussion and solving of complex problems, case studies facilitate development of the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning; moving beyond recall of knowledge to analysis, evaluation, and application ( 1 , 9 ). Similarly, case studies facilitate interdisciplinary learning and can be used to highlight connections between specific academic topics and real-world societal issues and applications ( 3 , 9 ). This has been reported to increase student motivation to participate in class activities, which promotes learning and increases performance on assessments ( 7 , 16 , 19 , 23 ). For these reasons, case-based teaching has been widely used in business and medical education for many years ( 4 , 11 , 12 , 14 ). Although case studies were considered a novel method of science education just 20 years ago, the case study teaching method has gained popularity in recent years among an array of scientific disciplines such as biology, chemistry, nursing, and psychology ( 5 – 7 , 9 , 11 , 13 , 15 – 17 , 21 , 22 , 24 ).

Although there is now a substantive and growing body of literature describing how to develop and use case studies in science teaching, current research on the effectiveness of case study teaching at meeting specific learning objectives is of limited scope and depth. Studies have shown that working in groups during completion of case studies significantly improves student perceptions of learning and may increase performance on assessment questions, and that the use of clickers can increase student engagement in case study activities, particularly among non-science majors, women, and freshmen ( 7 , 21 , 22 ). Case study teaching has been shown to improve exam performance in an anatomy and physiology course, increasing the mean score across all exams given in a two-semester sequence from 66% to 73% ( 5 ). Use of case studies was also shown to improve students’ ability to synthesize complex analytical questions about the real-world issues associated with a scientific topic ( 6 ). In a high school chemistry course, it was demonstrated that the case study teaching method produces significant increases in self-reported control of learning, task value, and self-efficacy for learning and performance ( 24 ). This effect on student motivation is important because enhanced motivation for learning activities has been shown to promote student engagement and academic performance ( 19 , 24 ). Additionally, faculty from a number of institutions have reported that using case studies promotes critical thinking, learning, and participation among students, especially in terms of the ability to view an issue from multiple perspectives and to grasp the practical application of core course concepts ( 23 ).

Despite what is known about the effectiveness of case studies in science education, questions remain about the functionality of the case study teaching method at promoting specific learning objectives that are important to many undergraduate biology courses. A recent survey of teachers who use case studies found that the topics most often covered in general biology courses included genetics and heredity, cell structure, cells and energy, chemistry of life, and cell cycle and cancer, suggesting that these topics should be of particular interest in studies that examine the effectiveness of the case study teaching method ( 8 ). However, the existing body of literature lacks direct evidence that the case study method is an effective tool for teaching about this collection of important topics in biology courses. Further, the extent to which case study teaching promotes development of science communication skills and the ability to understand the connections between biological concepts and everyday life has not been examined, yet these are core learning objectives shared by a variety of science courses. Although many instructors have produced case studies for use in their own classrooms, the production of novel case studies is time-consuming and requires skills that not all instructors have perfected. It is therefore important to determine whether case studies published by instructors who are unaffiliated with a particular course can be used effectively and obviate the need for each instructor to develop new case studies for their own courses. The results reported herein indicate that teaching with case studies results in significantly higher performance on examination questions about chemical bonds, osmosis and diffusion, mitosis and meiosis, and DNA structure and replication than that achieved by class discussions and textbook reading for topics of similar complexity. Case studies also increased overall student perceptions of learning gains and perceptions of learning gains specifically related to written and oral communication skills and the ability to grasp connections between scientific topics and their real-world applications. The effectiveness of the case study teaching method at increasing academic performance was not correlated to whether the case study used was authored by the instructor of the course or by an unaffiliated instructor. These findings support increased use of published case studies in the teaching of a variety of biological concepts and learning objectives.

Student population

This study was conducted at Kingsborough Community College, which is part of the City University of New York system, located in Brooklyn, New York. Kingsborough Community College has a diverse population of approximately 19,000 undergraduate students. The student population included in this study was enrolled in the first semester of a two-semester sequence of general (introductory) biology for biology majors during the spring, winter, or summer semester of 2014. A total of 63 students completed the course during this time period; 56 students consented to the inclusion of their data in the study. Of the students included in the study, 23 (41%) were male and 33 (59%) were female; 40 (71%) were registered as college freshmen and 16 (29%) were registered as college sophomores. To normalize participant groups, the same student population pooled from three classes taught by the same instructor was used to assess both experimental and control teaching methods.

Course material

The four biological concepts assessed during this study (chemical bonds, osmosis and diffusion, mitosis and meiosis, and DNA structure and replication) were selected as topics for studying the effectiveness of case study teaching because they were the key concepts addressed by this particular course that were most likely to be taught in a number of other courses, including biology courses for both majors and nonmajors at outside institutions. At the start of this study, relevant existing case studies were freely available from the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS) to address mitosis and meiosis and DNA structure and replication, but published case studies that appropriately addressed chemical bonds and osmosis and diffusion were not available. Therefore, original case studies that addressed the latter two topics were produced as part of this study, and case studies produced by unaffiliated instructors and published by the NCCSTS were used to address the former two topics. By the conclusion of this study, all four case studies had been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication by the NCCSTS ( http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/ ). Four of the remaining core topics covered in this course (macromolecules, photosynthesis, genetic inheritance, and translation) were selected as control lessons to provide control assessment data.

To minimize extraneous variation, control topics and assessments were carefully matched in complexity, format, and number with case studies, and an equal amount of class time was allocated for each case study and the corresponding control lesson. Instruction related to control lessons was delivered using minimal slide-based lectures, with emphasis on textbook reading assignments accompanied by worksheets completed by students in and out of the classroom, and small and large group discussion of key points. Completion of activities and discussion related to all case studies and control topics that were analyzed was conducted in the classroom, with the exception of the take-home portion of the osmosis and diffusion case study.

Data collection and analysis

This study was performed in accordance with a protocol approved by the Kingsborough Community College Human Research Protection Program and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the City University of New York (CUNY IRB reference 539938-1; KCC IRB application #: KCC 13-12-126-0138). Assessment scores were collected from regularly scheduled course examinations. For each case study, control questions were included on the same examination that were similar in number, format, point value, and difficulty level, but related to a different topic covered in the course that was of similar complexity. Complexity and difficulty of both case study and control questions were evaluated using experiential data from previous iterations of the course; the Bloom’s taxonomy designation and amount of material covered by each question, as well as the average score on similar questions achieved by students in previous iterations of the course was considered in determining appropriate controls. All assessment questions were scored using a standardized, pre-determined rubric. Student perceptions of learning gains were assessed using a modified version of the Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) course evaluation tool ( http://www.salgsite.org ), distributed in hardcopy and completed anonymously during the last week of the course. Students were presented with a consent form to opt-in to having their data included in the data analysis. After the course had concluded and final course grades had been posted, data from consenting students were pooled in a database and identifying information was removed prior to analysis. Statistical analysis of data was conducted using the Kruskal-Wallis one-way analysis of variance and calculation of the R 2 coefficient of determination.

Teaching with case studies improves performance on learning assessments, independent of case study origin

To evaluate the effectiveness of the case study teaching method at promoting learning, student performance on examination questions related to material covered by case studies was compared with performance on questions that covered material addressed through classroom discussions and textbook reading. The latter questions served as control items; assessment items for each case study were compared with control items that were of similar format, difficulty, and point value ( Appendix 1 ). Each of the four case studies resulted in an increase in examination performance compared with control questions that was statistically significant, with an average difference of 18% ( Fig. 1 ). The mean score on case study-related questions was 73% for the chemical bonds case study, 79% for osmosis and diffusion, 76% for mitosis and meiosis, and 70% for DNA structure and replication ( Fig. 1 ). The mean score for non-case study-related control questions was 60%, 54%, 60%, and 52%, respectively ( Fig. 1 ). In terms of examination performance, no significant difference between case studies produced by the instructor of the course (chemical bonds and osmosis and diffusion) and those produced by unaffiliated instructors (mitosis and meiosis and DNA structure and replication) was indicated by the Kruskal-Wallis one-way analysis of variance. However, the 25% difference between the mean score on questions related to the osmosis and diffusion case study and the mean score on the paired control questions was notably higher than the 13–18% differences observed for the other case studies ( Fig. 1 ).

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Case study teaching method increases student performance on examination questions. Mean score on a set of examination questions related to lessons covered by case studies (black bars) and paired control questions of similar format and difficulty about an unrelated topic (white bars). Chemical bonds, n = 54; Osmosis and diffusion, n = 54; Mitosis and meiosis, n = 51; DNA structure and replication, n = 50. Error bars represent the standard error of the mean (SEM). Asterisk indicates p < 0.05.

Case study teaching increases student perception of learning gains related to core course objectives

Student learning gains were assessed using a modified version of the SALG course evaluation tool ( Appendix 2 ). To determine whether completing case studies was more effective at increasing student perceptions of learning gains than completing textbook readings or participating in class discussions, perceptions of student learning gains for each were compared. In response to the question “Overall, how much did each of the following aspects of the class help your learning?” 82% of students responded that case studies helped a “good” or “great” amount, compared with 70% for participating in class discussions and 58% for completing textbook reading; only 4% of students responded that case studies helped a “small amount” or “provided no help,” compared with 2% for class discussions and 22% for textbook reading ( Fig. 2A ). The differences in reported learning gains derived from the use of case studies compared with class discussion and textbook readings were statistically significant, while the difference in learning gains associated with class discussion compared with textbook reading was not statistically significant by a narrow margin ( p = 0.051).

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The case study teaching method increases student perceptions of learning gains. Student perceptions of learning gains are indicated by plotting responses to the question “How much did each of the following activities: (A) Help your learning overall? (B) Improve your ability to communicate your knowledge of scientific concepts in writing? (C) Improve your ability to communicate your knowledge of scientific concepts orally? (D) Help you understand the connections between scientific concepts and other aspects of your everyday life?” Reponses are represented as follows: Helped a great amount (black bars); Helped a good amount (dark gray bars); Helped a moderate amount (medium gray bars); Helped a small amount (light gray bars); Provided no help (white bars). Asterisk indicates p < 0.05.

To elucidate the effectiveness of case studies at promoting learning gains related to specific course learning objectives compared with class discussions and textbook reading, students were asked how much each of these methods of content delivery specifically helped improve skills that were integral to fulfilling three main course objectives. When students were asked how much each of the methods helped “improve your ability to communicate knowledge of scientific concepts in writing,” 81% of students responded that case studies help a “good” or “great” amount, compared with 63% for class discussions and 59% for textbook reading; only 6% of students responded that case studies helped a “small amount” or “provided no help,” compared with 8% for class discussions and 21% for textbook reading ( Fig. 2B ). When the same question was posed about the ability to communicate orally, 81% of students responded that case studies help a “good” or “great” amount, compared with 68% for class discussions and 50% for textbook reading, while the respective response rates for helped a “small amount” or “provided no help,” were 4%, 6%, and 25% ( Fig. 2C ). The differences in learning gains associated with both written and oral communication were statistically significant when completion of case studies was compared with either participation in class discussion or completion of textbook readings. Compared with textbook reading, class discussions led to a statistically significant increase in oral but not written communication skills.

Students were then asked how much each of the methods helped them “understand the connections between scientific concepts and other aspects of your everyday life.” A total of 79% of respondents declared that case studies help a “good” or “great” amount, compared with 70% for class discussions and 57% for textbook reading ( Fig. 2D ). Only 4% stated that case studies and class discussions helped a “small amount” or “provided no help,” compared with 21% for textbook reading ( Fig. 2D ). Similar to overall learning gains, the use of case studies significantly increased the ability to understand the relevance of science to everyday life compared with class discussion and textbook readings, while the difference in learning gains associated with participation in class discussion compared with textbook reading was not statistically significant ( p = 0.054).

Student perceptions of learning gains resulting from case study teaching are positively correlated to increased performance on examinations, but independent of case study author

To test the hypothesis that case studies produced specifically for this course by the instructor were more effective at promoting learning gains than topically relevant case studies published by authors not associated with this course, perceptions of learning gains were compared for each of the case studies. For both of the case studies produced by the instructor of the course, 87% of students indicated that the case study provided a “good” or “great” amount of help to their learning, and 2% indicated that the case studies provided “little” or “no” help ( Table 1 ). In comparison, an average of 85% of students indicated that the case studies produced by an unaffiliated instructor provided a “good” or “great” amount of help to their learning, and 4% indicated that the case studies provided “little” or “no” help ( Table 1 ). The instructor-produced case studies yielded both the highest and lowest percentage of students reporting the highest level of learning gains (a “great” amount), while case studies produced by unaffiliated instructors yielded intermediate values. Therefore, it can be concluded that the effectiveness of case studies at promoting learning gains is not significantly affected by whether or not the course instructor authored the case study.

Case studies positively affect student perceptions of learning gains about various biological topics.

Finally, to determine whether performance on examination questions accurately predicts student perceptions of learning gains, mean scores on examination questions related to case studies were compared with reported perceptions of learning gains for those case studies ( Fig. 3 ). The coefficient of determination (R 2 value) was 0.81, indicating a strong, but not definitive, positive correlation between perceptions of learning gains and performance on examinations, suggesting that student perception of learning gains is a valid tool for assessing the effectiveness of case studies ( Fig. 3 ). This correlation was independent of case study author.

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Perception of learning gains but not author of case study is positively correlated to score on related examination questions. Percentage of students reporting that each specific case study provided “a great amount of help” to their learning was plotted against the point difference between mean score on examination questions related to that case study and mean score on paired control questions. Positive point differences indicate how much higher the mean scores on case study-related questions were than the mean scores on paired control questions. Black squares represent case studies produced by the instructor of the course; white squares represent case studies produced by unaffiliated instructors. R 2 value indicates the coefficient of determination.

The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that teaching with case studies produced by the instructor of a course is more effective at promoting learning gains than using case studies produced by unaffiliated instructors. This study also tested the hypothesis that the case study teaching method is more effective than class discussions and textbook reading at promoting learning gains associated with four of the most commonly taught topics in undergraduate general biology courses: chemical bonds, osmosis and diffusion, mitosis and meiosis, and DNA structure and replication. In addition to assessing content-based learning gains, development of written and oral communication skills and the ability to connect scientific topics with real-world applications was also assessed, because these skills were overarching learning objectives of this course, and classroom activities related to both case studies and control lessons were designed to provide opportunities for students to develop these skills. Finally, data were analyzed to determine whether performance on examination questions is positively correlated to student perceptions of learning gains resulting from case study teaching.

Compared with equivalent control questions about topics of similar complexity taught using class discussions and textbook readings, all four case studies produced statistically significant increases in the mean score on examination questions ( Fig. 1 ). This indicates that case studies are more effective than more commonly used, traditional methods of content delivery at promoting learning of a variety of core concepts covered in general biology courses. The average increase in score on each test item was equivalent to nearly two letter grades, which is substantial enough to elevate the average student performance on test items from the unsatisfactory/failing range to the satisfactory/passing range. The finding that there was no statistical difference between case studies in terms of performance on examination questions suggests that case studies are equally effective at promoting learning of disparate topics in biology. The observations that students did not perform significantly less well on the first case study presented (chemical bonds) compared with the other case studies and that performance on examination questions did not progressively increase with each successive case study suggests that the effectiveness of case studies is not directly related to the amount of experience students have using case studies. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence from previous semesters of this course suggests that, of the four topics addressed by cases in this study, DNA structure and function and osmosis and diffusion are the first and second most difficult for students to grasp. The lack of a statistical difference between case studies therefore suggests that the effectiveness of a case study at promoting learning gains is not directly proportional to the difficulty of the concept covered. However, the finding that use of the osmosis and diffusion case study resulted in the greatest increase in examination performance compared with control questions and also produced the highest student perceptions of learning gains is noteworthy and could be attributed to the fact that it was the only case study evaluated that included a hands-on experiment. Because the inclusion of a hands-on kinetic activity may synergistically enhance student engagement and learning and result in an even greater increase in learning gains than case studies that lack this type of activity, it is recommended that case studies that incorporate this type of activity be preferentially utilized.

Student perceptions of learning gains are strongly motivating factors for engagement in the classroom and academic performance, so it is important to assess the effect of any teaching method in this context ( 19 , 24 ). A modified version of the SALG course evaluation tool was used to assess student perceptions of learning gains because it has been previously validated as an efficacious tool ( Appendix 2 ) ( 20 ). Using the SALG tool, case study teaching was demonstrated to significantly increase student perceptions of overall learning gains compared with class discussions and textbook reading ( Fig. 2A ). Case studies were shown to be particularly useful for promoting perceived development of written and oral communication skills and for demonstrating connections between scientific topics and real-world issues and applications ( Figs. 2B–2D ). Further, student perceptions of “great” learning gains positively correlated with increased performance on examination questions, indicating that assessment of learning gains using the SALG tool is both valid and useful in this course setting ( Fig. 3 ). These findings also suggest that case study teaching could be used to increase student motivation and engagement in classroom activities and thus promote learning and performance on assessments. The finding that textbook reading yielded the lowest student perceptions of learning gains was not unexpected, since reading facilitates passive learning while the class discussions and case studies were both designed to promote active learning.

Importantly, there was no statistical difference in student performance on examinations attributed to the two case studies produced by the instructor of the course compared with the two case studies produced by unaffiliated instructors. The average difference between the two instructor-produced case studies and the two case studies published by unaffiliated instructors was only 3% in terms of both the average score on examination questions (76% compared with 73%) and the average increase in score compared with paired control items (14% compared with 17%) ( Fig. 1 ). Even when considering the inherent qualitative differences of course grades, these differences are negligible. Similarly, the effectiveness of case studies at promoting learning gains was not significantly affected by the origin of the case study, as evidenced by similar percentages of students reporting “good” and “great” learning gains regardless of whether the case study was produced by the course instructor or an unaffiliated instructor ( Table 1 ).

The observation that case studies published by unaffiliated instructors are just as effective as those produced by the instructor of a course suggests that instructors can reasonably rely on the use of pre-published case studies relevant to their class rather than investing the considerable time and effort required to produce a novel case study. Case studies covering a wide range of topics in the sciences are available from a number of sources, and many of them are free access. The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS) database ( http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/ ) contains over 500 case studies that are freely available to instructors, and are accompanied by teaching notes that provide logistical advice and additional resources for implementing the case study, as well as a set of assessment questions with a password-protected answer key. Case study repositories are also maintained by BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium ( http://www.bioquest.org/icbl/cases.php ) and the Science Case Network ( http://sciencecasenet.org ); both are available for use by instructors from outside institutions.

It should be noted that all case studies used in this study were rigorously peer-reviewed and accepted for publication by the NCCSTS prior to the completion of this study ( 2 , 10 , 18 , 25 ); the conclusions of this study may not apply to case studies that were not developed in accordance with similar standards. Because case study teaching involves skills such as creative writing and management of dynamic group discussion in a way that is not commonly integrated into many other teaching methods, it is recommended that novice case study teachers seek training or guidance before writing their first case study or implementing the method. The lack of a difference observed in the use of case studies from different sources should be interpreted with some degree of caution since only two sources were represented in this study, and each by only two cases. Furthermore, in an educational setting, quantitative differences in test scores might produce meaningful qualitative differences in course grades even in the absence of a p value that is statistically significant. For example, there is a meaningful qualitative difference between test scores that result in an average grade of C− and test scores that result in an average grade of C+, even if there is no statistically significant difference between the two sets of scores.

In the future, it could be informative to confirm these findings using a larger cohort, by repeating the study at different institutions with different instructors, by evaluating different case studies, and by directly comparing the effectiveness of the case studying teaching method with additional forms of instruction, such as traditional chalkboard and slide-based lecturing, and laboratory-based activities. It may also be informative to examine whether demographic factors such as student age and gender modulate the effectiveness of the case study teaching method, and whether case studies work equally well for non-science majors taking a science course compared with those majoring in the subject. Since the topical material used in this study is often included in other classes in both high school and undergraduate education, such as cell biology, genetics, and chemistry, the conclusions of this study are directly applicable to a broad range of courses. Presently, it is recommended that the use of case studies in teaching undergraduate general biology and other science courses be expanded, especially for the teaching of capacious issues with real-world applications and in classes where development of written and oral communication skills are key objectives. The use of case studies that involve hands-on activities should be emphasized to maximize the benefit of this teaching method. Importantly, instructors can be confident in the use of pre-published case studies to promote learning, as there is no indication that the effectiveness of the case study teaching method is reliant on the production of novel, customized case studies for each course.

SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS

Acknowledgments.

This article benefitted from a President’s Faculty Innovation Grant, Kingsborough Community College. The author declares that there are no conflicts of interest.

† Supplemental materials available at http://jmbe.asm.org

Using Case Studies to Teach

case studies for teacher training

Why Use Cases?

Many students are more inductive than deductive reasoners, which means that they learn better from examples than from logical development starting with basic principles. The use of case studies can therefore be a very effective classroom technique.

Case studies are have long been used in business schools, law schools, medical schools and the social sciences, but they can be used in any discipline when instructors want students to explore how what they have learned applies to real world situations. Cases come in many formats, from a simple “What would you do in this situation?” question to a detailed description of a situation with accompanying data to analyze. Whether to use a simple scenario-type case or a complex detailed one depends on your course objectives.

Most case assignments require students to answer an open-ended question or develop a solution to an open-ended problem with multiple potential solutions. Requirements can range from a one-paragraph answer to a fully developed group action plan, proposal or decision.

Common Case Elements

Most “full-blown” cases have these common elements:

  • A decision-maker who is grappling with some question or problem that needs to be solved.
  • A description of the problem’s context (a law, an industry, a family).
  • Supporting data, which can range from data tables to links to URLs, quoted statements or testimony, supporting documents, images, video, or audio.

Case assignments can be done individually or in teams so that the students can brainstorm solutions and share the work load.

The following discussion of this topic incorporates material presented by Robb Dixon of the School of Management and Rob Schadt of the School of Public Health at CEIT workshops. Professor Dixon also provided some written comments that the discussion incorporates.

Advantages to the use of case studies in class

A major advantage of teaching with case studies is that the students are actively engaged in figuring out the principles by abstracting from the examples. This develops their skills in:

  • Problem solving
  • Analytical tools, quantitative and/or qualitative, depending on the case
  • Decision making in complex situations
  • Coping with ambiguities

Guidelines for using case studies in class

In the most straightforward application, the presentation of the case study establishes a framework for analysis. It is helpful if the statement of the case provides enough information for the students to figure out solutions and then to identify how to apply those solutions in other similar situations. Instructors may choose to use several cases so that students can identify both the similarities and differences among the cases.

Depending on the course objectives, the instructor may encourage students to follow a systematic approach to their analysis.  For example:

  • What is the issue?
  • What is the goal of the analysis?
  • What is the context of the problem?
  • What key facts should be considered?
  • What alternatives are available to the decision-maker?
  • What would you recommend — and why?

An innovative approach to case analysis might be to have students  role-play the part of the people involved in the case. This not only actively engages students, but forces them to really understand the perspectives of the case characters. Videos or even field trips showing the venue in which the case is situated can help students to visualize the situation that they need to analyze.

Accompanying Readings

Case studies can be especially effective if they are paired with a reading assignment that introduces or explains a concept or analytical method that applies to the case. The amount of emphasis placed on the use of the reading during the case discussion depends on the complexity of the concept or method. If it is straightforward, the focus of the discussion can be placed on the use of the analytical results. If the method is more complex, the instructor may need to walk students through its application and the interpretation of the results.

Leading the Case Discussion and Evaluating Performance

Decision cases are more interesting than descriptive ones. In order to start the discussion in class, the instructor can start with an easy, noncontroversial question that all the students should be able to answer readily. However, some of the best case discussions start by forcing the students to take a stand. Some instructors will ask a student to do a formal “open” of the case, outlining his or her entire analysis.  Others may choose to guide discussion with questions that move students from problem identification to solutions.  A skilled instructor steers questions and discussion to keep the class on track and moving at a reasonable pace.

In order to motivate the students to complete the assignment before class as well as to stimulate attentiveness during the class, the instructor should grade the participation—quantity and especially quality—during the discussion of the case. This might be a simple check, check-plus, check-minus or zero. The instructor should involve as many students as possible. In order to engage all the students, the instructor can divide them into groups, give each group several minutes to discuss how to answer a question related to the case, and then ask a randomly selected person in each group to present the group’s answer and reasoning. Random selection can be accomplished through rolling of dice, shuffled index cards, each with one student’s name, a spinning wheel, etc.

Tips on the Penn State U. website: http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/cases/

If you are interested in using this technique in a science course, there is a good website on use of case studies in the sciences at the University of Buffalo.

Dunne, D. and Brooks, K. (2004) Teaching with Cases (Halifax, NS: Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education), ISBN 0-7703-8924-4 (Can be ordered at http://www.bookstore.uwo.ca/ at a cost of $15.00)

Teacher Training Case Study

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Introduction

In 2019, Leadership Society of Arizona (LSA) created an innovative teacher training program. It is LSA’s effort to impact the future of education. With the advancement of technology and the worldwide internet, students now have access to learn from the greatest minds on the planet. In the future, they will no longer need to go to “school” to be taught.

However, teachers will still have great value, but their role is changing. As Bruce Lee revolutionized martial arts with a fighting style that adjusted to his opponents instead of trying to resist them, this is also the way teaching is moving. We call it being able to teach without teaching. Instead of trying to “teach” students, teachers will now be there to support, advise, and help students with the latest technology and tools available.

The LSA teacher training program is unique because it is structured around this same philosophy of teaching without teaching. The program requires minimal effort from teachers and does not try to “teach” them any complicated ideas on how to do their job. Instead it provides them with access to the latest educational training materials educational experts. In this program teachers will be partnered with mentors that provide personal support and professional development.

The LSA mentors have a unique background in industrial engineering and supply chain management. This enables them to bring the latest business efficiency processes into the education system and classrooms everywhere.

Pilot Teacher Training

This unique training doesn’t require the teacher to perform any additional work. The only requirement is that the teacher has a call with a mentor weekly or bi-weekly. LSA mentors will provide resources to help teachers develop any curricula, adjust current processes, or come in to support the teacher in the classroom.

case studies for teacher training

Individual Centered

case studies for teacher training

Simplicity Structured

case studies for teacher training

Change Focused

The pilot teacher training program followed a simplistic methodology. It had three major components:

  • Individual Centered: Each teacher is different. The priority is understanding every teacher’s individual needs and goals.
  • Simplicity Structured: Using supply chain management techniques to simplify teacher’s workload, classroom functions, and personal needs.
  • Action Focused: Set individualized goals for teachers to improve their personal and professional lives.

The pilot program had the following characteristics:

  • Weekly 30-minute video calls with a PhD certified mentor for 6 months (up to 24 calls).
  • Education on the No-Influence Leadership Model.
  • Classroom Support: personalized training to improve classroom management, student performance, and teaching effectiveness.
  • Curriculum Design: Resources and strategies to make lessons more engaging and applicable to students’ needs.
  • Personal Development: personalized coaching to help with the teachers’ well-being, organization, stress management, and anything else they were concerned about.
  • Teachers had access to 50+ hours of online videos and lesson plans.
  • LSA instructors would visit teachers up to 3 times during the semester for additional support.

Case studies

On April 16, 2019, LSA worked with the former Arizona DECA Director to identify 2 teachers that wanted to test the program. Both teachers were highly experienced and motivated.

Case Study 1—April Porter

Higley High School Marketing and Retail Operations Teacher | 10+ Years of Teaching Major Accolades:

  • 2019 Leavey Award Recipient from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge
  • MBA Graduate of 2001 from BYU
  • Business/Marketing teacher for 20 years
  • DECA Advisor for 9 years

Major Focus:

Mrs. Porter manages the campus store. As part of a class, she assigns students to oversee all operations. The focus of this partnership was to minimize the amount of supervision the students needed to maintain roles, complete job functions, and prevent inventory loss (theft).

Major Developments:

Through the partnership, the goal was to decrease Mrs. Porter’s workload to less than 30 minutes per week. The major developments in the program were as follows:

  • One student is selected as the “store manager”.
  • Other students are assigned permanent roles and given a daily checklist.
  • Each student reports their daily metrics to the manager (items baked, stocked, sold, etc.).
  • The inventory was updated, and a tracking sheet was created for the store manager.

At the end of each week, the store manager gives a report to Mrs. Porter. The report summarizes student performance metrics, sales, and inventory.

Mrs. Porter gave the program a 10/10 satisfaction rating and reported the following impact:

  • The program cut her workload in half. Spent <5 hours per week on it.
  • Identified the following improved: student performance, classroom management, overall wellbeing, stress, organizational skills, teaching effectiveness, ability to understand students, relationship with students, and confidence.

She is quoted:

“My classroom is more efficient, and students are learning the skills they should be learning. Personally, I have realized that change is not all at once. It is a process and that perfection is not what I need at this moment but small and progressive steps which will ultimately take me there!”

Case Study 2—Kelly Wright

  • Service-Learning Teacher of the Year
  • Rising Star (new DECA advisor of the year)
  • Rookie of the Year (staff award to new teachers who stood out)
  • Good Gal Award (staff award for outstanding teachers)
  • Diamondbacks Most Valuable Teacher of the Year

Mrs. Wright has numerous classes and students she is responsible for their success. The focus of this partnership was to create a simple way to measure classroom success, track student progress and create new lesson plans that were engaging and met DECA standards while balancing her personal health.

The main goal was to help Mrs. Wright collect the information she needed quickly leaving her time to focus on her health. The major developments in the program were as follows:

  • Created a pre and post survey that measured student’s course understanding, satisfaction and suggestions for class improvement.
  • Developed a tracking report that collected student information [class, behavior, goals, challenges, accomplishments, attendance, assignments] and displayed it in a dashboard that prioritized them based on need.
  • Created new lesson plans that were engaging and met DECA standards.
  • Supported her by identifying simplistic ways to gain and sustain energy and track it overtime to identify improvement.

Mrs. Wright gave the program a 10/10 satisfaction rating and reported the following impact:

  • Spent <5 hours per week on it.
  • Identified the following improved: classroom management, overall wellbeing, stress, teaching effectiveness, and confidence.

 “I have always believed in working with the students and their needs, discussing things with them, getting THEIR feedback to make my teaching better and this program teaches this to the people who are in it. I highly recommend this for other teachers.”

LSA created a new and innovative teacher training that does not try to change teachers, rather, it identifies their needs and builds upon the good they already possess. The underlying goal is to help teachers decrease their workload to become happier and more effective in all they do.

Overall, the two teachers that completed the program reported the following changes:

  • 92% increase in well being
  • 88% increase in teaching effectiveness
  • 75% increase in organization skills
  • 29% decrease in stress
  • Increased: Student Performance, Ability to Understand Students, Relationship with Students, and Confidence

LSA is always looking for visionary teachers who are looking for more support to help them become more efficient and effective in their personal and professional lives.

To find out more about our Teacher Training Program, email us for a free training session at [email protected] or click below for more info:

Learn About Teacher Training

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If you're looking to try out case teaching, or your budget is a little tight, why not try a case from one of our high-quality free case collections.

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Welcome to our free case collections. As part of The Case Centre’s commitment to promoting the case method and supporting case teachers, we offer a growing range of free cases produced by a number of schools, organisations and individuals across the globe.

You must be  registered and logged in  to our website to access free cases. Once logged in you can use the 'show only items in the free case collection' tick box on our  product search  to search all free cases.

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Browse the free case collections

The following schools and organisations have produced free case collections that are available via The Case Centre.

Amity Research Center logo

Amity Research Centers has selected 10 cases from its health and medical care collection to be available free via The Case Centre. Amity Research Centers feels there is a dearth of expertise in health and medical care and that knowledge of developments and initiatives in healthcare is limited. It makes a deliberate effort to write cases about healthcare management in various organisations and for public health policy makers.

View the collection

Australia and New Zealand School of Government logo

Australia and New Zealand School of Government's (ANZSOG) teaching cases are all set in the public sector, and cover topics including accountability and governance, public value, co-production, change and innovation, collaboration and partnerships, risk management and regulation, with a number of cases dealing with human resource management, and the management of information technology and knowledge.

ANZSOG cases are concise, lively and engaging, and an active window on current public sector practice in the southern hemisphere. 

Babson College logo

Building on its entrepreneurial legacy to advance entrepreneurial thought and action for the world, Babson College partnered with Banco de Chile to immerse 20 faculty members from ten Chilean universities into the rigorous art of entrepreneurship case writing and teaching. The project has produced 11 Chilean entrepreneurship cases, each with an English and Spanish version.

Case-Study Alliance Turkey logo

This collection of free cases are written by Turkish scholars, about Turkish management situations, for Turkish students/learners. They were developed as part of a three-year project funded by Erasmus+.

Copenhagen Business School logo

This collection of free cases is part of Copenhagen Business School’s commitment to the Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME). All the cases focus on aspects of responsible management, including social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability. The cases address a number of interdisciplinary subjects making them suitable for a wide range of courses in business schools and universities. New free cases will be added regularly.

E-FORCE logo

Developed as part of a project co-financed by the Directorate General Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission, this free case collection includes 18 innovative teaching cases on technology entrepreneurship.

The cases all have accompanying teaching notes and many have media support items.

Global Health Delivery Project logo

Few resources on the delivery of health services and health technologies in low-resource settings currently exist for educators.

The Global Health Delivery Project at Harvard University has begun to fill this gap with a series of teaching cases and accompanying teaching notes examining principles of healthcare delivery in low-resource settings that are freely available for download and distribution.

Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care logo

In line with Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care's mission to promote and support primary care equity, resilience, and value to improve health and well-being, they are pleased to make six of the cases in their collection available to all for free. Three of the cases are 'classics', foundational to understanding the complexity of primary care delivery, and three are more recent additions to the collection that were generously underwritten with grant support.

IMD logo

The International Institute for Management Development's (IMD) collection of free cases includes a case series on the KasKazi Network that deals with the distribution of fast-moving consumer goods to low-income areas in Kenya. The collection also includes 11 'climate saver' cases that showcase corporate best practices in carbon-saving products and processes. The cases were featured at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference thanks to IMD's collaboration with the WWF's Climate Savers.

INSEAD logo

INSEAD offer a growing collection of free cases on topical subjects.

Medical Peace Work logo

This collection of 12 free teaching cases was developed by Medical Peace Work, a partnership of medical organisations and teaching institutions committed to the development of expertise in health work, violence prevention and peace building. The cases depict challenging situations for health professionals who are looking for ways to prevent and reduce violence and other forms of power abuse, and to build trust, understanding, mutually enriching structures and a culture of peace.

MIT Sloan School of Management logo

In early 2009, the MIT Sloan School of Management began free distribution of select teaching materials created by faculty and students at the school.

The collection, available on LearningEdge and via The Case Centre, covers a wide array of companies and organisations, industries, and geographies, and focuses on a number of business disciplines.

MNC Whispering

The MNC Whispering video case collection is a series of open-source video cases aimed to bring a more attractive education and training to international business (IB), with a new generation of students who are visually oriented, prefer video over text, and use virtual rather than face-to-face communications.

MNC Whispering uses the original methodology developed and used by Brands Whisper’g®, expanding and testing it specifically for the IB area. 

The cases are co-created between academics and businesses, and narrated by international executives explaining their problems and ‘whispering’ their solutions.

As part of an Erasmus+ Project called Video Case Library 4 International Business (VCL4IB) (KA203 Project 2018-1-BE02-KA203-046832), funded by the European Union, the collection is an open accessed web and video-based one. The project partners KU Leuven (Belgium), University of Leeds (UK), University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), Poznan University of Economics and Business (Poland), and El Izi Communications Consultancy UK Limited have created an interesting line-up of companies. They come from various backgrounds, operating in different industries, and tackling many of the IB problems that firms encounter when internationalising.

An exciting and up-to-date collection, each video case covers a number of IB topics. In this collection, there are 14 video cases and 21 knowledge clips which were produced between 2019-2021. The collection is designed to cover many of the IB topics that feature in regular textbooks. Yet, all information is delivered in a video format, with each chapter being covered with real life cases. Following each video case, one or more knowledge clips are added to relate the video cases to academic insights, theories and frameworks. These knowledge clips can be used as part of a class discussion, or as study material linking the specific case to theory.

Rotterdam School of Management Case Development Centre logo

The Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) provides a growing set of teaching cases in its free case collection. At the moment it provides three free case collections.

The first group – QuInnE cases – derive from the research results of QuInnE, an interdisciplinary EU-funded project investigating the interdependence of job quality and innovation and its effect on job creation.

The second group – ENABLE cases – derive from the European Network for the Advancement of Business and Landscape Education (ENABLE) project, which develops much-needed education on integrated landscape management using sustainable business models.

The third group – Sustainable Development Goals cases – derive from RSM’s initiative to embed SDGs in its curriculum. These cases explore the complexity of sustainable development, requiring students to go beyond their own specialisations ­in order to understand the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability. 

Stanford Graduate School of Business logo

Stanford Graduate School of Business has produced a large number of free cases covering subjects such as e-commerce, entrepreneurship, international business, marketing, operations information & technology, political economics and strategic management.

The Case Centre logo

The Case Centre partnered with a group of leading business schools to provide this collection of free cases. 10 free cases are available covering a wide variety of subject categories and topics.

Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT logo

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology case studies illuminate the thought processes of entrepreneurs, the challenges they face, and the solutions they devise as they develop their businesses. These cases are available without charge to help teachers, students, and aspiring entrepreneurs. At the same time, they may demonstrate to academics and governments the value of entrepreneurial activities in low-income countries.

case studies for teacher training

The case series from the Women’s Leadership Initiative includes teachable cases about real women business leaders based on primary interview data and secondary research. The topics include culture and gender norms, strengths-based leadership, business diversification, grit and resilience, and work-life balance.

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Our product search is designed to help you find prizewinning cases (award winners, competition winners and bestsellers).

Simply select the prizewinner tick box on our product search.

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Search our full collection of diverse management cases, articles, book chapters and teaching materials from leading authors, schools and publishers worldwide.

Educators and trainers can also access free online preview copies and instructor materials.

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https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2024/02/07/how-to-find-apply-apprenticeship/

How to find and apply for an apprenticeship

how to find an apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are a brilliant option for people of all ages to launch their careers, upskill, or retrain in a huge range of exciting industries - from space engineering to healthcare to advertising and beyond.

There are thousands of apprenticeship vacancies on offer, with more than 690 high-quality apprenticeships approved for use by employers.

Here’s what you need to know.

What are apprenticeships?

An apprenticeship is an excellent training route that gives apprentices high-quality, hands-on training and the chance to put the skills you develop into practice every day in the workplace. You’ll also be paid a wage while you train.

Apprenticeships are available at all levels, from Level 2 – equivalent to GCSEs – all the way up to Levels 6 and 7 – equivalent to undergraduate and master’s degrees.

Where can I find an apprenticeship?

There are a few ways to search for apprenticeship vacancies.

You can browse apprenticeships on the find an apprenticeship  service. If you create an account, you can also save any apprenticeships you like and then apply for them later.

You can also find apprenticeships via UCAS . You can easily compare job openings with other education opportunities, and later this year you will be able to apply for apprenticeships through UCAS.

Some employers advertise apprenticeship vacancies directly on their own websites.

How do I apply for an apprenticeship?

Applying for an apprenticeship is similar to applying for a regular job, and, unlike college or university, places are advertised throughout the year.

Applications will differ depending on the apprenticeship, but it’s likely that you’ll have to submit a CV and do an interview.

Find out more about how to write a CV on the National Careers Service .

What qualifications do I need to do an apprenticeship?

The grades and qualifications you need depend on the apprenticeship level.

Each vacancy will explain what you need to apply.

What age group are apprenticeships for?

Apprenticeships are open to anybody aged 16 and over. There is no upper age limit.

They’re a great option whatever your age, especially if you’re thinking of changing careers.

Where can I get career advice?

To get personalised advice on your application, you can talk to a careers adviser for free via the National Careers Service .

There are lots of ways to get in touch including by phone, on 0800 100 900 or webchat.

You may also be interested in:

  • Everything you need to know about apprenticeships in early years and how to find one
  • Medical doctor apprenticeships: Everything you need to know
  • Teacher Degree Apprenticeships: how they work and when to apply

Tags: Apprenticeship , apprenticeships , National Apprenticeship Week 2024 , NAW 2024

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College of Nursing

Driving change: a case study of a dnp leader in residence program in a gerontological center of excellence.

View as pdf A later version of this article appeared in Nurse Leader , Volume 21, Issue 6 , December 2023 . 

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) published the Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Practice Nursing in 2004 identifying the essential curriculum needed for preparing advanced practice nurse leaders to effectively assess organizations, identify systemic issues, and facilitate organizational changes. 1 In 2021, AACN updated the curriculum by issuing The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education to guide the development of competency-based education for nursing students. 1 In addition to AACN’s competency-based approach to curriculum, in 2015 the American Organization of Nurse Leaders (AONL) released Nurse Leader Core Competencies (updated in 2023) to help provide a competency based model to follow in developing nurse leaders. 2

Despite AACN and AONL competency-based curriculum and model, it is still common for nurse leaders to be promoted to management positions based solely on their work experience or exceptional clinical skills, rather than demonstration of management and leadership competencies. 3 The importance of identifying, training, and assessing executive leaders through formal leadership development programs, within supportive organizational cultures has been discussed by national leaders. As well as the need for nurturing emerging leaders through fostering interprofessional collaboration, mentorship, and continuous development of leadership skills has been identified. 4 As Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) nurse leaders assume executive roles within healthcare organizations, they play a vital role within complex systems. Demonstration of leadership competence and participation in formal leadership development programs has become imperative for their success. However, models of competency-based executive leadership development programs can be hard to find, particularly programs outside of health care systems.

The implementation of a DNP Leader in Residence program, such as the one designed for The Barbara and Richard Csomay Center for Gerontological Excellence, addresses many of the challenges facing new DNP leaders and ensures mastery of executive leadership competencies and readiness to practice through exposure to varied experiences and close mentoring. The Csomay Center , based at The University of Iowa, was established in 2000 as one of the five original Hartford Centers of Geriatric Nursing Excellence in the country. Later funding by the Csomay family established an endowment that supports the Center's ongoing work. The current Csomay Center strategic plan and mission aims to develop future healthcare leaders while promoting optimal aging and quality of life for older adults. The Csomay Center Director created the innovative DNP Leader in Residence program to foster the growth of future nurse leaders in non-healthcare systems. The purpose of this paper is to present a case study of the development and implementation of the Leader in Residence program, followed by suggested evaluation strategies, and discussion of future innovation of leadership opportunities in non-traditional health care settings.

Development of the DNP Leader in Residence Program

The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle has garnered substantial recognition as a valuable tool for fostering development and driving improvement initiatives. 5 The PDSA cycle can function as an independent methodology and as an integral component of broader quality enhancement approaches with notable efficacy in its ability to facilitate the rapid creation, testing, and evaluation of transformative interventions within healthcare. 6 Consequently, the PDSA cycle model was deemed fitting to guide the development and implementation of the DNP Leader in Residence Program at the Csomay Center.

PDSA Cycle: Plan

Existing resources. The DNP Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership Program offered by the University of Iowa is comprised of comprehensive nursing administration and leadership curriculum, led by distinguished faculty composed of national leaders in the realms of innovation, health policy, leadership, clinical education, and evidence-based practice. The curriculum is designed to cultivate the next generation of nursing executive leaders, with emphasis on personalized career planning and tailored practicum placements. The DNP Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership curriculum includes a range of courses focused on leadership and management with diverse topics such as policy an law, infrastructure and informatics, finance and economics, marketing and communication, quality and safety, evidence-based practice, and social determinants of health. The curriculum is complemented by an extensive practicum component and culminates in a DNP project with additional hours of practicum.

New program. The DNP Leader in Residence program at the Csomay Center is designed to encompass communication and relationship building, systems thinking, change management, transformation and innovation, knowledge of clinical principles in the community, professionalism, and business skills including financial, strategic, and human resource management. The program fully immerses students in the objectives of the DNP Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership curriculum and enables them to progressively demonstrate competencies outlined by AONL. The Leader in Residence program also includes career development coaching, reflective practice, and personal and professional accountability. The program is integrated throughout the entire duration of the Leader in Residence’s coursework, fulfilling the required practicum hours for both the DNP coursework and DNP project.

The DNP Leader in Residence program begins with the first semester of practicum being focused on completing an onboarding process to the Center including understanding the center's strategic plan, mission, vision, and history. Onboarding for the Leader in Residence provides access to all relevant Center information and resources and integration into the leadership team, community partnerships, and other University of Iowa College of Nursing Centers associated with the Csomay Center. During this first semester, observation and identification of the Csomay Center Director's various roles including being a leader, manager, innovator, socializer, and mentor is facilitated. In collaboration with the Center Director (a faculty position) and Center Coordinator (a staff position), specific competencies to be measured and mastered along with learning opportunities desired throughout the program are established to ensure a well-planned and thorough immersion experience.

Following the initial semester of practicum, the Leader in Residence has weekly check-ins with the Center Director and Center Coordinator to continue to identify learning opportunities and progression through executive leadership competencies to enrich the experience. The Leader in Residence also undertakes an administrative project for the Center this semester, while concurrently continuing observations of the Center Director's activities in local, regional, and national executive leadership settings. The student has ongoing participation and advancement in executive leadership roles and activities throughout the practicum, creating a well-prepared future nurse executive leader.

After completing practicum hours related to the Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership coursework, the Leader in Residence engages in dedicated residency hours to continue to experience domains within nursing leadership competencies like communication, professionalism, and relationship building. During residency hours, time is spent with the completion of a small quality improvement project for the Csomay Center, along with any other administrative projects identified by the Center Director and Center Coordinator. The Leader in Residence is fully integrated into the Csomay Center's Leadership Team during this phase, assisting the Center Coordinator in creating agendas and leading meetings. Additional participation includes active involvement in community engagement activities and presenting at or attending a national conference as a representative of the Csomay Center. The Leader in Residence must mentor a master’s in nursing student during the final year of the DNP Residency.

Implementation of the DNP Leader in Residence Program

PDSA Cycle: Do

Immersive experience. In this case study, the DNP Leader in Residence was fully immersed in a wide range of center activities, providing valuable opportunities to engage in administrative projects and observe executive leadership roles and skills during practicum hours spent at the Csomay Center. Throughout the program, the Leader in Residence observed and learned from multidisciplinary leaders at the national, regional, and university levels who engaged with the Center. By shadowing the Csomay Center Director, the Leader in Residence had the opportunity to observe executive leadership objectives such as fostering innovation, facilitating multidisciplinary collaboration, and nurturing meaningful relationships. The immersive experience within the center’s activities also allowed the Leader in Residence to gain a deep understanding of crucial facets such as philanthropy and community engagement. Active involvement in administrative processes such as strategic planning, budgeting, human resources management, and the development of standard operating procedures provided valuable exposure to strategies that are needed to be an effective nurse leader in the future.

Active participation. The DNP Leader in Residence also played a key role in advancing specific actions outlined in the center's strategic plan during the program including: 1) the creation of a membership structure for the Csomay Center and 2) successfully completing a state Board of Regents application for official recognition as a distinguished center. The Csomay Center sponsored membership for the Leader in Residence in the Midwest Nurse Research Society (MNRS), which opened doors to attend the annual MNRS conference and engage with regional nursing leadership, while fostering socialization, promotion of the Csomay Center and Leader in Residence program, and observation of current nursing research. Furthermore, the Leader in Residence participated in the strategic planning committee and engagement subcommittee for MNRS, collaborating directly with the MNRS president. Additional active participation by the Leader in Residence included attendance in planning sessions and completion of the annual report for GeriatricPain.org , an initiative falling under the umbrella of the Csomay Center. Finally, the Leader in Residence was involved in archiving research and curriculum for distinguished nursing leader and researcher, Dr. Kitty Buckwalter, for the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, the University of Pennsylvania Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, and the University of Iowa library archives.

Suggested Evaluation Strategies of the DNP Leader in Residence Program

PDSA Cycle: Study

Assessment and benchmarking. To effectively assess the outcomes and success of the DNP Leader in Residence Program, a comprehensive evaluation framework should be used throughout the program. Key measures should include the collection and review of executive leadership opportunities experienced, leadership roles observed, and competencies mastered. The Leader in Residence is responsible for maintaining detailed logs of their participation in center activities and initiatives on a semester basis. These logs serve to track the progression of mastery of AONL competencies by benchmarking activities and identifying areas for future growth for the Leader in Residence.

Evaluation. In addition to assessment and benchmarking, evaluations need to be completed by Csomay Center stakeholders (leadership, staff, and community partners involved) and the individual Leader in Residence both during and upon completion of the program. Feedback from stakeholders will identify the contributions made by the Leader in Residence and provide valuable insights into their growth. Self-reflection on experiences by the individual Leader in Residence throughout the program will serve as an important measure of personal successes and identify gaps in the program. Factors such as career advancement during the program, application of curriculum objectives in the workplace, and prospects for future career progression for the Leader in Residence should be considered as additional indicators of the success of the program.

The evaluation should also encompass a thorough review of the opportunities experienced during the residency, with the aim of identifying areas for potential expansion and enrichment of the DNP Leader in Residence program. By carefully examining the logs, reflecting on the acquired executive leadership competencies, and studying stakeholder evaluations, additional experiences and opportunities can be identified to further enhance the program's efficacy. The evaluation process should be utilized to identify specific executive leadership competencies that require further immersion and exploration throughout the program.

Future Innovation of DNP Leader in Residence Programs in Non-traditional Healthcare Settings

PDSA Cycle: Act

As subsequent residents complete the program and their experiences are thoroughly evaluated, it is essential to identify new opportunities for DNP Leader in Residence programs to be implemented in other non-health care system settings. When feasible, expansion into clinical healthcare settings, including long-term care and acute care environments, should be pursued. By leveraging the insights gained from previous Leaders in Residence and their respective experiences, the program can be refined to better align with desired outcomes and competencies. These expansions will broaden the scope and impact of the program and provide a wider array of experiences and challenges for future Leaders in Residency to navigate, enriching their development as dynamic nurse executive leaders within diverse healthcare landscapes.

This case study presented a comprehensive overview of the development and implementation of the DNP Leader in Residence program developed by the Barbara and Richard Csomay Center for Gerontological Excellence. The Leader in Residence program provided a transformative experience by integrating key curriculum objectives, competency-based learning, and mentorship by esteemed nursing leaders and researchers through successful integration into the Center. With ongoing innovation and application of the PDSA cycle, the DNP Leader in Residence program presented in this case study holds immense potential to help better prepare 21 st century nurse leaders capable of driving positive change within complex healthcare systems.

Acknowledgements

         The author would like to express gratitude to the Barbara and Richard Csomay Center for Gerontological Excellence for the fostering environment to provide an immersion experience and the ongoing support for development of the DNP Leader in Residence program. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The essentials: core competencies for professional nursing education. https://www.aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/AcademicNursing/pdf/Essentials-2021.pdf . Accessed June 26, 2023.
  • American Organization for Nursing Leadership. Nurse leader core competencies. https://www.aonl.org/resources/nurse-leader-competencies . Accessed July 10, 2023.
  • Warshawsky, N, Cramer, E. Describing nurse manager role preparation and competency: findings from a national study. J Nurs Adm . 2019;49(5):249-255. DOI:  10.1097/NNA.0000000000000746
  • Van Diggel, C, Burgess, A, Roberts, C, Mellis, C. Leadership in healthcare education. BMC Med. Educ . 2020;20(465). doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02288-x
  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Plan-do-study-act (PDSA) worksheet. https://www.ihi.org/resources/Pages/Tools/PlanDoStudyActWorksheet.aspx . Accessed July 4, 2023.
  • Taylor, M, McNicolas, C, Nicolay, C, Darzi, A, Bell, D, Reed, J. Systemic review of the application of the plan-do-study-act method to improve quality in healthcare. BMJ Quality & Safety. 2014:23:290-298. doi: 10.1136/bmjqs-2013-002703

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