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This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 39 No. 1, p. 79-83
     
    Received: Dec 4, 2008


    * Corresponding author(s): patrick.byrne@colostate.edu
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doi:10.4195/jnrlse.2008.0041

Incorporating Case Studies into a World Food and Population Course

  1. Bethany F. Econopoulya,
  2. Patrick F. Byrne *a and
  3. Marc A. Johnsonb
  1. a Dep. of Soil and Crop Sciences, CD 1170, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO 80523
    b College of Agricultural Sciences, CD 1101, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO 80523 (current address: Clark Administration Bldg., Room 110, Mail Stop 0005, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557)

Abstract

The use of case studies in college courses can increase student engagement with the subject matter and improve analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills. Case studies were introduced in a relatively large (54 students) undergraduate world food and population course at Colorado State University in the spring semester of 2008 and evaluated for their effectiveness. Groups of two to four students selected and presented case studies developed at Cornell University that address human health and nutrition, food production, poverty alleviation, and natural resource management. The quality of the presentations and the learning experience varied considerably among the 16 presenting groups. The most successful presentations were those that had been rehearsed with an instructor, incorporated role playing or other creative techniques, and demonstrated enthusiasm for the topic. In an evaluation at the end of the semester, a majority of students felt the case studies were an important learning experience, improved their presentation skills, and should be retained in future offerings of the course. However, in multiple choice exams, students performed less well on questions based on case studies compared with questions derived from lecture material. This may be a reflection of the ineffectiveness of multiple choice exams to evaluate higher-level learning. Based on our experience, case studies can make positive contributions to similar courses, especially if efforts are made to improve class discussions and synthesis comments are made by the instructor to tie the case studies to the rest of the course.

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