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This presentation formed part of the HEA-funded workshop 'Critical thinking in action: developing analytical skills in Criminology students. An experiential learning approach'
The workshop presented research and facilitated discussion on developing critical thinking skills in criminology students. Discussion of research results and use of a case study approach to teaching and learning highlighted how student views/concerns about their failure in developing critical thinking skills can be addressed via new directions in teaching.
This presentation forms part of a blog post which can be accessed via:
For further details of HEA Social Sciences work relating to active and experiential learning please see: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/disciplines/Soc_Sci/Strategic_2013/ActiveandExperiential
Critical thinking in action. The case study approach - Angus Nurse
Developing Critical Thinking
Postgraduate Course The Case Study Approach
Critical Thinking in Action: Feedback
Dr Angus Nurse
Email – email@example.com
The Value of Case Studies
• “bridge the gap between theory and
practice and between the academy
and the workplace”
(Barkley, Cross, and Major 2005, p.182)
Student Views – Developing
• Greater emphasis on practical work required
• Move away from teacher led instruction to student centred
• The ‘how’ of analytical/critical thinking rather than just
subject specific analysis.
• Motivation is improved when reasoning is explained,
developed and understood.
Student Views: The Light at the End
of the Tunnel…
• Analysis of how ‘correct’ reasoning is arrived at
• Discussion of elements in faulty reasoning and steps leading up
to incorrect conclusions
• Workshop discussion of flawed cases, common errors and
• Analysis of areas of dispute/conflict between professionals, text
book authors - the ‘what if’s’
• Techniques for evaluating evidence and detail so that
conclusions can withstand scrutiny
The Nature of Case Studies
• They can be short (a few paragraphs) or long (e.g. 20+ pages).
• They can be used in lecture-based or discussion-based classes.
• They can be real, with all the detail drawn from actual people and
circumstances, or simply realistic.
• They can provide all the relevant data students need to discuss and
resolve the central issue, or only some of it, requiring students to identify,
and possibly fill in (via outside research), the missing information.
• They can require students to examine multiple aspects of a problem, or
just a circumscribed piece.
• They can require students to propose a solution for the case or simply to
identify the parameters of the problem.
Case Studies as Experiential
Criminology – Case
– Evaluating a scenario and identifying what may be
important and what is irrelevant;
– Analysing law, case law and Government or sector
– Evaluating evidence including witness statements,
interview evidence and contradictory or ambiguous
– Critical evaluation of a practical case to analyse the
material and reach a conclusion.
– Case study based on placement/internship experience
Developing Case Studies
• What do you want students to learn from the discussion
of the case?
• What do they know already that applies to the case?
• What are the issues (central and peripheral) that may be
raised in discussion?
• Can the case "carry" the discussion (Is it appropriate to
(Cornell University, Teaching Guidance)
Elements of a Good Case Study
Davis (1993) suggests a good case study should:
• tell a “real” and engaging story
• raise a thought-provoking issue
• have elements of conflict
• promote empathy with the central characters
• lack an obvious or clear-cut right answer
• encourage students to think and take a position
• portray actors in moments of decision
• provide plenty of data about character, location, context,
• be relatively concise
Six Key Steps for Case Study
Give students ample time to read and think about the case
Introduce the case briefly and provide some guidelines for how to
approach it. Clarify how you want students to think about the case
(e.g., “Approach this case as if you were the presiding judge”)
Create groups and monitor them to make sure everyone is
involved by giving a clear structure
Have groups present their solutions/reasoning: If groups know
they are responsible for producing something (a decision,
rationale, analysis) to present to the class, they will approach the
discussion with greater focus and seriousness.
Ask questions for clarification and to move discussion to another
level. As the discussion unfolds, ask questions that call for
students to examine their own assumptions, substantiate their
claims, provide illustrations, etc.
Synthesize issues raised. Be sure to bring the various strands of
the discussion back together at the end, so that students see what
they have learned and take those lessons with them.
• Barkley, E. F, Cross, K. P. & Major, C. H.
(2005) Collaborative Learning Techniques:
A Handbook for College Faculty. SanFrancisco: Jossey-Bass.
• Christensen, C. R. (1981) Teaching By the
Case Method. Boston: Harvard Business
• Davis, B. G. (1993) Tools for Teaching.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.