CASE METHOD TEACHING FOR FOSTERING INDEPENDENT LEARNING IN ENGINEERING COURSES

M.A. Fernández-Zamudio1, A. Melian Navarro2, R. Galstyan Sargsyan1

1Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (SPAIN)
2Universidad Miguel Hernandez (SPAIN)
With the implementation of the European Higher Education Area, the need has arisen to increase independent learning in classrooms and the acquisition of different cross-cutting skills, these being among the main innovations with respect to traditional university training. In the specific case of students on engineering courses, the current job market expects students to become employees with management skills, capable of taking decisions in dynamic contexts and able to overcome crisis situations with creative, practical solutions.

Case Method teaching is a very helpful tool for nurturing these types of abilities and for providing future graduates with more comprehensive, and particularly more practical, training.

Since its origins at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Case Method has been applied to several Social Science subjects such as Law, Sociology, etc, and to other areas such as Medicine. It is worth highlighting the use made of this method in the area of Economics. Harvard University itself, the institution that has placed most weight behind this methodology, continues to use it, particularly for delivering training in the fields of leadership and business negotiation.
When applied to engineering courses, the method has given some very positive results. Case method teaching immerses students into realistic business situations, forcing them to take a managerial role, and therefore to take decisions to resolve a specific problem or conflict quickly. It encourages personal commitment in the search for quick, innovative solutions.

This work reviews the case method teaching and how it can be put into practice in classrooms in different engineering schools, where it can become a great ally for fostering independent learning. The results of these classes have been shown to be extremely enriching, because students are very directly involved while the teacher’s role is to moderate and manage classroom sessions, which is an innovation over training teaching methods. The aim is to train workers who are better prepared for managerial positions and who can occupy responsible positions in an efficient manner.