University of Barcelona (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 1097-1102
ISBN: 978-84-608-2657-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2015
Location: Seville, Spain
A teaching methodology based on case studies appears to be appropriate to encourage the learning process based on skill development of university students. Among other benefits, the use of such methodology promotes the acquisition of skills such as integration of concepts, analytical capacity, critical thinking, communication skills, or teamwork. In addition, case studies often help overcoming the gap between theory and real world situations. Although the use of this methodology is common in university teaching, it is still usual that the responsibility for preparing the cases rest with the teacher.

This study is aimed to determine whether the creation and development of a case studie by the students themselves, in which they had to represent different psychosocial concepts, contributes to their ability to understand and analyze human behavior. A total of 54 students, 16 male and 38 female, participated in the study. They were taking the subject “Social Psychology” during the academic year 2014-2015 offered in the Degree of Psychology at the University of Barcelona, Spain. Participants were grouped into 13 working teams composed of 3-4 students, and a topic of the subject was randomly assigned to each team (i.e., conformity and compliance, aggression, interpersonal attraction, or pro-social behavior). The development of case studies was presented as a project to be done during the course, and it was structured into the following tasks:

1) Development of a glossary where the main psychosocial concepts of the assigned topic had to be defined.
2) Development of a conceptual report where the previous concepts and their possible relationships had to be explained.
3) Development of a case study in which a realistic, complex, detailed, contextualized social situation had to be described. Students were asked to represent between 6 and 8 of the previous psychosocial concepts in the case.
4) Analysis of a case developed by another team of students, followed by peer review of the performed analyzes.

In order to assess the impact of the project on the ability to understand and analyze the behavior three evaluative activities were conducted. Before starting the project students were asked to analyze a first case study and after the delivery of the project they analyzed a second case study, both developed by the teaching team. The third activity was a final exam, which was composed of 40 multiple-choice questions. In each question, a concise social situation was presented. Students were asked to choose between the possible answers the one that refers to the psychosocial concept represented in each situation.

Results showed that the grades obtained by students in the first case (M = 5.9, SD = 2.02) were significantly lower than the grades obtained in the second case that was analyzed after carrying out the project (M = 7.5, SD = 1.84) (t = -5.58, d. f. = 53, p < .001). Furthermore, while the first case study grades were not correlated with the final exam grades (r = .25, p = .071), a significant correlation was found between the second case study and the exam grades (r = .41, p = .003).

The proposed teaching methodology, which implies an active role of the student in both the development and the analysis of case studies, appears to enhance their ability to understand and analyze human behavior. This methodology could be easily transferred to other university subjects to enhance the development of other complex skills.
Case studies, complex skills, social psychology, teaching innovation.