University of Barcelona (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN17 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 9438-9442
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0776
Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain
A teaching methodology based on case studies is usually used in the higher education area to encourage the learning process based on skill development of university students. This methodology helps to develop the dialectic between theory and practice, providing fertile ground for the application of conceptual content to real world situations. In addition, the use of such methodology promotes the acquisition of complex skills such as integration of concepts, analytical capacity, critical thinking, or teamwork. Although the use of this methodology is common in university teaching, the preparation of case studies has typically fallen under the responsibility of teachers. But, what if university students not only analyze case studies but also take over the responsibility of creating their own case studies?

This paper is aimed to explore whether the development of case studies by the students themselves, in which they had to represent different concepts on a specific topic of the subject of Social Psychology, contributes to a better comprehension and to their success in analyzing further case studies in which psychosocial concepts are represented. A total of 427 students, 77% female and 23% male, who were taking the subject Social Psychology in different classes offered in the Degree of Psychology at the University of Barcelona, participated in the study. The teaching methodology based on the development of case studies was performed with 306 students attending to 6 different classes, being the remaining 121 students who attended to other two classes treated as a comparison group.

The development of a case study was presented as a project to be done during the course in teams of four students. A topic of the subject was randomly assigned to each team and the project was structured into the following tasks:
(a) development of a glossary where the main psychosocial concepts of the assigned topic had to be defined;
(b) development of a case study in which a realistic, complex, detailed, contextualized social situation had to be described, and in which 6 theoretical concepts defined in the glossary had to be properly represented; and
(c) elaboration of a separate report specifying the conceptual content reflected in the story and its rationale.

Furthermore, in order to assess the impact of the project on the students’ learning process, three evaluative activities were conducted with all participants:
(a) an analysis of a case study developed by the teachers’ team before starting the project;
(b) an analysis of another case study also developed by the teachers after the delivery of the project;
(c) a final exam composed of 40 multiple-choice questions.

The main results showed that the grades obtained in the second case analysis by students who carried out the project were significantly higher than the grades they obtained in the first case analysis. In contrast, students of the comparison group obtained lower grades in the second case analysis than in the first case analysis. Results also showed that students who carried out the project obtained higher marks in both the second case analysis and in the final exam in comparison to students who did not develop the case study. 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 link theoretical concepts to realistic events in order to understand and analyze human behavior.
Behaviour analysis skills, case method, case-based teaching, social psychology.