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Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience > Using Investigative Cases
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Using Investigative Cases

This resource received an Accept or Accept with minor revisions rating from a Panel Peer Review process

These materials were reviewed using face-to-face NSF-style review panel of geoscience and geoscience education experts to review groups of resources addressing a single theme. Panelists wrote reviews that addressed the criteria:

  1. scientific accuracy and currency
  2. usability and
  3. pedagogical effectiveness
Reviewers rated the resources:
  1. Accept
  2. Accept with minor revisions
  3. Accept with major revisions, or
  4. Reject.
They also singled out those resources they considered particularly exemplary, which are given a gold star rating.

Following the panel meetings, the conveners wrote summaries of the panel discussion for each resource; these were transmitted to the creator, along with anonymous versions of the reviews. Relatively few resources were accepted as is. In most cases, the majority of the resources were either designated as 1) Reject or 2) Accept with major revisions. Resources were most often rejected for their lack of completeness to be used in a classroom or they contained scientific inaccuracies.


This page first made public: Sep 21, 2004

This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project

Ethel Stanley, BioQUEST, Beloit College, and Margaret Waterman, Southeast Missouri State University


"The investigative case-based learning approach is a method of learning and teaching that gives students opportunities to direct their own learning as they explore the science underlying realistically complex situations." - LifeLines OnLine Project, 2000. (more info)



Cases serve as springboards to student-designed investigations.

Students structure their own learning using the "story" of the case as a problem space. Although the case defines the general area of geoscience under investigation, students generate questions based both on their interests and prior knowledge that relates to the topic of study. Investigative cases are useful for lifelong learning because they are open-ended and draw from a broad range of situations in which scientific reasoning can be applied. Investigative cases necessarily shift the focus of student learning beyond the facts to include using scientific knowledge to frame questions and to answer them.

Cases engage students and faculty in collaborative problem posing, problem solving, and persuasion.

Instructors as well as students are collaborators in this process. As students pose problems, try to solve them, and present conclusions that represent their own findings to others, both the instructor and other students may serve as resources. This collaboration aids learners in defining potential strengths and weaknesses in the design of the problem statement and the investigation. The resolution (or clarification) of the problem and its presentation to other students as well as to the instructor extends opportunities for student practice in utilizing and evaluating scientific approaches to problem solving.

Support for the development of Investigative Case Based Learning was provided by NSF grant DUE 9952525 with additional support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Education Outreach and Training Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure.



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