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Assessing the Use of Investigative Cases


Be sure to assess all that you want students to learn!

The way in which students are tested is the most significant factor in how they will approach learning in a course. Be sure to include assessments of the students' skills in identifying questions, resources, investigative methodologies and argumentation as well as their knowledge of the science concepts.


There are many informal opportunities to assess the performances of students who use investigative cases. You may make observations of individuals and groups at work, evaluate the quality of problem solving approaches, or ask specific questions about process so students identify and assess the strategies employed by their group. You may find it helpful to gather information from students on how they view learning with cases. Here is a sample student survey (Microsoft Word 24kB Aug15 03).

Reflecting on your teaching experiences with investigative cases will help you evaluate their effectiveness in the classroom and consider ways to improve investigative case-based learning materials and methods for future courses.

Activities students engage in as they work on their investigations:

  • participation and contribution to work in groups
  • identification of issues
  • development of questions
  • proposal of investigations
  • location of resources
  • carrying out investigations
  • production of materials
  • presentations

You may wish to ask if your students are:


  • actively acquiring information about an appropriate topic within this problem space?
  • re-organizing this information?
  • using strategies to select resources beyond text materials?
  • using a problem-oriented approach? (Is there a question for investigation?)
  • collaborating with other individuals in problem posing or problem solving?
  • choosing among alternative approaches to solve problems?
  • negotiating, arguing, or attempting to convince others?
  • generating graphs, tables, charts, or other graphics?
  • presenting conclusions
  • presenting evidence to support their conclusions?
  • generating further questions as a result of this activity?

Opportunities for assessment of student products (in bold) include:


  • observing students at work with a task check list to include general items such as "Communicates clearly" and/or specific items such as "Successfully rotates molecule in Protein Explorer"
  • evaluating the end product students create such as a brochure on their case question that targets a specific audience
  • using a case-based exam asking students to individually analyze the same case and generate questions, identify what they need to know, carry out an investigation, and/or participate in a community outreach effort.)
  • requiring peer evaluations of a presentation such as a poster session or an in-class debate
  • requesting a group self-evaluation such as assignment of group points to individual members for their contributions
  • including traditional examination questions for responses that cover the content and process objectives of the cases