Pedagogy in Action > Library > Teaching with the Case Method > Examples > Rescuing the Aral Sea: use of Case Method

Rescuing the Aral Sea: use of Case Method

Authored by Patrick Conway. Supporting materials drawn from the People and the Planet publication, with permission.
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This material was originally created for Starting Point: Teaching Economics
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.


Students use the Case Method to learn/apply the concepts of social marginal cost and the Coase Theorem. The example is the environmental devastation of the Aral Sea in the past 30 years. The students play roles in a negotiation designed to illustrate (1) the unintended consequences of ignoring the opportunity cost of a resource, (2) the role a market mechanism can play in reducing the devastation, and (3) the difficulties in negotiating a cooperative solution to this policy problem.

Learning Goals

Students will learn and/or apply the concepts of opportunity cost, social marginal cost, market mechanism, and Coase Theorem.

Context for Use

Microeconomics or International Economics course content; at most 50 minutes of a class period.

Description and Teaching Materials

Aral Case outline (Acrobat (PDF) 13kB Mar31 09)
Aral Sea description circa 2005. (Acrobat (PDF) 57kB Mar31 09)
Illustration of Aral Sea Basin

Teaching Notes and Tips

See case outline.


See case outline.

References and Resources