Using case study instructional methodology in high school biology: its effect on cognitive engagement and critical thinking skills
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The purpose of this study was to examine the effect that case-based instructional methodology had on student’s development of critical thinking skills, cognitive engagement and learning as compared to the lecture-based instructional methodology. The experimental design consisted of two grade 12 high school biology classes being taught a unit of study with two different teaching methodologies. Each class was taught half the unit with case-based instruction and the other half of the unit using lecture-based instruction. The two classes were taught opposite halves using these instructional methodologies. The Applied Critical Thinking Measure was used to determine the students’ level of development of their critical thinking skills. The measure consisted of five scenarios that required students to read, identify the objective, ask questions that would clarify their understanding, draw upon existing information or list new information needed, and draw a conclusion with supporting statements. Cognitive engagement was measured by direct observations using a criterion checklist of 14 items. The teacher-researcher and her colleague designed three artifacts to measure student learning. T-tests were used to compare the mean scores of the two classes on each of the artifacts collected for student learning. The inferential statistics showed that student learning improved during the case-based teaching section of the unit. The observations showed an increase in cognitive engagement during the case-based instructional section of the unit. There was no significant difference in the mean scores for students’ critical thinking skills in Class 1, but there was a significant difference in the mean scores for Class 2. The difference appears modest but considering the duration of the study it is a notable development. The scope of this study addresses a knowledge gap regarding the use of case-based teaching methodology in high school. The implications are meaningful in that case-based teaching has shown to have an impact on cognitive engagement and student learning in a high school biology classroom.