Abstract: This case study examines how attitudes toward menstruation have varied widely and manifested in culturally specific ways across time and space. The case introduces many key concepts in cultural anthropology while also developing writing, presentation and research skills through hands-on interactions and problem-based class discussions. Students work in small groups, using qualitative reasoning to analyze menstruation taboos from a variety of cultures (including their own). Using an anthropological lens to examine the cultural significance of this most essential element of human life, students gain both methodological and theoretical knowledge about how and why anthropologists engage with cultures at home and away. Topics covered include the origins of complex symbolic narratives and beliefs, ethnographic field methods, and the process of 'writing-up' research.
The case may be used in its entirety, or instructors may choose to examine more closely the field methods element, the cross-cultural comparisons or the writing component. This case focuses on analysis and also contains elements of discussion/debate that can be adapted to a variety of classroom/workshop settings. It can be taught through class-wide discussion and/or instructor facilitated small group workshops. Assignments and discussion topics are suggested and may be tailored to fit students' interests and instructors' learning goals.
This case study is best utilized by instructors familiar with key concepts in cultural anthropology (including ethnographic theory and methods) and/or sociology. Instructors unfamiliar with the discipline may need to do some background reading in symbolic, medical, and/or feminist anthropology before teaching this case study (several useful resources are listed).
Use in Courses: Designed as part of a first-year seminar course on the topic of blood (cross-listed Anthropology/Chemistry), this case does not require students to have any prior knowledge of anthropological theory or methods. The case serves as an introduction to these topics through the study of menstruation taboos, a near universal phenomenon that serves as a useful entry-point into the discipline of cultural anthropology and the practice of cross-cultural comparison. The case offers the instructor the option of delving more deeply into particular topics to suit the nature of their individual courses, and could function as a component part of an introductory anthropology course, or add a cultural compliment to a biological science course (assuming the instructor has some knowledge of anthropology/sociology and/or it is cross-listed with a complementary department). Additionally, it could function as a module in an upper-year anthropology course on research ethics, cross-cultural analysis, and/or research methods.
******** Professor Armstrong was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS Program.
The Two-Sex System: Fact or Fallacy? Angela Bauer, PhD
Department of Biology, High Point University
High Point, North Carolina
Abstract: This case study challenges students to consider the validity and fairness of society’s two-sex system (male vs. female), as they examine how this binary system continues to be perpetuated within the scientific and medical communities, even though it may not accurately reflect the variability that exists within the natural world. Students will learn about the six key factors (chromosomes, gonads, hormones, external genitalia, internal genitalia, and secondary sex characteristics) that contribute to one’s sexual phenotype, and then analyze data sets that illustrate the significant intra- and inter-sex variability that exists with respect to the expression of these key factors. Students will also learn about intersex conditions, their prevalence within the human population, and common approaches taken within the medical community to “normalize” intersex phenotypes, even though the frequency of intersex conditions is comparable to other unique phenotypes that our society accepts as “normal” (e.g., red hair, blue eyes). Next, students consider the life experiences of intersex individuals (through readings and a documentary), in order to identify the challenges they face living within the context of society’s binary system of sex/gender classification. Finally, students will engage in a debate on gender neutral housing on college campuses, an approach that addresses the inadequacies of traditional, sexed housing for those who don’t fit within the sex/gender binary, but introduces other factors into the learning environment that some consider problematic. This case study is based on actual events, with individual components of the case study classified as analysis cases (units 2-4), a directed case (unit 1), and a debate case (unit 5), according to the case categories of the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.
Use in Courses: The case study is appropriate for a variety of courses, including lower level and general education courses (e.g., First Year Seminars; introductory biology, psychology, and gender studies courses; diversity courses) as well as upper level courses within a variety of majors (e.g., developmental biology, endocrinology, reproductive biology, human sexuality, psychology of gender, and various LGBTQ studies courses). When incorporated into upper level courses, supplementary readings specific to the course of interest can be added to expound upon the material or ideas presented in the case study. For example, when used in a developmental biology courses, the instructor could add additional reading materials that highlight other transcription factors (beyond Rspo-1 and SRY) that play a role in directing sexual differentiation (e.g., SF-1, SOX 9).
Of note is the fact that the activities included within this case study support High Impact Educational Practices as defined by the AAC&U (namely, educational practices that are known to foster a high level of engagement and thus enhance academic performance and retention). For example, the exercises associated with units 1, 2, 3, and 5 are collaborative, student-centered assignments in which students work together in class to solve problems. Furthermore, the case study in its entirety addresses diversity issues in that the readings and documentary encourage students to explore life experiences that may differ from their own. This interdisciplinary case study also contains a writing intensive component (associated with unit 2), another high impact practice that benefits students at every stage of their undergraduate career. Finally, this case study would be an ideal component of high impact practices such as first year seminars and/or learning communities, particularly those that address diversity issues. Within the context of a learning community, the case study could serve as a springboard for other diversity-related extracurricular events, such as hosting a panel of speakers with diverse representations of sex and/or gender.
******** Professor Bauer was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS Program.
Should English be the Official Language of the United States? Lynn Burley, PhD
Department of Writing, The University of Central Arkansas
Abstract: This case study examines the idea of declaring English as the official language of the United States, considering issues of language planning, national identity, Constitutional rights, education, financial costs and minority group rights. The case uses readings covering these issues as well as U.S. Census Bureau data to help define who does and does not speak English and the historical context of immigrants. Students begin with readings from the leading organizations for an official language (ProEnglish and U.S. English) and several readings from James Crawford, President of the Institute for Language and Education Policy, and from the Linguistic Society of America. Next, students must determine how U.S. Census Bureau language data from 1970 to 2010 can be used to understand the context of non-native English speakers. Then complicating factors are introduced as students consider the consequences of having an official language, 1) for minority groups, particularly Native Americans; 2) for language education in public schools as well as adult education; and 3) for U.S. citizens’ rights as defined in the U.S. Constitution. The case study can be taught in whole or in part or can be expanded to cover in more depth issues of education, language rights, policy planning, bilingualism and/or statistics.
This is a Dilemma/Decision case that asks students to ascertain the facts, analyze the problem, consider solutions and determine the consequences of the solution.
Use in Courses: This case was developed for a first-year general education seminar course called Language, Culture and Society, an introductory course in linguistic anthropology meant for students of any major. Issues in this case are relevant in other linguistics courses examining language and identity or language use, in education courses examining teaching English to non-native speakers and bilingual education, in language courses examining second language acquisition, in political science courses examining government and politics, or in courses that concentrate on interpreting descriptive statistical data such as in sociology courses and quantitative reasoning or quantitative literacy courses. The case can be extended to cover some areas more in-depth such as how U.S. Census Bureau data are relevant, how data are collected and how those data can be interpreted. Educational issues are also of great importance and can be extended to how public school systems teach non-Native English speakers, how second languages are learned, and which pedagogical methods are best.
******** Professor Burley was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS Program.
Exploring Lawns and Gardens as Complex Socio-Ecological Systems Loren B. Byrne, PhD
Dept of Biology, Marine Biology & Environmental Science, Roger Williams University
Abstract: Lawns and ornamental gardens are ubiquitous in urbanized environment and thus familiar to (almost) everyone. However, few people have probably thought about the complex social and ecological context of the motivations, behaviors and consequences of urban landscape management. Strong social expectations that drive the maintenance of stereotypical, idealized lawn and garden appearances (which vary due to geographical context and other factors) are largely unquestioned and taken for granted. Yet, the possible negative environmental and human health outcomes of management practices give rise to concerns about whether people and society have ethical responsibilities to reduce any risks that may arise from them. In this context, lawns and gardens provide an exciting interdisciplinary educational opportunity to engage undergraduate students in scientific and environmental thinking, and evidence-based and ethical decision making in a complex systems context. As such, this teaching case study utilizes lawns and gardens as a focus to help students: 1) learn about concepts from environmental and social sciences; 2) create mental models for thinking about systems and complex human-environment relationships; and 3) develop their quantitative thinking, and analytical and ethical reasoning skills. In addition, the case integrates opportunities to foster students’ metacognitive skills and help them develop personal views and conclusions about lawns and gardens. Through a variety of topics and activities, this case integrates elements of analysis, decision, directed, discussion, and jigsaw case studies. Facilitators will be able to adapt the content and learning activities to a wide range of teaching contexts across disciplines and student levels, and that vary in duration from two to five class periods.
Use in Courses: Although lawns and gardens are interesting (and practical) to think about on their own terms, they provide a useful gateway for learning about many disciplinary and societal topics. As such, this case study was designed to cut across many teaching contexts and objectives. In particular, its central strength is facilitating interdisciplinary and systems thinking in the context of human-environment relationships and through the integration of environmental and social scientific content. The case has relevance to the teaching of, and can be adapted for, courses from many disciplines, within majors and for general education programs. It is also appropriate across undergraduate student levels, from first-years to seniors.
It is primarily written from an environmental and sustainability science/studies viewpoint and will easily fit within related courses and lessons, including introductory ones and advanced ones pertaining to urban ecology, environmental management, and sustainability analyses. In addition, the case, or aspects of it, are adaptable for use in courses from diverse fields (history, political science, architecture, philosophy, communications, engineering, etc.), especially specialized courses and lessons in them that intersect with environmental and urban issues. The case’s content was written to stand alone so it could be used with introductory students and those from non-environmental or science majors who have less environmental and social science background (as in non-majors general education science courses).
The case has relevance to identified high-impact teaching practices as described by the AAC&U. Because of its interdisciplinary topic and content, the case has broad applicability to general education courses such first-year and senior/capstone seminars. Further, because it includes many opportunities for group work and discussion, it would also be very useful for use in learning communities and for courses that emphasize collaborative learning. Writing for reflection and formal analyses is integrated throughout the case; as such, it also has relevance to writing-intensive courses.
******** Professor Byrne was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS Program.
People, Places, and Pipelines: Debating Tar Sands Oil Transmission Tami S. Carmichael, PhD
Humanities and Integrated Studies Program, University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Abstract: This case study uses the pertinent topic of tar sands and tar shale oil transmission to help students develop skills in scientific reasoning and critical thinking. The topic is of current concern and lends relevance to classroom activities and study, allowing students to develop important skills while tackling an issue they will see daily in the news. Ultimately, the case moves beyond analysis of data sets and examination of source validity to give students the opportunity to participate in the larger debate over the common good, considering when and if the needs of the few ever outweigh the good of the many. The data included in the case for consideration are primarily from everyday news sources - the type that every citizen encounters daily and must interpret. The case is divided into three sections to correspond with three 1.5-2 hour class sessions. The first part requires that students consider data pertaining to oil transmission via rail, freight, or pipeline and the effects of these transmission types on the environment. The second section familiarizes students with the effects of oil transmission methods on humans, including the effects on employment, recreational and visual resources, and on native peoples and sacred places. The third and culminating section provides individual students with the opportunity to articulate and support personal perspectives on the topic in a format that could be utilized in real-world forums of debate on the topic. To be most effective, the use of online forums for posting student responses should be used.
Use in Courses: This case study was developed for use in general education courses where students may not have strong backgrounds in the sciences. The case is meant to allow students to develop scientific thinking and integrative reasoning skills in the context of a current pertinent topic that has broad-ranging, interdisciplinary components and ramifications. However, it may also be used in courses that are more heavily focused in the sciences or in environmental issues. It has been developed primarily for first or second year students. Additionally, this case can be used in freshman seminars, or in integrative/interdisciplinary classes dealing with natural resources, sustainability, environmental issues and policy, or current events.
Using this case study in a small class allows students the opportunity to develop critical reasoning skills and communication skills by focusing on an area of current concern. They will be connecting their learning skills to real world issues and decision-making. This is the case for students in a larger class as well; however, using this case study in a larger, lecture-formatted class provides the opportunity for flipping the classroom and allowing students to engage directly with the material and work through problems and issues together as learners.
In any of these scenarios, students will encounter data, arguments, and ethical situations that require that they think carefully about the material and use specific data and arguments to formulate reasoned responses. They will also work in teams as they consider the information and will have the benefit of learning from each other and considering each others' perspectives.
******** Professor Carmichael was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS Program.
Organic Foods: Examining the Health Implications Katherine Hunting, PhD, MPH
Department of Environmental & Occupational Health, The George Washington University
Washington, District of Columbia
Abstract: This case study examines the health implications of organic versus conventional food production, with an emphasis on environmental and occupational health considerations. It unspools from the perspective of a hypothetical college-aged shopper contemplating supermarket produce options. Evidence is presented from a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2012 which attempted to address the question: “Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?” Students examine other types of evidence as well, including results from a national biomonitoring program which measures pesticide metabolites in the urine or blood of a representative sample of the U.S. population. Part I of this case study briefly introduces issues relevant to the health implications of organic versus conventional foods, and then focuses strongly on statistical concepts. Part II focuses on evidence regarding four major environmental and occupational health issues: pesticide exposures, meat animal production practices, carbon footprint, and nutrient pollution. Part III briefly explores other issues such as food additives, genetic engineering, and the cost of organic versus conventional foods. Part IV returns to the decision of the protagonist in the supermarket aisle. The case may be taught as a whole, or instructors may choose to emphasize certain parts of the case and particular key questions depending on their learning goals. This is an analysis case which also includes elements of a decision case. It can be effectively taught combining all-class facilitated discussion and small-group in-class student work. Suggestions for written assignments or exams are also included.
Use in Courses: This case study was initially developed for an undergraduate environmental health class consisting mostly of juniors and seniors. Case material is also relevant to courses in environmental science, sustainability, biology, food issues, technology and society, and statistics or quantitative methods. The case can be easily adapted to be taught either as a whole, or in parts. Depending on their learning goals and student backgrounds, instructors may choose to emphasize certain parts of the case and particular key questions.
This case’s focus on the health and environmental implications of industrial food production provides a great opportunity for students to explore, analyze, and integrate issues connecting food, health, environment, and sustainability. The case could be used in integrative first year seminars or capstone courses focusing on food issues or on sustainability. It could serve as an excellent semester-long project for students in integrative first year seminars. Compared to more advanced students, freshmen might need additional preparation and time to work through the case. The case’s integrative work encompassing topical issues, examination of evidence, and statistical interpretation of data would provide solid foundations for subsequent courses in diverse fields. Some of the key questions could be used as is or modified (as suggested in the Facilitator’s Guide) for use as assignments in writing-intensive courses. The case provides opportunities for students to work collaboratively in small groups. While much of the quantitative evidence presented is U.S.-based, the case also has a strong global perspective, as reducing the carbon footprint of food production is a critical worldwide sustainability issue.
******** Professor Hunting developed this case study as an example for the STIRS Program The (Ferret) Sneeze Heard Around The World: The Case Of The Bioengineered Bird Flu Jill M. Manske, PhD
Department of Biology, University of St. Thomas
St Paul, Minnesota
Abstract: This case study explores Gain of Function (GOF) research and Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC). It is based on the actual events and controversy regarding experiments in which highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza was engineered to be transmissible between mammals, and the issue of whether or not the papers describing this work should be published. Part 1 introduces the story, some basic background of influenza, and the concept of Dual Use Research of Concern. Part 2 walks students through the experiments that were the focus of the controversy. In the third part of the case, students read and watch some of the debates conducted during the controversy and evaluate the arguments. In the final part of the case, students debate the question that was central to the controversy: should gain-of-function experiments on highly pathogenic agents such as avian influenza proceed and be published in full? The case can be taught in full, or broken up into units that the instructor can select depending on learning goals, course topic, and student experience. Through this case, students will understand the basic biology and epidemiology of influenza and reinforce quantitative skills including: interpretation of data and figures; evaluation of vaccine efficacy and effectiveness; disease surveillance; calculation and interpretation of case-fatality rates; and risk calculation and communication. Students also will explore how scientific data inform policy and related questions of scientific ethics. This is an analysis case based on actual events and studies, which also includes elements of Discussion and Debate.
Use in Courses: This case study was initially developed for an undergraduate senior level seminar in Emerging Infectious Disease. Case material also is relevant to courses in biology, environmental science, technology and society, policy, or ethics. The case can be easily adapted to be taught either as a whole, or in parts. This case can be taught as an interrupted case throughout the course of a semester, or within a shorter unit.
Depending on their learning goals and student backgrounds, instructors may choose to emphasize certain parts of the case and particular key questions. Some specific suggestions for using this case in non-majors and introductory classes are provided in the Facilitator’s Guide.
This case can be used in first year seminars as well as capstone experiences. It serves as an engaging case for interdisciplinary courses or theme-based courses.
******** Professor Manske was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS Program.
Rising to the Challenge: Examining the Effects of a Growth Mindset Sal Meyers, PhD
Department of Psychology, Simpson College
Abstract: This case study examines the likely consequences of having a fixed versus a growth mindset. Dweck (2006) published a book on growth versus fixed mindsets in which she argued that people who view intelligence and ability as things that grow and change over time are more successful than people who view intelligence and ability as fixed entities that are essentially unchangeable. Journal articles on this topic use the terms entity and incremental beliefs instead of fixed and growth mindset. Using a series of jigsaw activities, evidence is presented to address the question: Why, when faced with difficult course material, do some students rise to the challenge and perform well and others back away from it and not do well? Using a jigsaw activity, Part I of the case introduces students to the difference between observational and experimental designs as they examine the results of four different studies regarding mindsets about ability. Part II uses a jigsaw activity to broadening students’ understanding of growth and fixed mindsets to include mindsets of math ability, mindsets of interest in academic majors, mindsets of willpower, and instructor’s mindsets of ability. Part III is optional; it provides students with the opportunity to conduct their own empirical research projects concerning mindsets. Finally, students will be asked to design a way to increase students’ academic achievement using mindset theory and to use the scientific evidence they have been considering to support their conclusions. Suggestions for paper assignments and video presentations are also included.
Use in Courses: The jigsaw portions of this case study were initially developed for a non-disciplinary, undergraduate first-year experience course. The data collection portion was designed for a research methods course in psychology. The case material could also be used in other psychology and/or education courses such as introduction to psychology, educational psychology, human motivation, social psychology, child development, cognitive psychology, foundations of education, student development and learning, exceptional students, and math education. The case can easily be adapted to be taught either as a whole or in parts.
This case could be used in any first year seminar (or senior seminar) that includes a discussion of student learning, personality, or individual differences. The case provides opportunities for students to work collaboratively in small groups.
******** Professor Meyers was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS Program. Preventing Spina Bifida and Other Neural Tube Defects Richard Riegelman MD, MPH, PhD
Department of Epidemiology, The George Washington University
Washington, District of Columbia
Abstract: Neural tube defects including spina bifida and anencephaly result from failure of closure of the cranium and spinal column. These severe developmental anomalies normally occur during the first month of gestation before most women recognize that they are pregnant. Neural tube defects are among the most common congenital defects, occurring in approximately 1 per 2,000 deliveries in most parts of the world including – until recently – the United States. This case describes a series of investigations, including population comparisons (ecological studies), case-control studies, cohort studies and randomized controlled trials, illustrating the steps used to establish folic acid deficiency as a contributory cause of neural tube defects. The case study also illustrates the effectiveness of increasing folic acid intake in women of childbearing age and challenges students to draw conclusions and make recommendations. This is a capstone or advanced undergraduate analytical case study which selectively illustrates key quantitative reasoning concepts drawn from the four component of the STIRS frameworks i.e. scientific thinking and evidence-based problem solving; study design, implementation and execution; data-based and statistical reasoning; plus analytical and logical reasoning and evidence-based decision making . The case requires background preparation by students and basic understanding of study design and use of statistics. Essay and objective questions are provided along with sample answers for Facilitators to use as part of the case and/or for student assessment. Recommendations are made for VALUE rubrics that may be used to evaluate the case study as well as materials that may be included in e-folios.
This is an Analysis Case, based on case categories from the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. The case study is based on actual events/studies.
Use in Courses: This case study may be used as a module in a variety of upper level undergraduate courses including senior seminars and capstone courses, evidence-based thinking/ critical thinking courses, including specific topics courses such as food and health, developmental biology, reproductive health, or society and health. In addition, this case would enhance student mastery of concepts for research methods oriented courses in the sciences, social sciences, and public health. The case could be coupled with additional materials on screening and/or balancing harms and benefits and utilized as part of a capstone or synthesis course; suggestions for this are included in the Facilitator’s Guide.
The case study is well suited to advanced undergraduate courses and may be incorporated into a capstone course.
******** Professor Riegelman developed this case study as an example for the STIRS Program.
MMR Vaccine and Autism: Scientific Inquiry, Ethics, and Evidence-Based Problem Solving Karen Singer-Freeman, PhD
Department of Psychology, Purchase College, State University of New York
Purchase, New York
Abstract: Students who complete this analysis case study will develop scientific thinking and evidence-based reasoning skills by examining research exploring the relation between the MMR vaccine and autism. The safety of vaccination is a popular topic in the lay media, and there has been a great deal of recent attention to the resurgence of diseases because of falling vaccination rates. The case is based solely on actual events. In Part I students will learn how vaccines protect against illness and will become familiar with several vaccine-preventable diseases. In Part II students will learn about research ethics, research design, and the interpretation of data. In Part III students will consider ways that different public policies regarding vaccination can impact public health and individual freedom. In a series of activities, students will consider ethical violations, interpret visual displays of data, design possible research studies, evaluate data from published studies, and consider the potential costs and benefits of changes to public policies about vaccination.
According to the classification system used by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, this case employs various approaches, including those of analysis, debate, and an interrupted case.
Use in Courses: This case teaches topics in scientific thinking and evidence-based reasoning, including: the consideration of ways in which evidence can be used to advance knowledge, the application of design and statistical reasoning principles to the evaluation of evidence, and the analysis of ethical issues which are inherent in research. Courses that might benefit from including these topics include first year seminar courses, and experimental design courses. Because the topic of the case is vaccination, it would enrich introductory courses in child development, public health, epidemiology, or biology. This case would also be a valuable addition to summer research programs for undergraduate science students.
******** Professor Singer-Freeman was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS Program. To Drill or Not to Drill? A Dilemma in the Context of Climate Change in the Arctic Vandana Singh, PhD
Department of Physics and Earth Sciences, Framingham State University
Abstract: This dilemma/decision type Case Study presents a complex real-world situation to students: that of accelerated melting in the Arctic, a consequence of climate change, and its impact on local communities and the environment. The fictional but real-world-based situation calls on students to act as consultants hired by a community of Iñupiat Eskimos at the edge of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska, who wish to make an informed decision whether or not to support some combination of offshore and land-based oil and gas drilling in their area. Through readings, videos and classroom activities the students study the science and evidence for climate change in the Arctic, as well as its current and projected impacts on climate, biodiversity, culture and economy. They study the possible impacts of oil and gas drilling, economic and environmental, as well as the possibility of alternative energy. Throughout, students are encouraged to think about these interlinked issues within a complex systems framework. They then present four scenarios for the community’s consideration.
This case study gives students the tools to think scientifically about climate disruption, to evaluate the reliability of information, to interpret data, to understand where the uncertainties lie, to comprehend the barriers to action, and to begin to visualize alternatives, and perhaps their own role in shaping the world to come.
To successfully complete this case, students should have basic familiarity with climate change concepts. The Facilitator Guide provides instructors with teaching resources for courses where students have not previously studied these concepts.
Use in Courses: Courses that would benefit from the inclusion of this case study include any courses in which climate change and/or social justice/indigenous rights are relevant. An integrative introductory physics or biology course (such as “Physics for the Liberal Arts” or “Science and Environment”), an environmental science or sustainability course, a course on climate change that calls for a component on the human face of climatic impacts, as well as courses ranging from environmental justice to indigenous rights would benefit from inclusion of this case study. The interdisciplinary nature of climate change allows for such wide usage of the material in the study. In addition the material is ideal for a seminar course on the subject of climate change and indigenous rights.
This Case Study is ideal for learning communities, linked courses, first-year seminars and other high-impact practices. First, it brings real-world relevance to disciplines that many students consider irrelevant to their daily lives. Second, it brings down disciplinary boundaries so that students can experience how, for instance, apparently disparate subjects like physics and economics might intersect in the real world. Thirdly, it allows students to experience the complexity of the real world and introduces them to thinking in systems, a skill increasingly valued in our world. The opportunity to read a variety of material from different disciplines, all relating to the problem of climate change, and to teach other students through cooperative learning practices allows students to complicate their understanding of the real world beyond black-and-white categorizations. Fourthly, this Case Study brings to the forefront the vital global issue of climate change that is already changing our world and is likely to have a profound impact on our students’ lives. The several classroom discussions embedded in the Student Case, following related sets of readings, allow students to immediately express, discuss and internalize what they have learned, with the guidance of the instructor.
******** Professor Singh was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS program.
Cell Phones and Cancer: Evaluating the Evidence to Assess Potential Association Jennifer S. Stanford, PhD
Department of Biology, Drexel University
Abstract: In this case study, students will study the potential link between cell phones and cancer. This is a popular topic in the lay media, which tends to present anecdotal cases to support the idea that cell phones cause cancer. This case will challenge students to learn to effectively evaluate research data, for example: why study size is important, why it is critical to have study and control groups, how causation is determined, and what confounding variables are. Students will be presented with anecdotal, epidemiologic and experimental data and will be asked to evaluate study designs and outcomes. As part of this case, students will learn about the ethics of conducting research with human subjects, and why some experiments are unethical to conduct. Students will learn in brief about the molecular changes that cause cancer, and the type of radiation emitted by cell phones. Students will make predictions about outcomes that would suggest an association between cell phone use and cancer, and evaluate outcomes data from existing studies to determine if such an association exists. At the end of this case, students will be expected to make evidence-based recommendations about their own cell phone use and – in light of evidence reviewed in the case – to consider the costs and benefits of funding additional research studying the potential association between cell phone use and cancer. This is an analysis case that uses actual events.
Use in Courses: This case could be used in association with a variety of courses or workshops to explain topics in scientific thinking and evidence-based reasoning, including: causation versus association, experimental design, the ethics of human subject research, and the importance of sample size, among other topics. Courses that might benefit from including these topics include first year seminar courses, general education courses or research methods courses. The optional activities in this case could also be used as a part of a writing-intensive course. Because the focus of the case is on cancer and radiation, it might also be of interest in courses that cover radiation and its effects on human health, such as: biology (general, cell or cancer), environmental health, epidemiology, occupational health, or physics.
******** Professor Stanford was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS program.
The Role of Evidence in Emergency Health Care Policy and Law:
Rory Staunton and NYU Langone Medical Center Joel Teitelbaum, JD, LLM
Department of Health Policy, The George Washington University
Washington, District of Columbia
Abstract: The Langone Medical Center Student Case, which is based on real events, offers an opportunity to discuss health law and policy and the role of medical evidence in applying the former and formulating the latter. It provides an example of the ways in which the use of evidence in emergency medical care can have life or death consequences, and then considers whether the use (or not) of evidence in the example is itself (a) evidence of wrongdoing in a legal sense and/or (b) evidence of the fact that policy should be changed at either the institutional or state level so that similar outcomes can be avoided in the future. Depending on facilitator preference, the case can be structured as an Analysis case, a Directed case, a Discussion case, or a Role-Play case – or some combination of these – using the definitions provided by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.
Use in Courses: A nice thing about this case is that it allows students to contemplate and analyze the facts and consequences from multiple perspectives -- legal, medical, policy, and ethical. In fact, one of the most interesting uses of this case is to model the plot device used in Akira Kurosawa’s famous movie “Rashomon,” a 1950 Japanese period drama which forces viewers to consider multiple characters’ portrayal of alternative, mutually contradictory versions of the same incident. Through the eyes of four witnesses, the film treats viewers to widely differing accounts of a crime, and the accounts may or may not be influenced by the self-serving desires of the characters. In the Langone Medical Center case, students could undertake multiple readings of the tragic facts at the core of the case, considering both the legality of what occurred and what (if any) changes to pursue from the four angles noted above. The case can be easily adapted to be taught either as a whole or in parts.
The multi-dimensional nature of this case offers a great opportunity for students to explore, analyze, and integrate issues connecting law, policy, and medical care. This case would also be of interest to students in pre-medical programs. The case would probably be most effective for third or fourth year students.
The case provides opportunities for students to work collaboratively in small groups and it could be used in capstone courses focusing on health law or public health policy. It also provides ample opportunity for students in writing-intensive courses to enhance their analytical writing skills.
******** Professor Teitelbaum developed this case study as an example for the STIRS Program. Trends in Immigrant Adolescent Health in New York City:
“Becoming an American Can Be Bad for your Health”
Katie B. Wilson, MA
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Stella and Charles Guttman Community College,
The City University of New York
New York, New York
Abstract: This case study examines health issues experienced by immigrant teens adapting to life in urban America, particularly adolescent girls from Mexico who have immigrated to New York City. The case study employs perspectives in public health, anthropology, and history. In Part 1, students reflect on prior knowledge, consider initial perspectives, and meet Maria, the case’s fictional protagonist. In Part 2, students think through health trends in the U.S. adolescent population and how these trends might impact newly arrived immigrant teens. Part 3 begins by introducing students to historical and contemporary perspectives on immigration in the US and ends with an examination of the actual health profile reports from New York City. In Part 4, students use an interdisciplinary framework to analyze the impact of various factors contributing to Maria’s health status and connect their observations to evidence uncovered in the first three parts of the case. Additionally, students use the social-ecological model to think through possible interventions at different levels of society. Part 5 asks students to create an evidence-based solution that provides recommendations for improving Maria’s health, as well as the health of other adolescents who have recently immigrated to the US. It is recommended that this case is taught as a whole, but instructors may choose to select certain sections of each part, depending on their learning goals. This is an analysis case with ample opportunity for discussion. Suggestions for additional assignments, including a service learning project, an innovative business plan, or a research paper are included.
Use in Courses: This case was developed with a first-year, public health-related, interdisciplinary course in mind. It would interest students and instructors in virtually any social science-related course in which cross-disciplinary and evidence-based reasoning are central learning outcomes. The case content is particularly appropriate for courses that touch on immigration, adolescent health, urban health, and/or health disparities. It might be best utilized as an introductory activity, however, could also be used at any point in the semester. If used at the end of a semester as a culminating activity, it is suggested that the requirements for the final outcome – a public health recommendation report – might be extended.
Students are asked in this case to think about history, culture, social structures, health, adolescent development, urban anthropology, and more; issues of cultural diversity are aptly illustrated. The case is interdisciplinary in nature, therefore could be used in a variety of high impact practices, for example, a freshman seminar course, a themed course meant to provide a common intellectual experience, or a capstone course. This case also provides numerous opportunities for student written work, and thus could be employed in a writing-intensive course. Finally, service learning could be incorporated as an optional activity.
******** Professor Wilson was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS program.
Blood Doping: Cheating, or Leveling the Playing Field? Adele J. Wolfson, PhD
Department of Chemistry, Wellesley College
Abstract: The case presents evidence in the debate regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs, particularly erythropoietin (EPO), to achieve an advantage in sports. It describes the accomplishments of a particular cross-country skier with a rare genetic mutation leading to overproduction of red blood cells and, hence, enhanced ability to deliver oxygen to muscles. This situation is contrasted with the scandals that have emerged in the world of cycling when it was revealed that Lance Armstrong and teammates used EPO to increase their own red blood cell count. Using an essay by Malcolm Gladwell as the jumping off point, we raise the question: is it wrong to apply science to level the playing field? Alternatively: How is use of EPO different from using glasses to correct eyesight, or orthopedic surgery, or any number of other training techniques? The case takes students through the necessary background information on EPO action, its therapeutic uses and (what is assumed to be) its abuse in sports, as well as methods of detection. It provides an opportunity to introduce some basic biochemistry related to protein structure, signal transduction, and methods of detection. The case ends with an intimate (paired) debate and group recommendations for governing sports authorities. The case requires some knowledge of biology/biochemistry on the part of the instructor.
It is a dilemma/decision case, based on the categories from the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. The case is based on actual studies and news stories.
Use in Courses: The case study was designed for a First-Year seminar on the topic of Blood. It assumes no background knowledge on the part of the students other than some basics of high school chemistry. Depending on the background and interests of the students and the amount of time you wish to devote to it, the case could be explored in greater depth for biology/biochemistry and/or statistics. It could also be used as a module in an advanced-level biology/biochemistry or statistics course, in which case the assignments would include the full articles from which the figures are drawn.
As noted, the case is meant for use in a FY seminar. It may also be modified for a writing-intensive course, with the embedded questions or final debate as in-depth writing assignments. At least some of the in-class and out-of-class assignments should be done as collaborative projects.
******** Professor Wolfson was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014
and developed this case for the STIRS program.
Constitutional Questions, Data, and the First Presidential Veto Ryan J. Zerr
Department of Mathematics, University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Abstract: This case study considers the matter of congressional apportionment – how the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are allocated among the states. The perspective is an historical one, using the text of the U.S. Constitution and data from past U.S. Censuses. Although a hypothetical contested U.S. presidential election is used to frame the possible implications, all of the work for this case study is rooted in actual historical information and events. The case culminates with a consideration of the 2000 U.S. presidential election.
The case contains a number of historical vignettes which ask the reader to consider the decisions and interpretations made at the time. An effort is made to place the reader, in terms of the information available to them, in the given historical situation. This case should appeal to those with interests in history, political science, and/or mathematics. Written as an analysis case, it can also be easily adapted for use as a debate or role-play case, befitting historical situations that often involved congressional debates on apportionment. This case asks the reader to analyze quantitative evidence and use basic mathematics to reach sophisticated conclusions. The case is writing intensive, and asks the reader to develop and defend conclusions through multiple brief papers.
Use in Courses: This case could easily fit into a first-year seminar course or a liberal arts-themed mathematics course. These are the two situations the author has direct experience with. More conjecturally, it may be appropriate in certain history or political science settings. The case asks students to produce a number of written documents, and thus is writing intensive. Finally, because the case content fits at the intersection of history, political science, and mathematics, it could be used in any situation where integrative learning is an important consideration.
******** Professor Zerr was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014