The case study method has been widely used in education as a learning vehicle with specific educational objectives in mind. It has been highly popular in many disciplines such as economics, social sciences, psychiatry, engineering and language learning as well, where the skills of unstructured and complex problem solving are involved. Case studies have become an integral part of the pedagogy in the teaching of many subjects. Cases can be used for a range of purposes such as to illustrate best practice, apply tools, invite discussion, facilitate decision making and develop skills in critical and creative thinking. Management in the hospitality, leisure, sports and tourism industry focuses on people. Problem-solving, especially the ability to think on one’s feet and deal effectively with problems, are key requirements.
Nowadays case studies are welcomed by EFL professionals, especially by those who are involved in teaching English for specific purpose and as a second or as a foreign language at the educational establishments of Uzbekistan such as academic lyceums, colleges and universities. This article aims to describe how case studies are used when teaching English.
The word “case” comes from Latin “casus”. Some of the dictionary definitions from Collins Cobuild which fit into this content are:
1. 1. A particular situation that you are considering on its own or on an individual basis, especially when you are using it as an example of something, or when you are comparing it with something else.
1. 2. A particular incident that you are describing or explaining.
Cobuild also defines «Case Study», which is spelled with or without a hyphen, as: «An account that gives detailed information about a person, group, or thing and their development over a period of time.»...
Case studies used in particular educational institutions describe problems of individuals, couples, groups, social institutions, or even nations. Depending on the definitions above, we also can give our own description of case study as: “A case study is a representation of a real-life or life-like situation. It is a representation rather than a description because it does not have to be text-based and it can contain multiple resources. A case study is a model that includes a sufficient level of detail for the learning and teaching purpose. The model is a situation or scenario based on events in the real-world. Although narrative case studies are the most common form of case study, they do not have to be limited to text-based descriptions. A case may represent a single event or provide an account of a series of actions over a period of time”.
Case studies provide students with the opportunity of reading, understanding, and discussing a specific problem area. Students are expected to propose logical solutions to the problem presented. Each case is written to leave the student at a decision point with the instructor (teacher) in the case confronted. It will usually describe how the current position developed and what problems in the case are currently facing. Tables of data, diagrams, and photographs may be added to help the students provide with a more complete picture. Film, video, audiotapes, and slide sequences have all been used as vehicles for case descriptions. These all make a case more realistic to the students. They make students decide on an action under real conditions. Students cannot remain passive observers, but are trained to be action-oriented and good at making decisions quickly and with confidence.
Lane and DiStefano (1992) define a case as a description of a situation faced by a decision-maker. The case method has been found as an extremely effective method of accelerating management development.
Learning to listen to each other, respecting others' views on the same subject, as learning when and how to react and to handle information are some of the basic skills which are developed through case studies. As a result, students develop their analytical skills. They also practise applying concepts, techniques, and principles in analysis. They learn how to judge which techniques are appropriate and applicable, to plan communication, and to analyze values. In addition, students learn to use creativity in generating alternative solutions to the problems.
Depending on our experience in teaching and using case studies during the lessons and extracurricular activities we conclude how students respond to case studies. The case method cannot be considered as either tutorial or lecturer-based. Therefore, many students find the method difficult to adapt to. Critical thinking, creativity, communication skills, as well as attitude, self-analysis, social skills, and decision-making skills are all involved.
According to Easton. G, the following several steps for case analysis are proposed:
1. Understanding the situation 2. Diagnosing problem areas 3. Generating alternative solutions 4. Predicting outcomes 5. Evaluating alternatives 6. Rounding out the analysis 7. Communicating the results.
In our opinion too, students are highly recommended to follow the above steps to be able to succeed in dealing with a case study. However, they usually complain about the shortage of time and lack of information, which also applies to a real-life situation and they cannot tolerate the state being unclear or uncertain. Fully understanding the situation and also diagnosing the problem is difficult for students. They have the tendency to propose only one solution to the problem instead of putting forward several. Students need to be encouraged to propose more than one solution and to learn how to tolerate or accept the solutions offered by others. Any solution may have a cumulative effect or will have some implications, which need to be considered carefully as well. When students are asked to analyze the case completely and evaluate alternative solutions, they usually get impatient and want the single right answer, which does not exist in real life. Because students fear the criticism of others, they are reluctant to communicate their results.
In such cases the role of the instructor in case studies is important. The instructor is present to keep the discussion moving toward a meaningful goal. His/her role is to inspire analytical thinking and cause an important change in the argument or discussion. The instructor also tries to encourage students’ ability to defend an argument and their opinions. Much patience and tolerance is expected from the instructor to manage a case study successfully. However, it is worth every minute of it. Materials selection also plays an important role in achieving this. For example, Tourism and Hotel Management students study tourism and hotel management related cases, and Computer Technology and Programming Department students concentrate on cases which concern computer programmers. Language students at pedagogical institutes and universities study the cases related to language teaching and language learning. They enjoy reading, understanding the issues, and offering solutions to the problems discussed as long as these concern their future career. Of course it will take both the instructor and the students a long time to reach the target purpose and result. Although it may take a long time, patience, it is worth seeing a group of students discussing cases at the desired level achieving the end result.
When talking about which materials to include in our courses, various published case study EFL/ESP textbooks can be mentioned. But most published case studies are not suitable for our students, due to the following problems:
- Timing: Many case studies appeared to be either too long or too short to fit in our timetable.
- Culturally Specific: Case study textbooks tend to be written by either British or American authors whose case studies are based on the their respective countries. As a result, case studies deal with companies, countries, and concepts that our students would have little previous knowledge of.
- Level of Difficulty: Many case studies are aimed at experienced professionals who may possess the necessary special or technical vocabulary. In addition, case study writers often presume that students are experienced and proficient in analyzing cases.
- Topic: Topics covered in case studies may be difficult or too technical for students. It is important that students are familiar with the topic to be discussed so that their problem-solving ability and skills for describing the main topic can be activated.
- Objectives (aims): Where possible, case studies should be used to fulfill course objectives. For example, in our opinion, they should revise or introduce relevant vocabulary. As a result, teachers can have two options. First, case studies from textbooks may be adapted so that the problems mentioned above can be eliminated. Second, teachers may design their own cases. In fact, it soon became clear in our situation that it was simpler to develop our own cases, providing our own students’ particular needs and interests. The difficulty of case studies may also be graded so that cases introduced at the beginning of courses concentrate on developing students' speaking skills. As students become familiar with case studies, more emphasis can be placed on designing materials which concentrate on developing students’ critical and analytical thinking skills.
The following appendix is given to help teachers design case studies. It is an example of designing a case study for the first-year language students.
Anvar and Bakhodir’s discourse
Focus of the Case Study
Necessity and importance of the grammar course during their study at the Institute
Individually, after working over the scenario and supporting material, prepare handouts on how the grammar course can assist the students to comprehend the necessity of it.
Consider the following questions:
Syllabus of the grammar course.
Anvar and Bakhodir are the freshmen of the English faculty of Kokand state pedagogical institute. Within the first week of their studies they got acquainted with the syllabus of grammar course. After the lessons they were discussing this course, and Anvar said it is not so important because he knows grammar very well. Meanwhile Bakhodir said that with the help of this course he will be able to improve his grammar skills.
1. Easton, G. 1982. Learning from case studies.
2. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.
3. Lane, H. and J. DiStefano. 1992. Intemaiwrud management behavior: Introduction to the cases and the case method. PWS-Kent.
4. Sinclair, J. 1990. Collins cobuild English language dictionary. Harper-Collins Publishers.
5. Dr. Sharon Cox. Learning and teaching guides. Case studies for active learning. Birmingham city university.
 Sinclair, J. 1990. Collins cobuild English language dictionary. Harper-Collins Publishers
 Lane, H. and J. DiStefano. 1992. International management behavior: Introduction to the cases and the case method. PWS-Kent
 Easton, G. 1982. Learning from case studies.