CONNEXION: Linking theory to practice through gamified real-life case-based teaching in the social sciences
The role of university education is changing. Nowadays, universities are expected to go beyond the transmission of knowledge towards the provision of vocational training. The challenge is that university education often teaches theoretical knowledge (here, for instance, law ‘in the books’) without letting students experience the application of knowledge in practice, thereby failing to transmit to students the relevance of the acquired knowledge to real-life problems and their future careers. At the same time, university education curricula risk a misalignment with what will be required and appreciated by future employers at the workplace. In order to address this problem, the course 'LAW30806 Food Law' has deployed and improved case-based teaching since several years.
At the moment, students are asked to solve hypothetical cases in groups of three each week. The case solving is conducted in groups of 4, ie 40 assignments (total of 160 students) and there are 5 weekly consecutive assignments of around 2000 words. Assignments are posted Fridays, the deadline is Wednesday, corrected by one of the two tutors and post-discussed in a tutorial/practicum group (10 groups per class). Despite the positive experiences with the current design of case-based teaching, we see room to amplify the link between theory and practice by educating on the basis of real-life cases that practitioners in companies, institutions and NGOs are currently confronted with. While deploying case-based teaching in small courses is relatively easy, high student numbers necessitate very efficient procedures for designing, distributing, correcting, testing and discussing case-based teaching. This is a particular problem in social sciences courses that work with argumentative solutions and written texts that are not easily corrected and discussed on the basis of standard solutions.
The project includes the following activities:
- Develop the Case Flow
The Case Flow is the procedure by which the cases will be integrated into the teaching activities, including whether and how contact between students and practitioners can be established.
- Collection of workable real-life case examples that cover the learning objectives of the course
While the Education Project Service provides a valuable contact point and resources with respect to cases, there are several needs of the Food Law course that are highly specific. In order to achieve the teaching goals of the course, the cases need to cover pre-defined core themes such as novel food applications, food labelling and safety assessment.
This project aims to ‘professionalize education’, by developing a solution for large (>150 student) courses to use real life cases in the social sciences and to make a successful application thereof in the course 'LAW30806 Food Law'.
If working as envisaged, the innovation will create a better link between theory and practice, thereby improving the alignment between university education and job market demand. Real life cases could for instance concern the marketing of newly developed food products and production techniques (such as insect food formulas); or ongoing issues of concern (for instance glyphosate or GMO challenges by NGOs).
For students, the innovation will result in a better career qualification, and by underlining the relevance of their studies for their later work hopefully act as a powerful motivator. The real life cases will help move Food Law away from studying for grades towards studying for careers. For instance, the students could write an actual novel food application for a company, or a legal challenge for an NGO.
For future employers, the graduates of our programme will be more interesting as real-life case-based teaching will result in higher qualified graduates, that better meet the hiring needs of companies, institutions and NGOs. For WUR, the necessary liaison in formulating the cases will strengthen ties with the non-academic sector.
If this innovation is successful, we want to help implement case-based teaching across SSG. This involves sharing the model and providing standardised teaching material. It is also hoped that an informal network of coordinators using cases for teaching can be established in order to share experiences and contacts. In addition, a database of the non-academic partners will be developed that in the best case scenario would provide contact details of practitioners willing to collaborate in case formulation.
- Real-life case-based teaching contributes to high-quality scientific knowledge, as it improves the relevance of teaching for work life and enhances graduates’ qualifications
- It creates a rich learning environment by incorporating elements from practice that simulate an on the job training
- The project findings can contribute to case based teaching and working with real-life cases in all areas of the education ecosystem and can be applied in online education easily
For more information or recommendations, please contact Hanna Schebesta.