Exploring Global Connections with Cases
Ethel Stanley
BioQUEST, Beloit College
[email protected]
The international Commission on Biology Education (CBE)
raised the bar for scientists and educators:
“Influencing almost all our activities, from inception to the
grave, this (biological) revolution will require profound
decisions with respect to the ethical, legal, social, cultural,
educational, and development issues that are sure to arise,
affecting our personal lives and society in ways that we have
never experienced before.”
(Vohra 2000)
How we teach science for these 21st century learners
has also been addressed.
“Build into every course
inquiry*, the processes of
science, a knowledge of
what practitioners do, and
the excitement of cutting
edge research.”
“involving the student in
asking questions and
finding answers”
Shaping the Future: New Expectations for
Undergraduate Education in Science,
Mathematics, Engineering and Technology
NSF, 1996. (p. 53)
Case-based learning is one pedagogical strategy
that provides opportunities for learners to share
and question what they already know with their
Learners come “to formal education with a range of
prior knowledge, skills, beliefs and concepts” which
• what learners notice,
• how they reason and solve problems,
• how they remember (p.10).
How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School.
National Research Council, National Academy Press, 2000.
Cases also provide opportunities for
learners to identify and explore what they
need to know to engage with the case.
Cases can be used to develop global perspectives
about both science and science education
through the choice of characters, settings, data,
tools, and issues/decision-making in the case.
Investigating the Apple Talk case at the IUBS BioEd
Workshop held at the University of Western Cape
in Cape Town, ZA in 2009.
Apple Talk
As Neville drove past the farms near Ceres, Iris snapped
several photos of the apple trees loaded with fruit.
“Wow, I didn’t know so many apples grew here in South
Africa,” Iris commented. “My uncle has an apple farm
up in Michigan.”
“Except for grapes, apples are the our largest fruit
crop,” Neville explained. “Did you know that about 25%
of all of South Africa’s apples end up in the US?”
“Cool,” she replied, “I can never get enough
She reached into the bag of fruit she had packed
for her day trip and took out a large apple. After
biting into it, she looked back over and asked,
“Would you like some fruit too, Neville?”
“I wouldn’t mind having an apple,” he answered
with a smile.
“Oh, sorry,” Iris said as she passed an apple
over to Neville and sighed. “There’s only a
small one left,” she said regretfully. “But, it
should taste just as good and there won’t be
so many seeds.”
Taking the apple from her, Neville thought to
himself, “How could she know how many
seeds my apple might have?”
What do you think this case is about?
What do you already know that relates to this case?
What do you need to know to understand the case?
What questions could you explore?
Case Analysis
The ICBL Discussion Method
• What did you do?
• What did I do?
• What might we have students do next?
Resources: Apple Anatomy
Resource: Data
Apple Seed
Build a model of a seed
of your choice.
Work in pairs.
Be prepared to share your model
with another group.
ZA Fruit Production
Extending the pollen case, Paul’s Puzzle, with
global connections.
Cases are stories:
In post WWII Japan, much of the country was reforested.
Planting of cedars then led to pollen bots now.
Each case defines a problem space to explore.
Soccer Field
Emphasize global connection by:
• requiring the use of both US and non-US resources
• reinforcing the extended impact of “local” issues
• using characters or settings that are outside the range
of your majority learners’ experience
• selecting data that is accessible in spite of language
• decision-making that reflects scientific reasoning
(evidence-based choices) accounts for global contexts
• generating a need to explore social and political effects
as part of addressing the issue
• … others?
Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire
Jiaming sat across from one of his favorite clients, Mrs. Seng. His partner, Siti,
joined them by computer conferencing. Today’s discussion was focused on web
advertising for Mrs. Seng’s new line of instantaneous gas water heaters.
While Jiaming returned to his office, Siti decided to Google an unfamiliar term
used during the meeting. “Just what is a carbon footprint, “ she thought, “and
what does it have to do with water heaters?”
Jiaming and Siti lived in the same neighborhood, but Siti preferred to work from
home. She couldn’t imagine riding ten stations down the line every day like
“I wonder,” Siti said to herself, “if working from home makes a difference in my
carbon footprint?”
Singapore Carbon Calculator: A
Tool for Investigation
• First, compare the
carbon cost of
transportation to work
for Jiaming and Siti.
Then, design and run
an experiment using
this simulation to
answer other
questions stemming
from the case analysis.
One hypothesis tested
was: If a person
works from home,
then their energy
expenditure will be
less than a person
who works from an
Shaded columns are
kg C/yr for working at
If you taught with the Choices case, would you use
the Singapore Carbon Calculator?
Go to:
Donor’s Dilemma
The RCN-UBE Science Case Network (
offers opportunities to foster collaborations and to
encourage its members to write proposals for new case
materials and research around using and learning with
PBL and cases.
SCN supports annual conferences.
Note: The 2014 Conference will be held in Atlanta and is
co-sponsored by the Pan-American Network for PBL.

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