Case-Based Reasoning in the Real World

Given the constraints of today's classroom, it is next to impossible to use case-based teaching. Case-based teaching requires that teachers sit one-on-one with students, swapping stories and probing into them. It requires that teachers have concrete war stories to tell. It requires that teachers be able to get reminded on cue during class. These are substantial hurdles.

Little wonder, then, that curriculum designers shy away from case-based teaching. Instead, they settle for the known, dictating what teachers should talk about, with the hopes that when the course is over, every student will have learned the prescribed material. Their hopes are in vain. The "forgetting-the-day-after-the-test" syndrome proves that life doesn't work this way at all.

In real life, when we are having difficulty with a task or a situation, we tend to seek advice from someone who might know about the problem at hand. If this someone does know the answer, we not only benefit directly from what they tell us, we acquire a new case. Because our problems are usually not so clear cut, and answers are not so directly applicable, this process is not as simple as it sounds. We might discuss our problem with someone who is not exactly an expert but can offer good advice. They might respond with a story from their own lives, and if the story is well-told and seems germane to our problem, we will take the added step of adapting it to make it relevant to our own lives.

This is how learning takes place in the everyday world, and its ubiquity is the reason so many people say they learn more from work or from just living life than they ever did in school. And, of course, they are right because receptivity to relevant cases encountered in daily life is the basis for natural learning.

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What Should Be Avoided

What Can Be Done?

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