Expertise is often thought of as a large body of facts. Knowledge of facts, however, is only one component of expertise. What sets an expert apart from a novice is the ability to deal effectively with new situations within his or her realm of expertise. When confronted with a novel situation, an expert knows the right questions to ask and how to go about answering them. The cases and facts the expert commands help him or her to resolve the questions, but questions come first. Creanimate attempts to teach students what questions to ask when confronted with new situations.
Creanimate not only illustrates the case-based teaching architecture, it also shows one method for restructuring a dull domain into an exciting one. The students who used Creanimate had fun. They would have liked to spend more time with the program. What was the secret to how the program sparked students' interests? It helped that Creanimate deals with an area most children are already interested in - animals in the wild. From there, we made sure that the program focused on questions. We did not present students with a list of terms used by scholars. Rather than telling the student about "mammals," for example, we asked the student, "How will your animal achieve the behaviors it needs to survive?" These questions are grounded in the task the student is performing. They don't seem like the sorts of arbitrary questions teachers often ask, rather they seem like natural parts of the task. Creanimate does not ask questions simply for their own sake (or as a pure assessment strategy). Instead, it suggests questions that push students closer to their goal. The Creanimate program considers the students' interests first, and then it concerns itself with how to convey the cases it wishes to cover. Because students recognized that the program was helping them towards their own goals, they liked it.
The Sine Qua Non of Case-Based Teaching
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