High school curriculum case method impact

pie logoIn Cincinnati, Ohio, “edupreneur” Mary Welsh Schlueter is transforming the learning of K-12 (kindergarten to 12th grade) students with a little help from the case method.

Placing a particular focus on STEM subjects, Mary founded the Partnership for Innovation (PIE) not-for-profit programme in 2009, which is designed to elevate student academic, workforce readiness and experimental learning pathways in emerging careers through hands-on, authentic learning opportunities.

PIE expanded from Mary teaching a case method class at her children’s school to implementing a new curriculum for grades 4-12 students in schools across the city.

Case-based learning is at the heart of the curriculum, where students can experience real-world problem solving, using cases produced by PIE.

Mary named a plethora of benefits of introducing the case method to school students, including the development of a growth mindset and access to scholarships, and how cases need to be adapted for a younger audience.

Mary WelshAdapting to a younger audience

“Cases are shorter (eight-ten pages long and four charts and exhibits), written using several ‘pastures’ (content areas embedded into the cases e.g. psychology, mathematics, sciences; allowing educators to teach the section that are relevant to their class) meeting the needs of both younger and older students,” said Mary, (pictured, right) who became familiar with the case method when studying at Harvard Business School. 

“For instance, we have a Dewey’s Pizza case that has been used spanning sixth grade pre-algebra classes (using three of the nine pastures), to 11th grade pre-calculus classrooms. 

“Cases are written in the Harvard format, but meet Content Standards necessary for inclusion into the specific K-12 classrooms or departments. 

“Several of our cases can toggle between AP Environmental Science, Geology, AP Calculus, AP Physics, BioChemistry, Drone Technology (Career Technology) and 3D Printing. The cases are not written as ‘in depth’ as a typical Harvard case, but they are written for a 14-18-year-old student. 

“Technology is always a part of our case collaboration, dialogue, research and final presentation. In some of our data analytics cases, technology plays a pivotal role in data collection, code/programming development and programme evaluation.”

Funding boost

Funding boostPIE has proved a hit with the relevant authorities, and during the last five years $2.5m of funding has been provided by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Through their case-based learning and CaseLAB® programmes, PIE has been recognised for transforming the high school experience so that students graduate with college credit, implementing a “Student Success Plan” using case-based approaches, to name just a couple of achievements.

Cases for STEM

And PIE targets the STEM subjects, an area not traditionally associated with the case method, and does it well.

Mary, a former Fortune 500 executive, added: “Cases are perfect for the sciences, statistics, maths, finance, business and entrepreneurship. 

“The scientific method plays a key role in problem identification, data collection and solution pathway exploration.

“It also allows us to further explore cognitive skills development on a 1:1 basis for each of our participating students.”

She continued: “If you look at our research evaluations (www.piemedia.org), you will see that our students not only enjoy participating in our experiential, authentic learning programmes, they also heighten their ACT/SAT scores, academic achievement and leadership skillets. These results are especially apparent in programmes serving urban/rural, underserved and minority students – especially girls.”

rocketMaking greater use of the case method

Mary would like to see the case method more widely used on school curriculums, as the ‘cracking’ of the case does so much for strengthening career skillsets of the students.

“It is no mistake that case-based learning is used in business, medical, law, engineering, science, and technology programmes, beginning in the undergraduate level. 

“Such a proven pedagogy jumpstarts students’ engagement in careers, skillsets and experiences they only can realise once they are ‘cracking’ the case, reviewing the industry and interviewing case protagonists.

“PIE cases and pedagogies have been called a “pipeline of hope” for students trying to uncover, utilise and strengthen their career skillsets, especially in emerging industry pathways.”

National expansion

Cincinnati skylinePIE have undoubtedly made great strides since forming nine years ago – making a big difference to the K-12 Curriculum across Cincinnati.

Mary is hoping for PIE, the country’s leader in developing K-12 case based curriculum for its public school classrooms, to expand nationally and meet the desire of companies to engage students in their industry, something which isn’t currently possible due to the severely limited access to high school classrooms.

Mary concluded: “We hope to collaborate with organisations who will work with us to develop a Case Based Learning Institute for K-12 classrooms and educators, in partnership with regional business partners.

“Currently, we are looking to develop cases in partnership with educators and business partners, where educators play a key role in the creation of each of the cases meant for their classrooms or interdisciplinary cohorts.

“Ideally, we would like to create a Case Based Learning Institute for K-12 School Districts, funded by the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development agencies in the United States.

“Without a ‘connective partner’ such as PIE, School Districts continue to use rote, memorisation-based and irrelevant curriculum for STEM classrooms. Until they can partner with a curriculum provider, facile in developing cases that meet State Standards, contain a viable instructor’s teaching manual and possibly offer credentialing (similar to our FAA Drone Pilot Credential), schools cannot offer students a realistic, relevant and experience-based opportunity for them to better understand an industry, its constraints and opportunities.”

To find out more about PIE’s excellent work visit www.piemedia.org

Photos courtesy of Partnership for Innovation (PIE).

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  • the case writing process
  • developing a teaching note

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