Case studies approach suggestions wanted for non-major plant science course

Bill McKendree Jr. mckendre at
Mon Mar 29 14:00:54 EST 1999

HesperAloe wrote:

> I teach a non-majors plant science course at the community college level.  One
> problem I see is that there is no unifying theme to hold the course material
> together.
> One approach suggested in The American Biology Teacher is to use a case studies
> approach.  For example, in a general biology course centered on humans, come in
> the first day and do an exercise on the transmission of the HIV virus and then
> center the course around HIV...
> Does anybody have a suggestion for a case study in plants that students would
> find compelling?  I certainly see that if we looked at wheat and corn, we could
> probably cover most major areas that the course is designed to cover.  However,
> what compelling topic can I use to interest them?
> One idea I have is world hunger although this certainly does not seem all that
> relevant in the U.S... Other suggestions?
> Thanks!
>                                                Peter
> PS I would also be interested if any of you are already using a case studies
> approach...

My attempts to incorporate (as opposed to centering a course around) case studies
have met with general approval and enthusiasm.  The cases used, however, were
journal articles describing a research project.  Students appreciated seeing the
primary data, and gained confidence learning  how to read and understand it.
Although this approach is probably untenable at the CC level, my experience
supports the conclusions of the article you read.

I suggest a multiple case study approach.  Select three familiar species (say,
philodendron, corn, and key lime) and maybe one less familiar.  Then identify and
examine a  familiar issue, characteristic, or problem associated with them.  You
would have several different life cycles and physiological characteristics to
highlight as you progress.  This would maximize overall interest and give hope to
those who don't like or appreciate any particular case.  Don't forget to include
Arabidopsis and genetic engineering!

Good luck,

Bill McKendree, Ph.D.
Orlando, FL

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