Using Case Studies to Enhance Student Learning
The case method is used primarily to develop the skills of self-learning, critical thinking, problem identification, and decision making. When case studies from this Casebook are used in the curricula of the healthcare professions or for independent study by practitioners, the focus of attention should be on learning the process of solving drug therapy problems rather than simply finding scientific answers to the problems themselves. Students do learn scientific facts during the resolution of case study problems, but they usually learn more facts from their own independent study and from discussions with their peers than they do from the instructor. Working on subsequent cases with similar problems reinforces information recall. Traditional programs in the healthcare professions that rely heavily on traditional lectures tend to concentrate on dissemination of scientific content with rote memorization of facts rather than the development of higher-order thinking skills.
Case studies in the health professions provide the personal history of an individual patient and information about one or more health care problems that must be resolved. The learner's job is to work through the facts of the case, analyze the available data, gather more information, develop hypotheses, consider possible solutions, arrive at the optimal solution, and consider the consequences of one's decisions.1 The role of the teacher is to serve as coach and facilitator rather than as the source of “the answer.” In fact, in many situations there is more than one acceptable answer to a given question. Because instructors do not necessarily need to possess the correct answer, they need not be experts in the field being discussed. Rather, the students also become teachers, and both instructors and students learn from each other through thoughtful discussion of the case.
The patient cases in this Casebook can be used as the focal point for independent self-learning by individual students and for in-class problem-solving discussions by student groups and their instructors. If meaningful learning and discussion are to occur, students must come to discussion sessions prepared to discuss the case material rationally, to propose reasonable solutions, and to defend their pharmacotherapeutic plans. This requires a strong commitment to independent self-study prior to the session. The cases in this book were designed to correspond with the scientific information contained in the ninth edition of Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach.2 For this reason, thorough understanding of the corresponding textbook chapter is recommended as the principal method of student preparation. The online learning center AccessPharmacy (www.AccessPharmacy.com, subscription required) contains the Pharmacotherapy textbook and many other resources that are beneficial in answering case questions. The cases in the Casebook can also be used with the textbook Pharmacotherapy Principles & Practice, 3rd ed.,3 or other therapeutics textbooks. Primary literature should also be consulted as necessary to supplement textbook readings.