Enabling students to understand and analyse contemporary issues in science and technology

Case study

What do we mean by a case study?
The case study is based on a set of documents about a topical science issue. The selected documents in each set have been written for different purposes and might include public information, a news story, advice for policy makers or an original scientific paper.

Students use their knowledge of science explanations and how science works to analyse and evaluate particular features of the documents. They also develop an overview of the issue, and present some of the information they have learned in a form suitable for a specified audience. The Unit 4 examination is a case study, with pre-release materials.

The case study used in the exam may not be directly drawn from the topics in the specification though it will require the ideas about how science works and other skills learned in the course. This allows us to include topical issues and will encourage students to maintain an interest in a range of issues.

How do we prepare students for the case study exam?
In each of the six topics there is one case study activity which is designed to teach part of the course content as well as to develop skills. These skills are developed progressively through the course with the earlier case studies using fewer sources.

Students are helped to

  • understand the structure of a short, or abridged, scientific paper
  • to consider the purpose for which of each type of document was written
  • to analyse the ways in which data, hypothesis, argument, and theory are used in these documents
  • to distinguish between scientific knowledge and other types of understanding
  • to present scientific knowledge in ways appropriate for different audiences
  • to write an argued personal judgement on the issue

This experience should allow students to approach practice exam-style case studies with more confidence as they prepare for the unit 4 assessment.