Faculty Spotlight: Professor Mary Ann Price on Using Case Study Method to Place Pre-Med Students in Real-Life Scenarios

by | Jan 30, 2018

Mary Ann Price, a lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences, worked with the CTL to incorporate the case study method into her General Physiology course. The case studies encouraged her pre-med students to apply concepts they learned in class to real-world situations that were relevant to their career goals. Watch the video or read the short Q&A below to hear Price reflect on the teaching challenges she faced and the lessons faculty can take away from her experience.

What course do you teach at Columbia?

My main teaching role is teaching General Physiology. This is a course of about fifty to a hundred students. They are mostly pre-med and mostly undergraduates.

How do you incorporate case studies into your work?

The case studies that we used were medical case studies. It allowed the students an opportunity to integrate what they were learning in classand perhaps what they had learned in other classesabout various organ systems and the molecular mechanisms behind some of the things going on in the body.

I used all interrupted case studies, which had four to five parts. They did the first part on their own before they came to class. During class, we worked through the other parts of the case together, first in small groups. And then we would pull the groups back together in a total class situation, where I would try to get responses from the different groups to the questions that they were working on at the time. During class and after class, they had questions to answer as we went along. That was something they handed in together as a group at the end of the case.

How did your students react to the case study activities?

They really enjoyed the cases. They immediately saw the relevance to both learning physiology but also to their future plans and the future style of learning that they’ll have. This style of teaching is very common in medical schools. And they’re getting some practice at the type of learning they will be doing later.

What were some of the take-aways from your course redesign?

The benefit of working with CTL was that I was feeling incredibly insecure about going into the classroom, never having done this before. And they gave me a lot of confidence and a lot of tips about what to do. That was really helpful going in. I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to try it if not for that… I’ve continued to run them this year. In fact, I’ve doubled the number that I’m doing this year because it was so successful with the students.

What advice do you have for other instructors who might be interested in doing something similar?

My advice to professors who are considering introducing active learning into their classroom is don’t be afraid. Seek out advice. Go and watch other professors who are using it in their classroom so you can see it in action. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what it’s going to look like until you’ve seen it. Just be brave, go for it.

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