1970-02-01

The Engineering Case Study - An Interdisciplinary Comparison 700003

The case study approach, as an educational tool, has achieved widespread use in a variety of disciplines. The case method affords several advantages over conventional and traditional lecture methods of education, but the degree of effectiveness of the case study approach varies considerably between different disciplines. Therefore, an interdisciplinary comparison of case study techniques may be of some value in improving the case study methods used in engineering studies.
The most notable applications of case methods include the areas of business and management decision making, medicine, the social sciences, and engineering. The Harvard School of Business has established the pattern for business case studies. Much of today's accepted medical practice is based on “case studies.” Many significant sociological and psychological findings are based on case studies, while engineering case studies can be applied to achieve a wide variety of objectives including creativity in design, technical feasibility, etc. The analysis of the case study historically applied in each discipline reveals certain characteristics which seem to be unique to each area of case study application. Interdisciplinary comparison also reveals basic differences in case study techniques. Some of these differences lie in the nature of the discipline itself, while some are based upon extraneous causes which are completely unrelated to the area of study.
On the basis of the interdisciplinary analysis and comparison, certain conclusions may be drawn regarding the effectiveness of the engineering case study. The evidence seems to indicate that there is far more potential for improvement in the engineering case study than in the other areas considered. The basic recommendation resulting from the comparison of case study methods is that engineering educators incorporate more case studies into their courses. Engineering educators should also integrate into their case studies as many as possible of the characteristics of successfully proven case study techniques used in other disciplines.

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