Case Studies

Using Case Study for Professional Development in Civic Education

Case Studies:


The hypermedia case studies found here portray complex episodes of classroom life that provide teachers, both individually and collaboratively, the opportunity to explore, investigate, and seek solutions to problems and dilemmas of teaching for understanding and standards-based practice in social studies.

These four case studies are about teaching "core democratic values." The cases were developed and constructed with the cooperation of four Lansing area teachers and might be used to explore and investigate various approaches to teaching about "core democratic values."

Questions to ask yourself as you explore each case:

  • How would you describe the teacher's approach to teaching "core democratic values"? Does the approach seem to be effective for enhancing student learning? Why?
  • What problems or dilemmas about teaching "core democratic values" are evident or not evident in these cases? What solutions would you seek to apply toward solving these problems and dilemmas?
  • What is puzzling or interesting about what students say or write about "core democratic values"? How could this information be useful for improving teaching practice?
  • What role does the classroom environment created by the teacher play in students' learning?
  • Is the use of standards evident in the teaching contained in each case? If so, how? If not, should they be?
  • How could you adapt and use one or more of these approaches in your own teaching?
  • Are there elements missing in these cases that could provide a more complex landscape for exploring teaching and learning about "core democratic values"? If so, what are they?

The cases on this site can also serve as model for developing innovative professional development programs at local school levels, and across district levels. The rationale for using this model can be found in numerous reform documents that call for teachers to take charge of their own learning and professional development. Using this model, teachers could construct and collaboratively study hypermedia cases about their teaching in traditional learning environments, or in variety of technology-mediated environments.

Examples of inquiry tasks aimed at improving practice:1

  • Focus on one child and develop a mini-case of what one child seems to be doing, learning, and feeling in class over some period of time - perhaps the whole year, or perhaps a particular lesson or unit.
  • Probe what is being "covered" in a series of social studies lessons over several days.
  • Try to figure out what children are learning about social studies by examining their written work and their talk in class.
  • Examine the role played by the teacher within a certain class period, or over a longer period: What are the moves the teacher makes? What seem to be her (his) purposes?
  • Explore and describe the "culture" of the classroom and its evolution over time.
  • Consider whether and how key ideas from the social studies standards are interpreted and used in the classroom.

    1 Adapted from Lampert and Ball (1998). For more on using hypermedia cases in teacher education, see Lampert and Ball's book, Teaching, Multimedia, and Mathematics: Investigations of Real Practice, Teachers College Press.

Case Studies

Peggy Dunn
2nd Grade Class
Core Democratic Values: Diversity & Equality

Peggy Dunn designed instruction for her students that incorporated the concepts of diversity and equality into activities that spanned several days. Students explored various stations, and used a variety of media to learn about diversity and equality. Activities included hearing and discussing a story, interacting with primary sources on the Internet and on CD-ROM, watching and listening to a filmstrip, finally hearing and discussing an historical narrative, and then completing writing activities based on the narrative. Several of the station themes revolved around the life of Martin Luther King Jr.


Keith Etheridge
5th Grade Class
Core Democratic Values: All

Keith Etheridge planned this activity with his colleague at Murphy Elementary, Margaret Holtschlag, who, as Michigan Teacher of the Year, was on leave from her teaching position. She was created a program she calls "Big History" at the Michigan Historical Center in Lansing. Keith and Margaret planned a mini-version of this program for his students. After setting up the activity at school in a discussion that required his students to activate their prior knowledge of "core democratic values," his students spent a day the Historical Center investigating primary sources and exhibits and finding links in them to the "core democratic values." Back in school the next day, students engaged in a follow-up assessment activity.


Matt Jason
8th Grade Social Studies

Core Democratic Values: Liberty, Justice, Equality, & The Common Good

As part of the planning and implementation process, Matt consulted with a social studies educator in the MSU College of Education, and a curator at the MSU Museum about the field study activities outlined in the case. As a culminating activity, students constructed an online museum where they linked Core Democratic Values to their family and community histories. Unlike the other cases, Matt did the videotaping and much of the photography you will find here.



Matthew Morrison
12th Grade Advanced Placement U.S. History Class
Core Democratic Values: Federalism

Matt Morrison's activity required students to move from station to station where they read and collaboratively interpreted primary sources from the Articles of Confederation period. The lesson was designed to help students develop a better understanding of the issues surrounding the post Revolutionary, pre-Constitutional era leading into the actual study of the Constitution. He first previewed the assignment with his students, linking it to future assignments, lessons, and units.

HomeIntroductionTeachersStudentsParentsProject PartnersSite MapGlossaryTimelineInteractionNotebookResourcesContact

Civics Online
Creation Date: 2/21/2000
Last Updated: 3/20/2005