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Case Methodology: Addressing The Questions Of How And Why

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.97.1 - 1.97.8



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Paper Authors

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John Y. Hung

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Carlee A. Bishop

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2532


Carlee A. Bishop, John Y. Hung Auburn University, AL

Acknowledgment: This work has been partially supported by the 1995 Cross-Disciplinary Curricula Improvement Program of the Thomas Walter Center for Technology Management, Auburn University, AL.


The purpose of this paper is to give the reader a better understanding of case methodology used in teaching as opposed to case methodology used in research. Both address the same fundamental issues by asking “how” or “why” questions about a contemporary set of events over which the investigator has little or no control. The case method of research rigorously attempts to answer these questions whereas the case method of teaching attempts to stimulate the students by asking these questions and encouraging the students to ask “how” and “why” questions of their own. By addressing these questions in the case methodology of instruction, education receives two significant benefits. First, students are tasked with applying and honing their critical thinking skills, e.g. defining issues, using sound reasoning, and making decisions. Second, instructors maintain that all important tie with industry through the development and use of cases in the classroom. This paper gives a brief description of the evolution of engineering education that emphasizes the need for new teaching methods addressing the needs of educators, students, and industry. This paper will also enlighten the reader on case teaching by presenting a historical account of how case methods of teaching were initially developed and where they are commonly used today. Next, a description is given of what the case method of teaching is and, just as important, what it is not. Finally, the importance of case methodology in engineering research and its potential impact on case methodology in engineering education are discussed.


Case methodology has been used for decades by Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School and many other well renowned business, law, and medical schools. The educators at these institutions use case methods to bring reality into the classrooms requiring students to think critically about real life issues. Engineering schools today are faced with many of the same dilemmas that caused business schools to incorporate case methodology, namely, how to improve students’ thinking and problem solving skills. In this paper, the authors present basic concepts of "case methodology" and explore its applicability to engineering education. The remainder of the paper is organized as follows: In Section I, the evolution of engineering education is given with an emphasis on a need for change. Section II covers the history of the case method of instruction and a description of its modern implementation. Characteristics of case methodology in teaching are described in Section III. To better understand the difference between case methodology and other tools, the discussion in section IV describes "what is NOT a case." The importance of case methodology in engineering research and its subsequent impact on case methodology in teaching is briefly discussed in Section V. Finally, some arguments for using case methodology in engineering are summarized in the Conclusion.

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Hung, J. Y., & Bishop, C. A. (1996, June), Case Methodology: Addressing The Questions Of How And Why Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--5909

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