Video Case Studies Running Head: VIDEO CASE STUDIES


Uses of Video Case Studies in an Adolescent Development Course

M Cecil Smith Northern Illinois University June 16, 2008

Word count: 1,155 Contact information: M Cecil Smith, Ph.D. Department of LEPF Northern Illinois University DeKalb, IL 60115 (815) 753-8448 (815) 753-8750 (f)

Video Case Studies Abstract Students in an adolescent development course write case study papers based on excerpts


from self-documentary videos produced by high school students. These case study papers require students to draw upon different theories of adolescent development to analyze, interpret, and understand adolescent development and behavior. Students’ evaluations of the case study assignments indicate that an important result is that students have a deeper understanding of theory and appreciation of adolescents themselves.

Video Case Studies Uses of Video Case Studies in an Adolescent Development Course Case studies are common in developmental psychology courses (Leonard, Mitchell, Meyers, & Love, 2002; McBride-Chang & Chang, 2001; McManus, 2000). A  case study is "an in­depth look at an individual ... [providing] information   about a person's hopes, fears, fantasies, traumatic experiences, family   relationships, health, or anything that will help ... understand the   [individual's] development" (Santrock, 1993, p. 71). As such, case studies  serve two broad purposes for developmental psychology courses. First, they  enable students to gather information about an individual child or  adolescent. Second, students can analyze and interpret this information,  drawing upon course materials (e.g., lecture notes, textbook chapters) to  achieve an informed understanding of both the case study subject and the  course contents. Perhaps the main benefit of conducting a case study is that  it makes the subject matter "come alive" in students' minds. Thus, case  studies can promote active, self­directed learning (Perkins, 2000) and 


personalize abstract developmental theories and behavioral concepts, thereby  making these more meaningful. As McManus (2000) notes, case studies have  been used successfully to improve student learning and motivation. This  article describes my use of video case studies in a course on adolescent  development. The videos were made by high school students, as part of a  larger project on adolescents' perspectives for teachers (Author et al., 2005). 

Video Case Studies The videos focused on the adolescents themselves as subjects. Adolescent Development Course I teach a graduate course in adolescent development. While the majority of students are seeking teacher certification for high school teaching, other students are working on masters’ degrees in education, psychology, counseling, or public health. Except for a few secondary teachers in the class, most students have little or no experience working with adolescents.


Video cases. Students’ case studies are based on any of 120 excerpts (avg. length: 3 mins.) drawn from videos that were filmed by 20 high school students, each of whom created a one-hour “documentary” about themselves. These students were informed that the purpose of their videos was to educate and prepare the “next generation” of high school teachers by helping them better understand adolescents’ lives. Upon completion, each student’s video was edited to capture the most salient, interesting, and relevant content. While some videos yielded only a single brief excerpt, as many as 10 excerpts were derived from others, resulting in 120 excerpts. All video excerpts were accessible to students through the online course management site. The case study assignment required students to view a single video excerpt and make notes of their observations. Students also selected a single theoretical perspective from Muuss’ (1990) Theories of Adolescence textbook. The 15 theory chapters focus on unconscious psychological processes (e.g., Freud), psychosocial development and identity (e.g., Erikson, Marcia, Sullivan, Loevinger), cognitive and moral development (e.g., Piaget, Kohlberg, Gilligan, Selman, Fowler), behavior and modeling processes (e.g., Bandura), and anthropological, cultural, and contextual approaches to

Video Case Studies


understanding behavior (e.g., Mead, Lewin, Bronfenbrenner, Lerner). Drawing upon their understanding of the principles of a selected theory, students’ case study reports explain their analyses, interpretations of, and conclusions regarding the case. Students complete three case studies over the semester. Different video cases must be used for each report and students are encouraged to apply a different theory for each to acquire familiarity with multiple developmental theories. Each case study report consists of four parts: (1) brief description of the adolescent, as discerned from the video excerpt; (2) description of the selected theory, i.e., the theory’s basic principles; (3) analysis and explanation of the case that draws upon these principles to explain what has been observed; and (4) the writer’s conclusions as derived from their analysis. Each report is limited to 4 typed, double-spaced pages. The case study reports are then evaluated by a randomly assigned peer evaluator (i.e., classmate). Writers electronically submit their papers to their peer reviewer and to me. Evaluators must then view the target video and read the relevant theoretical chapter, familiarizing themselves with both the facts of the case and the theory. Evaluators use a 10-point scoring rubric to assess the case study report. Evaluators have one week to complete their work. When there are disagreements regarding an evaluation (rare), I am the final arbiter. Because evaluators are randomly assigned, students typically have a different evaluator for each of their case study reports. Student Responses to Case Study Reports Over four semesters, 75 students completed the required three video case study reports (N = 225 papers). Nearly one-fourth of these case studies (24%) drew upon identity theory (i.e., Erikson, Marcia) to analyze the case data. Another 24 percent of the

Video Case Studies submitted case studies were analyzed from a cognitive-structural theoretical perspective (e.g., Piaget, Kohlberg, Selman, Fowler, Gilligan), with Kolberg’s theory the most commonly cited of these perspectives. Social cognitive theory (i.e., Bandura) accounted for another 21 percent of the case studies. Psychodynamic (e.g., Freud, Loevinger) and


developmental contextual (e.g., Bronfenbrenner) theories were each used in eight percent, respectively, of the reports. Sullivan’s interpersonal theory accounted for 10 percent of the case study analyses. The remaining five percent of reports drew upon theories ranging from G. Stanley Hall to Margaret Meade and Kurt Lewin. Nearly all students (98%) drew upon a different theory to explain each of the three video cases that they studied (e.g., Case 1: Erikson; Case 2: Bandura; Case 3: Sullivan). At the conclusion of each semester, students completed an anonymous online course survey which asked them to rate the different course activities (e.g., discussion group, case study papers) and assignments on several dimensions (i.e., enjoyment of the assignment, value of learning, increased understanding of adolescence) on a 6-point Likert-type scale (6=strongly agree with the statement; 1=strongly disagree). Mean ratings for the assignment are shown in Table 1. Table 1. Student evaluations of TeenScene video case studies. Item The TeenScene video case study papers… were enjoyable increased my interest in adolescent development were valuable learning assignments helped me connect theories of adolescence to educational or clinical practice increased my understanding of adolescent development Mean 3.93 4.47 4.67 4.80 4.80 (S.D.) (1.1) (1.13) (1.11) (1.08) (1.15)

Video Case Studies helped me improve my writing skills helped me think about my views and beliefs regarding adolescents helped me improve my memory for important information about adolescents Conclusions Students write three cases studies that are based on brief video excerpts drawn from high school students’ self-documentary videos. These writing assignments expose 4.60 4.87 4.40 (1.24) (1.13) (1.18)


students to a variety of cases which gives them deeper insights’ into adolescents’ thinking and behaviors. In their efforts to understand adolescents’ behavior, they are compelled to learn about different theories of adolescent development. Students also learn that there are multiple ways to interpret a given case and that different people may interpret the same data in dramatically different ways. They learn that it is possible to apply theory to interpret and make sense of behavior, and draw conclusions based upon a small sample of data. Significantly, students see the relevance of theory to educational or clinical practice.

Video Case Studies References Author et al. (2005, August). TeenScene: A video documentary project to increase secondary teachers’ understandings of adolescent development. Final report submitted to the NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education. Leonard, JA., Mitchell, KL, Meyers, SA, & Love, JD (2002). Using case studies in introductory psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 29, 142-144. McBride-Chang, C., & Chang, L. (2001). Theory into practice: Cases as illustrations of developmental theories. Teaching of Psychology, 28, 48-50. McManus, J.L. (2000). Student composed case study in adolescent psychology. In M.E. Ware & D. E. Johnson (Eds.), Handbook of demonstrations and activities in the teaching of psychology (2nd ed.), Vol. 2: Physiological-comparative, perception, learning, cognitive, and developmental (pp. 257-258). Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum. Perkins, D.V. (2000). A case-study assignment to teach theoretical perspectives in abnormal psychology. In M.E. Ware & D. E. Johnson (Eds.), Handbook of demonstrations and activities in the teaching of psychology (2nd ed.), Vol. 2: Physiological-comparative, perception, learning, cognitive, and developmental (pp. 64-65). Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum.


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