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A Case in Point

From Active Learning to the Job Market

By Mary Walczak, Juliette Lantz

A Case in Point



This case was developed for use in the first weeks of a course in order to show students how participating in active learning exercises in their classes can benefit them. It uses the fictionalized story of a manager of a scientific consulting firm who has approval to hire an entry level scientist. Students read evaluations of the five job candidates, then rank them and list the reasons for that ranking and/or analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate in regard to the position. This prepares them to discuss (and defend) in class their ranking. The case serves to motivate students for active learning pedagogies throughout the course, and also demonstrates how they can use their course work to gain skills that may make them employable. The case is designed to be equally useful in any type of science course at an introductory (majors or non-majors) or advanced level, in any field from chemistry to environmental science to biology. With upper-level students, it can be used to explore the transition from college to a career, and help them translate their education experiences into marketable skills.


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  • Motivate students to embrace active learning pedagogies in their science courses, and begin fostering a classroom atmosphere that is conducive to student involvement.
  • Introduce students to the case discussion method as a valuable active learning pedagogy.
  • Serve as an ice breaker in the first week of class.
  • Promote camaraderie and group skills in the classroom.
  • Prepare students for their next life transition, from college to a career.
  • Help students consider ways to make themselves employable and competitive in the job market.
  • Promote undergraduate research, internships, independent projects, advanced writing, close interaction with faculty, and computer proficiency as valuable experiences for undergraduates.


Active learning; job skills; job market; career


Subject Headings

Biology (General)
Chemistry (General)
Environmental Science
Medicine (General)
Science (General)
Science Education
Teacher Education


High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division












Analysis (Issues), Discussion



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