Case Studies for Analzying Multiple Perspectives

Educator successfully engages students in analyzing case studies to understand multiple perspectives on a globally significant issue.
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Key Method

The educator plans a lesson designed to help students understand a global issue from multiple perspectives. The educator selects an approach and facilitates students in analyzing case studies, discussing new insights, and reflecting on how their exploration of multiple viewpoints impacted their understanding of the global issue.

Method Components

What is the case study method?

The case study approach presents students with an array of different cases, or specific examples, of the larger topic being studied. Through various media—including articles, poems, stories, primary source documents, photos, artwork, videos, etc.—case studies provide a concrete illustration of the ideas or issues students are exploring. For example, if students are being introduced to the concept of sustainability, they might examine photographs depicting resources, depletion, consumption, scarcity, abundance, and waste. If students are learning about genocide, they might read first-person accounts from the Holocaust, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, and so on. Through analysis of the details presented in each case, students are able to gain a deeper understanding of the concept and examine specifics that help make an abstract concept more concrete. Case studies can be used as an entry point into a unit of study or as touchstones throughout the unit. Often, it can be effective to present students with a series of case study collections in a purposeful sequence as a way to scaffold the meaning-making process.

How can the case study method help students recognize and consider multiple perspectives on a global issue?

The case study approach affords students the opportunity to interact and learn from one another, which requires that they are open to the multiple perspectives of their classmates. In addition, through the analysis of diverse cases illustrating various dimensions of the topic and/or different viewpoints on the issue, students are able to explore a globally significant issue from multiple perspectives. As they examine each case, students discover new perspectives on the global issue and gradually come to understand just how complex the issue is. Students are challenged to grapple with these complexities in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of the global issue.

How are multiple perspectives important for global competence?

World events and global issues are complex and multifaceted. Global challenges cannot be fully understood nor solved from a single perspective. Therefore, considering multiple perspectives is essential for global competence (See the Resources section for more information.) As students develop global competence, they gain the skills to recognize, articulate, and apply an understanding of different perspectives, including their own. They are aware of multiple viewpoints, demonstrate openness to new ideas and ways of thinking, and value diverse perspectives, recognizing views beyond their own as valid. They seek out and act on their understanding of different perspectives when making decisions and solving problems.

Suggested Implementation Strategies

  1. Plan a lesson that engages students in making meaning from specific case studies related to a globally significant issue. See “Case Study Resources for Global Topics and Issues” in the Resources section.
    1. Begin the lesson by asking students to articulate what they already know, think, and feel about the global issue based on prior knowledge or background information they have learned in previous lessons.
    2. Guide students through one or more of the “Suggested Activities for Case Study Analysis” described in the Resources section. Students should be given opportunities to reflect on the case studies individually as well as in pairs and/or small groups. One recommended process for facilitating this is “Think, Pair, Share” (see “Instructional Strategies” in the Resources section).
    3. Bring the whole class together to share and compare what they’ve learned from the case studies and develop a deeper understanding of the global issue by taking multiple viewpoints into consideration. Facilitate a whole-class discussion (or other synthesis activity) to help students build new ideas together and apply what they’ve learned about the global issue from their case study analysis. Provide a series of questions to guide students through the collaborative process of sharing their thinking, making inferences, drawing conclusions, and articulating the big ideas and insights that emerge from looking at the various case studies.
  2. Facilitate the case study lesson. Be sure to include a reflective debrief in which students discuss how the case studies helped them understand the global issue being examined from multiple perspectives. One suggested strategy is to engage students in “Debrief Circles” (see “Instructional Strategies” in the Resources section).
  3. Have students write a reflection in which they compare their previous ideas and assumptions about the global topic with their current understandings after looking at the issue through the various viewpoints offered by the case studies. Suggested transition from the whole class debrief to the individual reflection: Facilitate a “popcorn” sharing or “whiparound” in which each student says something about the global issue using the sentence stems “I used to think… but now I think …” (see “Instructional Strategies” in the Resources section).

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

The case study method is a proven approach that increases student motivation and engagement and deepens student understanding. It builds on several instructional best practices such as active, experiential learning with an emphasis on inquiry and higher-order thinking (Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde, 2005). It engages students in the high-yield strategies of identifying similarities and differences and cooperative learning (Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock, 2001). It also employs three strategies that facilitate deeper learning: teaching with examples and cases; encouraging elaboration, questioning, and explanation; and using multiple and varied representations of concepts (Pellegrino and Hilton).

The case study approach helps students develop tolerance for ambiguity as they are actively engaged in constructing meaning from the details of the case through an inductive and experiential learning process. Students offer ideas, raise questions, build on each other’s statements, and learn with and from each other in the process. As a cooperative, inductive, and inquiry-based teaching method, the use of case studies is a demonstrably effective way to increase student learning (Hattie, 2009).

  • Hattie, John. “Teaching Effects: Influences and Effect Sizes Related to Student Achievement.” Visible Learning, 2009.
  • Marzano, Robert J., Debra J. Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock. Classroom Instruction That Works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2001.


Global competence refers to the knowledge, skills, and dispositions individuals need to be successful in today's interconnected world and to be fully engaged in and act on issues of global significance. The Global Competence Task Force defined globally competent individuals as "those who use their knowledge and skills to investigate the world beyond their immediate environment, recognize their own and others' perspectives, communicate their ideas effectively with diverse audiences, and translate their ideas into appropriate actions" (see link below).

Example Global Competence Frameworks

  • The Global competence matrix was created through a collaboration between World Savvy, Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Asia Society. The matrix identifies components of global competence, which assists educators as they foster global competence in themselves and develop it in their students.
  • Global Competencies: 21st Century Skills Applied to the World was developed by the Global Competence Task Force, formed and led by the Council of Chief State School Officers' EdSteps Initiative and the Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning

Example Global Issues

Case Study Resources for Global Topics and Issues

  • The CGGE modules from the American Association of Geographers Center for Global Geography Education include regional case studies that illustrate how geographic concepts, methods, and technologies can be used to investigate and solve problems in different places and countries. Topics include national identity, climate change, global economy, migration, water resources, population, and natural resources.
  • The Choices curriculum units from Brown University use case studies to engage students in examination of critical issues from U.S. and world history as well as current events.
  • The Global Oneness Project provides collections of films and photo essays on themes such as migration, climate change, vanishing culture, nature, inspiring people, and creativity.
  • The Learning Resources from the Victoria International Development Education Association use a case study approach to present information about gender, education, and migrant labor issues as well as colonialism and sweatshops in particular.
  • Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio’s books offer photojournalistic collections of images and data on a variety of global topics. Hungry Planet documents what 12 typical families around the world eat in an average week, and What I Eat depicts individual daily diets from 80 people around the world. Material World presents families from 12 different countries with all their possessions around them, and Women in the Material World portrays the lives of women in diverse countries around the world.
  • Each of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s Gateways contains multiple reporting projects that focus on a single global issue.
  • The SPICE (Stanford Program on International and Cross-Curricular Education) Curriculum uses a case study approach in the development of its multidisciplinary curriculum materials on international themes.
  • TakingITGlobal has curated a collection of Global Issues resources on arts and media, peace, health, the environment, technology, human rights, culture, globalization, and education.
  • TeachUNICEF resources include a variety of case studies on global topics such as armed conflict, child labor, education, gender equality, health, sustainable development, poverty, nutrition, water, and environment.
  • Worldmapper depicts a variety of global issues using cartograms in which world maps are resized to show country-by-country data in a visual way. These and other sources of visual data (charts, graphs, timelines, infographics, etc.) are often valuable to include in a case study analysis.

Suggested Activities for Case Study Analysis

  • Gallery Walk
    This activity works especially well for visual case studies. Display photographs or artwork around the room to create a gallery. Have students examine the items in the gallery and discuss their observations in partners or small groups.
    • Suggested Implementation Strategies:
      • Provide prompts or questions for students to respond to. For example: What do you see? What surprises you? What do you want to know?
      • Set clear expectations for collecting information/recording observations.
      • Provide a protocol to guide the pair/small-group discussion, such as “See Think Wonder” (see Instructional Strategies below).
      • Transition to the whole-class discussion by asking students to stand next to the image they found most interesting or thought-provoking and articulate why they’ve selected that particular image.
  • Stations
    Similar to the gallery walk, stations work well for primary source texts and video case studies. Set up stations around the room with each of the texts/videos at a different station, and have students move from station to station in pairs or small groups.
    • Suggested Implementation Strategies:
      • Provide prompts or questions for students to respond to.
      • Set clear expectations for collecting information/recording observations.
      • See one version of this strategy, called “Conver-Stations,” in this video from Teaching Channel:
      • Note: for lengthy texts or videos, consider using the Jigsaw method, described below, instead.
  • Collaborative annotation
    Ideal for poems and other short texts, this activity engages students in collaborative meaning-making through annotations on large paper.
    • Suggested Implementation Strategies:
      • Print the text in large, double- or triple-spaced text and tape or glue it to the center of a large piece of butcher paper, poster board, or chart paper.
      • Provide colored pens or markers for each student and enough texts for students to work in groups of three to five students per group.
      • Have students start with a familiar annotation method such as “Text Codes”
        or “Coding the Text” from Texts and Lessons for Content Area Reading by Harvey Daniels and Nancy Steineke
      • Encourage students to engage in a written conversation on the page—extending, connecting, questioning, and responding to one another’s annotations
      • As a transition to the whole-class discussion, have students move from table to table and participate in either carousel brainstorming or a gallery walk (described above).
      • See also “Text-on-Text, or Collaborative Annotation” from Texts and Lessons for Content Area Reading by Harvey Daniels and Nancy Steineke
  • Jigsaw
    For longer written texts and/or video case studies, the jigsaw process works well.
    Each small group of students becomes “experts” on a different case. Then they are reorganized into mixed groups to share and compare their case studies with one another.

Instructional Strategies

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

The items in this following section detail what must be submitted for evaluation. To earn this micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1 and 3 and a “Yes” for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

(500-word limit total):

  • What were your goals and expectations for engaging students in the exploration of case studies around a global issue? How did you design the lesson you planned with these aims in mind?
  • What did you observe during the lesson? Please describe what you noticed and what you thought as the students participated in the case studies lesson.

Part 2. Work Examples/Artifacts

Please submit a video or audio recording of students participating in the reflective debrief at the end of the case studies lesson (maximum length: three minutes) OR written reflections from three to five different students that demonstrate how the case studies helped them understand the global issue from multiple perspectives (maximum length: three pages).

Part 3. Reflection

(750-word limit total):

  • What did you learn from your own experience of planning and facilitating the case studies lesson about a global issue? How did you engage students in perspective-taking through the use of case studies?
  • What did you learn from your own observations as well as the insights students shared in the whole-class debrief and in their individual written reflections?
  • Given what you’ve learned, what will you do the next time you implement a lesson using case studies to help students explore a global issue from multiple perspectives? Please include things you will do the same and differently in the future.

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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