What is a Case Study?

With Year 12 exams over this week, it won't be long until it's the GCSE students' turn in the exam room.
We talk about case studies all the time in Geography, but what is a case study?

Students often ask about case studies and sometimes give them undue importance when it comes to their revision too - they are important for some questions but the majority of questions require a more synoptic view the further up the school you go.
There are also what are referred to as located examples on many exam papers.
These are like case studies but not quite as involved. One area that I focus on is that ideas are put in context, and this usually involves an element of location if the question is asking about how a particular place connects with the theme that is being studied.

There are a few definitions of case studies then.

An important element for me is context.
A good case study should include the following elements:

- location, perhaps including some sort of map
- description - connected with some key geographical themes
- opportunities and challenges connected with a particular process
- a decision to be made which may change the place in the future
- a few statistics to reinforce knowledge of the case study and make it stand out from any other place that could have been chosen

e.g. if it was a look at the St. Ives decision in the referendum to ban second homes in the town, the students would be expected to know a range of things:
- where St. Ives is located (an inset map of Cornwall and St. Ives location perhaps)
- a sketch map with some major features of the coastline at that point, the Tate Gallery etc.
- some data on the impact of second home ownership - whether that was positive or negative - on social, economic and environmental themes
-a look to the future, and perhaps the impact of the proposed changes in home ownership

There is also the discussion over the age of certain case studies as well. The famous eruption of Mt. St. Helens dates from 1980 (the anniversary was this week - in fact today 36 years ago...) but there are current rumblings and earthquakes which suggest the volcano may be coming back to life...
Back in the days of the CfBT support for the previous new curriculum, when we moved towards concepts and other interesting ideas, I did a session where I used a Rick Astley song to sum up the way that some teachers clung onto case studies that were perhaps past their sell by date.

Here's a template from Jo Payne that I've used in the past to help capture case study content.