Case-based Teaching vs Problem-based Learning: What’s the Difference?

As I continue to think about my teaching philosophy and pedagogical practices, I analyzed the differences between Case-based Teaching and Problem-based learning. There are multifarious ways to teach and learn, and I know this because I have engaged as a learner outside of these aforementioned styles.

Case-based learning includes teaching using case studies from real-world events, which provide examples for students to help them conceptualize how problems and solutions manifest in the world. Some examples of implementing CBL could include activities such as role-play, interactive games, or small group discussions.

Problem-based learning is centered on hands-on and active-learning activities to investigate resolutions for real-world problems. PBL facilitates an opportunity for students to derive a solution rather than memorizing answers to a problem given to them by a teacher. Students are challenged to draw from their existing knowledge-base to apply that knowledge to a solution. However, there is criticism about PBL with the concern that in this way of knowing a thing, students cannot determine what is important. Also, in preparation for PBL, teachers spend more time planning and executing PBLs than other teaching styles that impact the possible volume of material that can be covered.

After understanding CBL and PBL, I am more inclined to use PBL in the classroom because based on my experience in industry/the real-world resolutions to complex problems come about through derivation. Problems are often similar but rarely the same and deriving a solution using the knowledge you already possess allows for improvement when problems are similar. When we broach brand new problems, there is an opportunity for invention. Our interactions with the world are almost always messy and require us to think critically, which is the intent of PBL. I understand that criticism exists for PBL because education has mostly conditioned us to learn assuming a dichotomy constantly exists where there is a right vs wrong in every scenario—as if there is some answer sheet to all of our problems.

I am somewhat biased in my disinterest in case studies based on my own experiences as a student. Often I could not conceptualize the events in case studies because I could not connect them to my own experiences, which often occluded me from processing what was to be learned from the example.

Maybe my perspective on CBL vs PBL will shift as I delve deeper into this Contemporary Pedagogy course.


Problem-Based Learning (PBL)


A Peak Into Open-Access Journals

Prior to this blog, I had not considered what is an open-access journal. I have seen the terminology used but had not questioned its meaning. After conducting a search for open-access journals in the field of Rhetoric and Writing, I quickly learned about Kairos journal, which is described as a “referred open-access” journal with an international readership that explores the intersection of rhetoric, technology, and pedagogy. Kairos only publishes twice per year and accepts 10% of the manuscripts submitted for publication. I remember reading articles published in Kairos for coursework but did not learn of the context of the journal until now. The intersections the journal explores aligns with my academic background and interests. I am working on a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Writing, hold a Master’s in Technical Communication, and conducting research that interrogates pedagogical practices. Also, I am interested in building international academic relationships as I venture into the professoriate career path. One of my recent conversations with someone was about publishing in international journals as a way to cross borders and become known in my field. With Kairos having an international readership, if I am fortunate with getting my work published in the journal then I would be making strides towards creating the career that I am imagining.

I considered the following three questions as I analyzed the Kairos journal:

  1. Where (location, organization, university, etc.) is the journal from?
  2. What are the purpose, goals, scope, etc. of the journal?
  3. How does the journal address/explain open access? How (if at all) does it position itself within the open access movement?

Where (location, organization, university, etc.) is the journal from?

  • Situated as a premier journal in English Studies
    International readership (“Ascension Island to Zimbabwe”)
  • Individuals who are on Editorial Review come from various universities across the U.S. and top-scholars in the field of rhetoric and technical communication
  • Editorial staff are members of The Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ)
  • Maintains affiliation with the Computers and Writing Conference to announce the journal’s awards

What are the purpose, goals, scope, etc. of the journal?

  • Examines digital and multimodal composing practices
  • Work that enacts scholarly argument through rhetoric and new media
  • Publishes “webtexts”

How does the journal address/explain open access? How (if at all) does it position itself within the open access movement?

  • Kairos provides a statement of copyright so that authors can be aware of what to expect
  • “Referred” open-access: three-tier editorial review process
  • As an open-access journal, Kairos explains there is no charge for submission to make the journal available for all

The concept of open access aligns with my perspective that knowledge should be free and accessible. In my quick search to understand open access, I learned that open access is an international movement, which has caused discord for some. There have been many times as a junior scholar where I am conducting research for a discourse analysis paper and a journal’s required subscription occludes my access to the article I seek. As we know, university libraries may take on the cost of subscriptions to support equal access to literature because that at the essence is what should happen.



Ethics: Consequences of Misconduct in Academic Research

This week I reviewed a case summary submitted by the Department of Health and Human Services that addressed the research misconduct of Anil Potti, M.D., Duke University School of Medicine. The case is from 2015 and is made available by The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) on their website. First, I must say that I was surprised the name of the accused is made public, but also understandable for a field trying to maintain integrity to publicly condemn or denounce those who would threaten the reputation of the field and tarnish the work of other doctors who are operating with integrity. As Dr. Potti was affiliated with Duke University, the university would be that much more compelled to disassociate from Dr. Potti to maintain their reputation and relationship with stakeholders. Secondly, the number of offenses by Dr. Potti is far beyond egregious and was blatantly executed—a minimum of 12 instances of misconduct.

Dr. Potti was found to have reported false research data pursuant to multiple grants from national health organizations. Last week, 9/28/2020, in class we discussed the various positions held within an educational institution and the prerequisites required to obtain said positions. For an associate professor to receive a promotion to a full professor there must be evidence of a stellar record of scholarly productivity and mentor graduate students as well as receiving grant awards with significantly high dollar values (possibly in the millions). I am imagining Dr. Potti’s willingness to engage in dishonesty would be in part to benefit from the accolades associated with winning grants that eventually lead to career advancement.

All publications that Dr. Potti authored or included false data were retracted from the publications. With this information noted in the report, my perspective is broadened about the collateral damage of Dr. Potti’s misconduct. For example, there could be a number of students, educators, and doctors in the field who referenced information from these published works to inform concepts they’re applying in the classroom or industry. The ORI report does not indicate the impact of the misconduct on Dr. Potti’s position as a Duke Associate Professor, but Dr. Potti agreed to specific terms regarding future employment and research:

  1. Supervised research for five years
  2. Submit a plan for supervised duties to ORI as it relates to U.S. Public Health Service (PHS)-supported research.
  3. Submit certification by an institution that Dr. Potti’s research data aligns with conducted experiments/accurate reporting
  4. Refrain from holding advisory roles with PHS

All in all, I cannot assess if the punishment for reporting false research data fits the multiple impacts on other students and researchers in the field. I may be too harsh, but I disagree with Dr. Potti having future opportunities to conduct research and apply for grants. The road to associate professor is long when we look at the culminating academic activities required to achieve such a position. During the academic journey, we learn about ethical behavior and teach it to our students. When we engage in such conduct, particularly at this stage in our career, we know better. As I stated earlier, I am unsure about the impact on Dr. Potti’s career at Duke, but employment termination would be an appropriate response to such an act. I was not aware of the ORI prior to this course, but I am disinterested in any thought that might compel me to falsify research data. I will stay focused and vigilant as I move forward in operating in research practices to operate with integrity

Approaches to Inclusive Pedagogy

I have been thinking very deeply about inclusive pedagogy throughout my Ph.D. degree program in Rhetoric and Writing.  My views of inclusive pedagogy is not just understanding that we have implicit biases or that we are complicit in the system that we aim to deconstruct.

I was hoping to understand how I have implicit biases by taking one of Harvard’s Project Implicit. I selected the skin-tone test that assessed if one favors light-skinned people vs. dark-skinned people. Interestingly enough the images displayed within the test did no represent, to me, any Black or African American faces. As a dark-skinned Black woman, my lens for what light-skinned and dark-skinned people look like is within the context of my race and is the only context that I hear these dichotomies referenced. I spent more time trying to understand how the test was designed to assess me that by the end I realized that my (slow) speed was the major factor to determine my skin-tone of preference. With that, I cannot say that the test results are a true representation of my perspective because I was not intuned in taking the test correctly. Also, I was distracted by the skin-tone associations with positive or negative words and the test designed where the user can have “wrong” answers. I share my test experience because as I mentioned before there is more to inclusive pedagogy than just an awareness that our attempts at effective pedagogical practices will never be free of biases.

However, we can begin to reimagine what an inclusive pedagogy looks like and begin to implement concepts from the literature on this topic to take baby steps toward dismantling our old perceptions of our teaching practices. After reviewing The Teaching Commons, I realized there are similarities with research that I have previously conducted on the racialized experiences of Black graduate students.

Below is an abstract of my current research focus:

There are vastly more Black graduate students earning their degree from Historically White Colleges and Universities (HWCUs) than from any other type of academic institution (U.S. Department of Education). HWCUs are comprised of a majority of white faculty who lack engagement in race discourse that “results in further disenfranchisement for people of color” (Patton, 2016, p. 334). Although research exists on the racialized experiences of Black students at HWCUs (Patton, 2016), there is limited research about Black graduate students on these campuses. Black graduate students struggle at HWCUs due to alienation, racial tension, and a lack of support and representation (Milner, 2004), which often leads to withdrawal from the general campus community and relegation to find “like-minded and like-complexioned” peers (Bonner II & Evans, 2004, p. 5). HWCUs do not disrupt the marginalization of minorities reifying color-blindness by faculty and peers, which affects Black graduate students’ experiences in the classroom. Black graduate students face “stereotype threat” and “silencing” in seminar-structured courses (Milner).  “Critical mentorship” (Kynard and Eddy, 2009) empowers Black graduate students to understand how their ways of knowing and meaning-making disrupt normative epistemologies and dominant narratives about Black graduate students’ identities. The “color-attentive approach,” as preparation for critical mentorship, encourages “writing instructors [to] be intentionally reflective on their pedagogical practices and constantly adjust their practices to address newly realized forms of whiteness and/or racism” (Pimental, et al, 2017, p. 120). In this presentation, I will argue for the convergence of “critical mentorship” (Kynard and Eddy, 2009) and “color-attentiveness” (Pimental, et al, 2017) by professors, advisors, and advanced graduate students to help Black graduate students recognize their agency in their classes.



Bonner II, F. A., & Evans, M. (2004). Chapter 1: CAN YOU HEAR ME?: VOICES AND EXPERIENCES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDENTS IN HIGHER EDUCATION. In Long Way to Go: Conversations about Race by African American Faculty & Graduate Students (pp. 3–18). Peter Lang Copyright AG.

Kynard, C., & Eddy, R. (2009). Toward a new critical framework: Color-conscious political morality and pedagogy at historically black and historically white colleges and universities. College Composition and Communication61(1), W24.

Milner, H. R. (2004). Chapter 2: AFRICAN AMERICAN GRADUATE STUDENTS’ EXPERIENCES: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF RECENT RESEARCH. In Long Way to Go: Conversations about Race by African American Faculty & Graduate Students (pp. 19–31). Peter Lang Copyright AG.

Patton, L. D. (2016). Disrupting postsecondary prose: Toward a critical race theory of higher education. Urban Education51(3), 315-342.

Pimentel, O., Pimentel, C., & Dean, J. The Myth of the Colorblind Writing Classroom: White Instructors Confront White Privilege in Their Classrooms. Performing Antiracist Pedagogy in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication, 109.