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Teaching Climate Policy With Case Studies

European Union
Climate Change
Higher Education
Katja Biedenkopf
University of Leuven
Katja Biedenkopf
University of Leuven

Abstract

This paper analyses the effects of case studies on a range of learning outcomes. Using case studies can be a powerful student-centred teaching method that activates students, encourages their critical thinking and trains professional skills. A case study is a short (2-5 pages) description of a real-world problem to which students are asked to respond. It outlines the developments that have led to a certain historical decision or turning point but it stops before the decisive decision had to be taken. A case study describes the developments up until a critical juncture at which students are asked to respond and reflect on the further course of action. Such a response can take the form of a discussion on the appropriate course of action in the respective case. Students can also be asked to draft a briefing for a politician, a press release, a political strategy or another authentic writing assignment. Case studies are versatile, can focus on a great diversity of policy problems and can include a vast range of different types of assignments. This makes them suitable for diverse types of courses. Students are required to apply the theoretical knowledge that they acquired during lectures and prior reading. They need to think critically about the policy problem and they are asked to draft documents or engage in discussions, which prepares them for their professional careers. While simulations have received expansive attention in teaching EU politics, policies and processes and have been subject to a plethora of academic studies, case studies are under-used and very little research has been conducted on their effects on students. We aim to contribute to filling this gap in academic research. In our MA-level course Europe’s Climate and Energy Policy, we used five case studies to deepen and apply the content of the lectures. At the beginning and the end of the course, we distributed a questionnaire to our students, testing their knowledge, attitudes and skill development. In the paper, we present the survey results and devise an agenda for further research on the use of case studies.