Case Studies in Criminal Justice Education: An Experiential Model

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Case studies have long been used to enhance the learning process for students in a variety of education and training disciplines. There are two basic types: The first type entails “actual” case studies that facilitate objective analyses and discussions of the implications for relevancy in a given situation (analytical). The second type examines hypothetical or actual cases that focus on the experiences of the learner (problem-solving). Such experience-oriented case studies may be approached in two ways: one in which a preferred or most correct problem solution is required; or a second, where there are no precise, clear-cut problem solutions for a given situation (experiential). Criminal justice, as an evolving behavioral science, typically relies on interdisciplinary case study approaches (e.g., psychology, social work, legal research, etc.). But these approaches have not shown adequate success for the criminal justice student/ practitioner because they do not apply course material and theory to practical situations. Experiential case study methods, particularly open-ended varieties, contribute important behavioral and attitudinal qualities to the criminal justice student/practitioner by providing realistic learning beyond the “war story” application. This model immerses the student/practitioner in practical problem situations while attending to the relevant theoretical aspects.