Seeking and engaging: case study integration to enhance critical thinking about agricultural issues.
The agriculture and natural resources (ANR) sectors are facing many complex and controversial issues today, including animal health, biotechnology, climate change, food safety, food security, invasive species, marketing and trade, and water. Undergraduate students, as the future ANR workforce, must use critical thinking skills to find solutions to these issues. This study sought to determine if a course that integrated case studies, as opposed to a classroom with no case study integration, influenced students' critical thinking. A pretest/posttest, quasi-experimental research design was used to determine if undergraduate students' critical thinking styles changed as a result of the case study integration. Three undergraduate communication courses focused on issues education at three universities were the sample. Based on the results, students were more willing to seek out information and engage with their peers about the issues facing ANR after the course with the case studies integrated. Case studies should be integrated into the classroom to encourage critical thinking based on these findings. Future research should include investigating the effects of using case studies in other undergraduate courses not focused on issues, in graduate courses, and extension education programs that could determine the effect in a non-formal education setting.