Teaching Stories

Jason Grove: Guiding the Learner

Jason Grove

Dr. Jason Grove, Chemical Engineering

Most instructors have a metaphor that embodies their approach to teaching. Sometimes they’re conscious of this metaphor, but sometimes not. Either way, it informs and imbues how they teach. In the case of Dr. Jason Grove – who teaches chemical engineering – he identifies his teaching metaphor as that of the guide: “Teaching is about guiding other people to learn. Learning is a personal journey that you have to undertake for yourself.”

Grove uses case studies to guide his students along their learning journeys. Case studies – which are accounts of real-life situations that feature relevant stakeholders and their competing interests – might initially seem out of place in a chemical engineering course, at least if we assume that such courses focus only on molecules and materials. However, Grove’s courses focus on the environment: what negative effects certain chemical procedures might have on the environment, how to minimize those effects, and even what the legal ramifications might be. Needless to say, in such situations there is no simple “right” answer. That in itself is a valuable lesson for the students, who often initially expect Grove to supply them with the “correct” evaluation of the case study. The case studies, however, are necessarily ambiguous, which makes them reflect the murky realities that students will encounter in the workplace. “Students,” says Grove,

aren’t sure how to approach the issues that are represented in a case study, and that uncertainty is what makes cases valuable. A case study gets students to think about the process they are using, about their assumptions, and about whether the results look sensible.

Even after students work through a case study, Grove is loath to provide them with a “tidy” answer. “I’m resistant to lecturing the ‘correct’ answer afterwards,” he says, “because that implies that there is a single, ‘real’ answer.” Instead, Grove and his students engage in some “wrap up,” to bring closure to the case and to ensure that all the relevant aspects have been considered.

Grove notes that case studies are a form of “active learning,” and the critical thinking that students develop by working with them are, in his view, the most important skill they learn. “They need to be able to take evidence, evaluate it, and draw their own conclusions.”

With Jason Grove, students are certainly in the hands of an expert guide as they undertake their journey of learning. 

Dr. Grove was interviewed by co-op student Sophie Twardus, Special Projects (Teaching Stories), CTE. 

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Tip sheets

CTE has developed more than 100 Teaching Tips. Each one is a succinct document that conveys useful ideas and practical methods for effective teaching. Some of the Teaching Tips that are relevant to the strategies mentioned in this Teaching Story include the following:

A video about the valuing of using case studies at Waterloo.