Out of 300, Hill is Number 1

Three years ago, Athey Family Master of History Daniel McMains ’98 started teaching his history classes at Hill in a new way using the Case Method Project. This method was originally developed at Harvard Business School, which uses case-based teaching in its graduate-level classes. Due to its high level of success and student participation, Professor David Moss created the Case Method Project. The project aims to introduce case-based teaching at high schools and strengthen students’ knowledge of civics and history.
At Hill, all honors-level U.S. history classes are completely case-based. Regular U.S. History and Advanced Placement U.S. History classes also use cases to supplement their curriculum. However, case studies cannot be impactful without student participation. Thus, McMains facilitates in-class discussions and debates during case-based learning.
"When I was a student at Hill, I was painfully quiet in class, but I loved history, said McMains. "The case method would have definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but once I got used to it, I think I would have loved it. It also would likely have made me a better college student with more confidence to speak up in class."
Some cases that McMains teaches focus on well-known events, such as the Civil War, while others are more unheard of, such as federal meat inspection regulation in the early 20th century.
According to McMains, “Hill is definitely leading the way in case method teaching.” Currently, 300 other teachers are also using Harvard cases in their classes. However, McMains was recently recognized by the Case Method Project as the first teacher in its history to have taught 50 case studies. The only other teacher who has taught over 50 cases is Professor David Moss himself.
In McMains’ Honors U.S. classes, students will complete 20 cases this year, while his Advanced Placement classes will read about 10. The only difference in the cases taught by McMains and Moss is that Hill students take around four days to complete one case, while Harvard graduate students take one. To be fair, these graduate students have already been in an undergraduate history class, while Hill students have not.
In December 2020, McMains will be presenting his Case Method Project successes at the largest social studies conference in the country – the 100th National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference. Underformers who are interested in learning about America’s history through Harvard cases should consider taking Honors U.S History.
Written by Noorie Dhingra '21 (first appeared in The Hill News Feb. 28, 2020)