Dr. Jennifer M. Case

Jennifer Case

Jennifer Case, Ph.D.
Professor, Department Head
349 Goodwin Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061





Ph.D.  Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia, 2001
M.Sc.  Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, 2009
Higher Diploma of Education, University of Cape Town, 1991
M.Ed.  Science Education, University of Leeds, UK, 1994
B.Sc. (Hons.) Chemistry, University of Stellenbosch, 1990
B.Sc.  Physics & Chemistry, University of Stellenbosch, 1989

Research Interests

  • Higher education research with a special focus on engineering education 

Key research areas:

  • Student learning and university teaching
  • Knowledge and curriculum, sociology of higher education
  • Qualitative research methodology

Both engineering education and higher education are relatively new and somewhat underdeveloped fields, and in working across these fields I have carved out a distinctive niche and produced what is arguably a unique contribution. This has involved bringing theories and methodologies from higher education research (and education and social science research more broadly) into the field of engineering education, which tends to less developed on these fronts. This has resulted in both empirical and conceptual work in engineering education. 

Moving in the other direction, I have productively used the close-up empirical context of student learning in engineering to make a particular contribution in the field of higher education studies. Student learning research in higher education has been dominated by quantitative methodologies, maybe understandably. This however, has limited the ability of the field to develop the necessary detailed understanding that is needed of the student experience. Across my work I demonstrate a range of approaches that broadly fit into a sociocultural perspective. This work has allowed a nuanced understanding of the interacting influences on student learning in a particular course, programme and institutional context. 


Jennifer Case is Head and Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech.  Her research on the student experience of learning, focusing mainly on science and engineering education, has been widely published.  She is a coordinating editor for the international journal Higher Education, a co-editor for the Routledge/SRHE series Research into Higher Education and subject editor for the IChemE journal Education for Chemical Engineers.  

She began her career with three years of teaching high school mathematics and science, and in 1996 joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT) as its Education Development Officer.  As her academic career in engineering education grew she was promoted through the ranks, attaining full professor status at UCT in 2012.  She took up the position at Virginia Tech in 2017.

She holds a PhD from Monash University, an MEd from the University of Leeds, and an MSc in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cape Town.  In 2011 she was a Mandela Mellon fellow at Harvard University.  She was the founding president (2010-2013) of the South African Society for Engineering Education (SASEE).

Selected Awards & Honors

  • President’s Award from the National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa, 2006
  • Distinguished Teachers’ Award, UCT, 2007
  • Elected Member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf), 2009
  • National Excellence in Teaching & Learning Award, 2013 
  • Meritorious Book Award, UCT, 2015

Recent Pulications

  • Case, J. M. (2015). A social realist perspective on student learning in higher education: The morphogenesis of agency. Higher Education Research & Development, 34(5), 841-852. 
  • Case, J. M. (2015). Emergent interactions: Rethinking the relationship between teaching and learning. Teaching in Higher Education, 20(6), 625-635. 
  • Case, J. M. (2015). Knowledge for teaching, knowledge about teaching: exploring the links between education research, scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) and scholarly teaching. Journal of Education, 61, 53-72. 
  • Case, J. M., & Huisman, J. (Eds.). (2015). Researching Higher Education: International perspectives on theory, policy and practice Oxford: Routledge.
  • Case, J. M., Fraser, D. M., Kumar, A., & Itika, A. (2016). The significance of context for curriculum development in engineering education:  A case study across three African countries. European Journal for Engineering Education, 41(3), 279-292.
  • Case, J. M., & Marshall, D. (2016). Bringing together knowledge and capabilities: A case study of engineering graduates. Higher Education, 71(6)
  • Heydenrych, H., & Case, J. M. (2015). Academic development in the mainstream:  A case study in an undergraduate engineering programme in South Africa. South African Journal of Higher Education, 29(5), 179-200. 
  • von Blottnitz, H., Case, J. M., & Fraser, D. M. (2015). Sustainable development at the core of undergraduate engineering curriculum reform: A new introductory course in chemical engineering Journal of Cleaner Production(106), 300-307. 
  • Baron, D., Bestbier, A., Case, J. M., & Collier-Reed, B. (2016). Investigating the effect of a backchannel on university classroom interactions: A mixed-method case study. Computers & Education, 94, 61-76. 
  • Case, J. M. (2016). Journeys to meaning-making: A longitudinal study of self-authorship amongst young South African engineering graduates. Journal of College Student Development, 57(7), 863-879. 
  • Case, J. M. (2016). Re-imagining the curriculum in a postcolonial space: Engaging the public good purposes of Higher Education in South Africa. Journal for New Generation Sciences, 14(3), 22-33. 
  • Conana, H., Marshall, D., & Case, J. M. (2016). Exploring pedagogical possibilities for transformative approaches to academic literacies in undergraduate Physics. Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning, 4(2), 28-44. 
  • Case, J. M., Heydenrych, H., Kotta, L., Marshall, D., McKenna, S., & Williams, K. (2017). From contradictions to complementarities: A social realist analysis of the evolution of academic development within a department. Studies in Higher Education, 42(2), 278-291.