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Educational Research Methods
A site to support teaching and learning...
Case study in a common methodology used in educational research, and there a are many published studies in education which are considered by their authors to be case studies .
Characteristics of case study :
Case study is by its nature idiographic work, and usually tends to be interpretive .
"Studies such as these build upon the analysis of single settings or occurrences. They treat each case as empirically distinct and, in contrast to survey analysis, do not automatically presume that different instances can be thrown together to form a homogenous aggregate." (Hamilton, 1980, p.79.)
Hamilton, David (1980) Some contrasting assumptions about case study research and survey analysis, in Simons, Helen (ed.) Towards a Science of the Singular: Essays about Case Study in Educational Research and Evaluation , Norwich: Centre for Applied Research in Education, UEA, pp.78-92.
“Case study is a methodology used to explore a particular instance in detail …The instance has to be identifiable as having clear boundaries and could be a lesson, the teaching of a scheme of work in a school department, a university teaching department, a group visit to a museum by one class of students, etc. … Although case study looks at an identifiable instance, it is normally naturalistic, exploring the case in its usual context, rather than attempting to set up a clinical setting - which would often not be viable even if considered useful, as often the case is embedded in its natural context in ways that influence its characteristics (so moving a teacher and a class from their normal setting, to a special research classroom in a university, for example, is likely to change behaviours that would be exhibited in the ‘natural’ setting).”
Taber, K. S. (2014). Methodological issues in science education research: a perspective from the philosophy of science. In M. R. Matthews (Ed.), International Handbook of Research in History, Philosophy and Science Teaching (Vol. 3, pp. 1839-1893). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
Case study focuses on one instance among many - the scale of what counts as a case therefor varies considerably.
The instance may be selected for its own special inherent value ( intrinsic case study ), or may be studied as a representative of a wider class of cases ( instrumental case study ).
Case study is a naturalistic form of research
Case study explores a bounded system
Case study involves collecting in-depth data , to support thick description . This is required to support any kind of generalisation from the specifics of a case study.
“...the authors opt for a 'qualitative case-study analysis'. However, quite in line with the large sample size, the analysis has been quite shallow: the fragments of student discourse are presented without any contextual interpretation, which makes it impossible as a reader to assess the validity of the given interpretations.”
Critical comments for a peer review report of an article submitted for publication
Multiple case study
Sometimes researchers carry out and compare across multiple cases. In multiple case study research each case has to be studied in its own stead, before an attempt to look across cases.
This is a personal site of Keith S. Taber to support teaching of educational research methods.
( Dr Keith Taber is Professor of Science Education at the University of Cambridge.)
Index of topics
Center for Teaching
Case studies are stories that are used as a teaching tool to show the application of a theory or concept to real situations. Dependent on the goal they are meant to fulfill, cases can be fact-driven and deductive where there is a correct answer, or they can be context driven where multiple solutions are possible. Various disciplines have employed case studies, including humanities, social sciences, sciences, engineering, law, business, and medicine. Good cases generally have the following features: they tell a good story, are recent, include dialogue, create empathy with the main characters, are relevant to the reader, serve a teaching function, require a dilemma to be solved, and have generality.
Instructors can create their own cases or can find cases that already exist. The following are some things to keep in mind when creating a case:
- What do you want students to learn from the discussion of the case?
- What do they already know that applies to the case?
- What are the issues that may be raised in discussion?
- How will the case and discussion be introduced?
- What preparation is expected of students? (Do they need to read the case ahead of time? Do research? Write anything?)
- What directions do you need to provide students regarding what they are supposed to do and accomplish?
- Do you need to divide students into groups or will they discuss as the whole class?
- Are you going to use role-playing or facilitators or record keepers? If so, how?
- What are the opening questions?
- How much time is needed for students to discuss the case?
- What concepts are to be applied/extracted during the discussion?
- How will you evaluate students?
To find other cases that already exist, try the following websites:
- The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science , University of Buffalo. SUNY-Buffalo maintains this set of links to other case studies on the web in disciplines ranging from engineering and ethics to sociology and business
- A Journal of Teaching Cases in Public Administration and Public Policy , University of Washington
For more information:
- World Association for Case Method Research and Application
Book Review : Teaching and the Case Method , 3rd ed., vols. 1 and 2, by Louis Barnes, C. Roland (Chris) Christensen, and Abby Hansen. Harvard Business School Press, 1994; 333 pp. (vol 1), 412 pp. (vol 2).
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Using Case Studies to Teach
Why Use Cases?
Many students are more inductive than deductive reasoners, which means that they learn better from examples than from logical development starting with basic principles. The use of case studies can therefore be a very effective classroom technique.
Case studies are have long been used in business schools, law schools, medical schools and the social sciences, but they can be used in any discipline when instructors want students to explore how what they have learned applies to real world situations. Cases come in many formats, from a simple “What would you do in this situation?” question to a detailed description of a situation with accompanying data to analyze. Whether to use a simple scenario-type case or a complex detailed one depends on your course objectives.
Most case assignments require students to answer an open-ended question or develop a solution to an open-ended problem with multiple potential solutions. Requirements can range from a one-paragraph answer to a fully developed group action plan, proposal or decision.
Common Case Elements
Most “full-blown” cases have these common elements:
- A decision-maker who is grappling with some question or problem that needs to be solved.
- A description of the problem’s context (a law, an industry, a family).
- Supporting data, which can range from data tables to links to URLs, quoted statements or testimony, supporting documents, images, video, or audio.
Case assignments can be done individually or in teams so that the students can brainstorm solutions and share the work load.
The following discussion of this topic incorporates material presented by Robb Dixon of the School of Management and Rob Schadt of the School of Public Health at CEIT workshops. Professor Dixon also provided some written comments that the discussion incorporates.
Advantages to the use of case studies in class
A major advantage of teaching with case studies is that the students are actively engaged in figuring out the principles by abstracting from the examples. This develops their skills in:
- Problem solving
- Analytical tools, quantitative and/or qualitative, depending on the case
- Decision making in complex situations
- Coping with ambiguities
Guidelines for using case studies in class
In the most straightforward application, the presentation of the case study establishes a framework for analysis. It is helpful if the statement of the case provides enough information for the students to figure out solutions and then to identify how to apply those solutions in other similar situations. Instructors may choose to use several cases so that students can identify both the similarities and differences among the cases.
Depending on the course objectives, the instructor may encourage students to follow a systematic approach to their analysis. For example:
- What is the issue?
- What is the goal of the analysis?
- What is the context of the problem?
- What key facts should be considered?
- What alternatives are available to the decision-maker?
- What would you recommend — and why?
An innovative approach to case analysis might be to have students role-play the part of the people involved in the case. This not only actively engages students, but forces them to really understand the perspectives of the case characters. Videos or even field trips showing the venue in which the case is situated can help students to visualize the situation that they need to analyze.
Case studies can be especially effective if they are paired with a reading assignment that introduces or explains a concept or analytical method that applies to the case. The amount of emphasis placed on the use of the reading during the case discussion depends on the complexity of the concept or method. If it is straightforward, the focus of the discussion can be placed on the use of the analytical results. If the method is more complex, the instructor may need to walk students through its application and the interpretation of the results.
Leading the Case Discussion and Evaluating Performance
Decision cases are more interesting than descriptive ones. In order to start the discussion in class, the instructor can start with an easy, noncontroversial question that all the students should be able to answer readily. However, some of the best case discussions start by forcing the students to take a stand. Some instructors will ask a student to do a formal “open” of the case, outlining his or her entire analysis. Others may choose to guide discussion with questions that move students from problem identification to solutions. A skilled instructor steers questions and discussion to keep the class on track and moving at a reasonable pace.
In order to motivate the students to complete the assignment before class as well as to stimulate attentiveness during the class, the instructor should grade the participation—quantity and especially quality—during the discussion of the case. This might be a simple check, check-plus, check-minus or zero. The instructor should involve as many students as possible. In order to engage all the students, the instructor can divide them into groups, give each group several minutes to discuss how to answer a question related to the case, and then ask a randomly selected person in each group to present the group’s answer and reasoning. Random selection can be accomplished through rolling of dice, shuffled index cards, each with one student’s name, a spinning wheel, etc.
Tips on the Penn State U. website: http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/cases/
If you are interested in using this technique in a science course, there is a good website on use of case studies in the sciences at the University of Buffalo.
Dunne, D. and Brooks, K. (2004) Teaching with Cases (Halifax, NS: Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education), ISBN 0-7703-8924-4 (Can be ordered at http://www.bookstore.uwo.ca/ at a cost of $15.00)
- Obsession- an unwanted thought viewed as meaningful, important, and dangerous
The Case Study - Research Method in Education
Dr. V.K.Maheshwari , M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Se. M. Ed, Ph.D
Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India
Case study is a valuable method of research, with distinctive characteristics that make it ideal for many types of investigations. It can also be used in combination with other methods. Its use and reliability should make it a more widely used methodology, once its features are better understood by potential researchers
Case study research excels at bringing us to an understanding of a complex issue or object and can extend experience or add strength to what is already known through previous research. Case studies emphasize detailed contextual analysis of a limited number of events or conditions and their relationships. Researchers have used the case study research method for many years across a variety of disciplines. Social scientists, in particular, have made wide use of this qualitative research method to examine contemporary real-life situations .
Case study research, through reports of past studies, allows the exploration and understanding of complex issues. It can be considered a robust research method particularly when a holistic ,in-depth investigation is required. Recognized as a tool in many social science studies, the role of case study method in research becomes more prominent when issues with regard to education, sociology and community based problems, were raised. One of the reasons for the recognition of case study as a research method is that researchers were becoming more concerned about the limitations of quantitative methods in providing holistic and in-depth explanations of the social and behavioral problems in question. Through case study methods, a researcher is able to go beyond the quantitative statistical results and understand the behavioral conditions through the actor’s perspective
A case study is a research method based on an in-depth investigation of a single individual, group, or event. By including both quantitative and qualitative data, case study helps explain both the process and outcome of a phenomenon through complete observation, reconstruction and analysis of the cases under investigation .
CONCEPT OF CASE STUDY
Case study can be defined in a variety of ways. as case study is a specific instance that is frequently designed to illustrate a more general principle.
Researcher Robert K. Yin defines the case study research method as an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evidence are used
Case studies are particularistic, descriptive, and heuristic and rely heavily on inductive reasoning in handling multiple data sources ‘as ‘it tries to illustrate a decision or set of decisions: why they were taken, how they were implemented, and with what result’. It can be defined as an intensive, holistic description and analysis of a single entity, phenomenon, or social unit, as it is based on
In-depth, detailed data from wide data source.
Case studies observe effects in real contexts, recognizing that context is a powerful determinant of both cause and effects.
THE PURPOSE OF CASE STUDY
Case study can be a useful research method that can enable readers to understand how ideas and abstract principles can fit together.
Wallace suggest that case study research is aimed at:
- Solving particular problems
- Applying theories into practice
- Generating hypotheses
- Providing illustrations
The case study is concerned with the antecedents of such complex phenomena as delinquency or reading disability. This is most frequently used in a clinical rather than a research setting; it become research only to the extent that it permits the deviation of generalizations of relatively broad applicability. In general case studies serve the greatest research functions through the suggestion of hypotheses that can be investigated more adequately by more rigorous techniques .
The purpose of case study is not to represent the world, but to represent the case. Case study has been one of important research methodologies in the category of empirical inquiry. Research is ‘empirical’ when it employs observation, description, and case study as research techniques. On the other hand, Researchers from different disciplines view the term “case”, more or less, in different meanings. Case study is intended to portray, analyze and interpret the uniqueness of real individuals and situations through accessible accounts and to present and represent reality.
In education practitioners study schools or groups of schools ; curricula; the effect of innovations; the implementation of materials; classrooms; teachers; students. And in
Language learning, researchers often study mother tongue acquisition and developments by looking at individual learners, and at what they have in common.
Case studies can be either single or multiple-case designs .
Single cases are used to confirm or challenge a theory, or to represent a unique or extreme case. Single-case studies are also ideal for revelatory cases where an observer may have access to a phenomenon that was previously inaccessible. Single-case designs require careful investigation to avoid misrepresentation and to maximize the investigator’s access to the evidence. These studies can be holistic or embedded the latter occurring when the same case study involves more than one unit of analysis.
Multiple-case studies follow replication logic. This is not to be confused with sampling logic where a selection is made out of a population, for inclusion in the study. This type of sample selection is improper in a case study. Each individual case study consists of a “whole” study, in which facts are gathered from various sources and conclusions drawn on those facts
CHATECTORISTICS OF THE CASE STUDY
2.A descriptive study
a. (I.e. the data collected constitute descriptions of psychological processes and events, and of the contexts in which they occurred (qualitative data).
b. The main emphasis is always on the construction of verbal descriptions of behavior or experience but quantitative data may be collected.
c. High levels of detail are provided.
2. Narrowly focused.
a. Typically a case study offers a description of only a single individual, and sometimes about groups.
b. Often the case study focuses on a limited aspect of a person, such as their psychopathological symptoms.
3 . Combines objective and subjective data
a. i.e. the researcher may combine objective and subjective data: All are regarded as valid data for analysis, and as a basis for inferences within the case study.
i. The objective description of behavior and its context
ii. Details of the subjective aspect, such as feelings, beliefs, impressions or interpretations. In fact, a case study is uniquely able to offer a means of achieving an in-depth understanding of the behavior and experience of a single individual.
a. The case study method enables the researcher to explore and describe the nature of processes, which occur over time.
b. In contrast to the experimental method, which basically provides a stilled‘snapshot’ of processes, which may be continuing over time like forexample the development of language in children over time
FEATURES OF CASE STUDY
Sturman put it that a distinguishing feature of case studies is that human systems have a wholeness or integrity to them rather than being a loose connection of traits, necessitating in-depth investigation. On these considerations the case study approach has several features as follows:
- It is concerned with a rich and vivid description of events relevant to the case.
- It provides a chronological narrative of events relevant to the case.
- It blends a description of events with the analysis of them.
- It focuses on individual actors or groups of actors, and seeks to understand their perceptions of events.
- It highlights specific events that are relevant to the case.
- The researcher is integrally involved in the case.
- An attempt is made to portray the richness of the case in writing up the report
There are some other features also in the case study ;
- Case studies are set in temporal, geographical, organizational, institutional and other contexts that enable boundaries to be drawn around the case.
- Case studies can be defined by individuals and groups involved
- Case studies can be defined by participants’ roles and functions in the case
CLASSIFICATION OF CASE-STUDIES
Case study can be classified in different ways, and the type preferred will depend on the objective of the research and probably on the paradigm underpinning it.
A number of taxonomies were put forward by many researchers from different aspects.
Yin identifies three types of case studies as follows:
- Exploratory (as a pilot to other studies or research questions) set to explore any phenomenon in the data which serves as a point of interest to the researcher. In this case study also, prior fieldwork and small-scale data collection may be conducted before the research questions and hypotheses are proposed. As a prelude, this initial work helps prepare a framework of the study. A pilot study is considered an example of an exploratory case study and is crucial in determining the protocol that will be used.
- Descriptive (providing narrative accounts) set to describe the natural phenomena which occur within the data in question, for instance, what different strategies are used by a reader and how the reader use them. The goal set by the researcher is to describe the data as they occur. The descriptive case studies may be in a narrative form The challenge of a descriptive case study is that the researcher mustbegin with a descriptive theory to support the description of the phenomenon or story. If this fails there is the possibility that the description lacks rigour and that problems may occur during the project.
- Explanatory (testing theories) examine the data closely both at a surface and deep level in order to explain the phenomena in the data.. On the basis of the data, the researcher may then form a theory and set to test this theory. Furthermore, explanatory cases are also deployed for causal studies where pattern- matching can be used to investigate certain phenomena in very complex and multivariate cases.
Merriam also put forward a three-way schema:
- Descriptive (narrative accounts)
- Interpretative (developing conceptual categories inductively in order to examine initial assumption) the researcher aims to interpret the data by developing conceptual categories, supporting or challenging the assumptions made regarding them.
- Evaluative (explaining and judging) the researcher goes further by adding their judgment to the phenomena found in the data
Stake looks at the classification from the point of view of the purpose informing the initial choice, and distinguishes between:
- The intrinsic case study , where the interest is in the case for its own sake, based on uniqueness. a researcher examines the case for its own sake. For instance, why does student A, age eight, fail to read when most children at that age can already read?
- The instrumental case study , selected to help in the understanding of something else, based on issues. the researcher selects a small group of subjects inorder to examine a certain pattern of behavior, for instance, to see how tertiary level students study for examination.
- The collective case study , groups of individual studies that are undertaken to gain a fuller picture, more than one case studied. the researcher coordinates data from several different sources, such as schools or individuals.
Stenhouse develops a typology of case studies.
- Neo-ethnographic’ an in-depth investigation of a single case by a participant observer
- Evaluative’. ‘a single case or group of cases studied at such depth as the evaluation of policy or practice will allow (usually condensed field work)’.
- Multi-site case study , which consists of ‘condensed field work undertaken by a team of workers on a number of sites and possibly offering an alternative approach to research to that based on sampling and statistical inference’
- Teacher research . This should be one of accessible approaches in that this type is ‘classroom action research or school case studies undertaken by teachers who use their participant status as a basis on which to build skills of observation and analysis’
PROCESS OF CASE STUDY
A case study, when it is planned or designed, usually may follow the typical frame work of a research arranged by Morrison :
- Orienting decisions
- Research design and methodology
- Data analysis
- Presenting and reporting the results
But in planning a case study, Adelman suggest the following issues should be taken into careful consideration in conducting case studies:
- The use of primary and secondary sources;
- The opportunities to check data;
- Triangulation ( including peer examination of the findings, respondent validation and reflexivity);
- Data collection methods (to be discussed in the following section)
- Data analysis and interpretation, and where appropriate, theory generation;
- The writing of the report.
Nisbet and Watt suggest three main stages in undertaking a case study.
- An open phase, without selectivity or prejudgment.\
- Progressive focusing enables a narrower field of focus to be established, identifying key foci for subsequent study and data collection.
- A draft interpretation is prepared which needs to be checked with respondents before appearing in the final form.
Asserting the reliability of the case study
Yin presented the protocol as a major component in asserting the reliability of the case study research. A typical protocol should have the following sections:
- An overview of the case study project (objectives, issues, topics being investigated)
- Field procedures (credentials and access to sites, sources of information)
- Case study questions (specific questions that the investigator must keep in mind during data collection)
- A guide for case study report (outline, format for the narrative)
The overview should communicate to the reader the general topic of inquiry and the purpose of the case study. The field procedures mostly involve data collection issues and must be properly designed. The investigator does not control the data collection environment as in other research strategies; hence the procedures become all the more important. During interviews, which by nature are open ended, the subject’s schedule must dictate the activity. Gaining access to the subject organization, having sufficient resources while in the field, clearly scheduling data collection activities, and providing for unanticipated events, must all be planned.
ORGANIZING AND CONDUCTING RESEARCH
Many well-known case study researchers such as Robert E. Stake, Helen Simons, and Robert K. Yin have suggested techniques for organizing and conducting the research successfully. Thus introduction to case study research proposes six steps be used:
Step 1. Determine and Define the Research Questions
The first step in case study research is to establish a firm research focus to which the researcher can refer over the course of study of a complex phenomenon or object. The researcher establishes the focus of the study by forming questions about the situation or problem to be studied and determining a purpose for the study. The research object in a case study is often a program, an entity, a person, or a group of people. Each object is likely to be intricately connected to political, social, historical, and personal issues, providing wide ranging possibilities for questions and adding complexity to the case study. The researcher investigates the object of the case study in depth using a variety of data gathering methods to produce evidence that leads to understanding of the case and answers the research questions.
The study’s questions are most likely to be “how” and “why” questions, and their definition is the first task of the researcher. To assist in targeting and formulating the questions, researchers conduct a literature review. This review establishes what research has been previously conducted and leads to refined, insightful questions about the problem. Careful definition of the questions at the start pinpoints where to look for evidence and helps determine the methods of analysis to be used in the study. The literature review, definition of the purpose of the case study, and early determination of the potential audience for the final report will guide how the study will be designed, conducted, and publicly reported.
Case study questions are posed to the investigator, and must serve to remind that person of the data to be collected and its possible sources
Step 2. Select the Cases and Determine Data Gathering and Analysis Techniques
During the design phase of case study research, the researcher determines what approaches to use in selecting single or multiple real-life cases to examine in depth and which instruments and data gathering approaches to use. When using multiple cases, each case is treated as a single case. Each cases conclusions can then be used as information contributing to the whole study, but each case remains a single case. Exemplary case studies carefully select cases and carefully examine the choices available from among many research tools available in order to increase the validity of the study. Careful discrimination at the point of selection also helps erect boundaries around the case.
The researcher must determine whether to study cases which are unique in some way or cases which are considered typical and may also select cases to represent a variety of geographic regions, a variety of size parameters, or other parameters. A useful step in the selection process is to repeatedly refer back to the purpose of the study in order to focus attention on where to look for cases and evidence that will satisfy the purpose of the study and answer the research questions posed. Selecting multiple or single cases is a key element, but a case study can include more than one unit of embedded analysis.
A key strength of the case study method involves using multiple sources and techniques in the data gathering process. The researcher determines in advance what evidence to gather and what analysis techniques to use with the data to answer the research questions. Data gathered is normally largely qualitative, but it may also be quantitative. Tools to collect data can include surveys, interviews, documentation review, observation, and even the collection of physical artifacts
McDonough introduce the questionnaires and structured interview schedules in case studies since these techniques allow for numerical analysis of elicited data. They also suggest that coded observation and factual logs will make use of pre-specified categories of information, which would contribute greatly to the examination of large-scale trends.
He list some other possible techniques catering for different aims and approaches to data collection as follows:
- Naturalistic and descriptive observation
- Narrative diaries
- Unstructured and ethnographic interviews
- Verbal reports
- Collection of existing information
In the case of case analysis, the wide range of ways includes correlation, tabulation, tallying, coding, thematic frequency and saliency, quantitative content analysis, and so on
Stake , and Yin identified six sources of evidence in case studies.
Documents could be letters, memoranda, agendas, administrative documents, newspaper articles, or any document that is germane to the investigation. Documents are also useful for making inferences about events. Documents can lead to false leads, in the hands of inexperienced researchers, which has been a criticism of case study research. Documents are communications between parties in the study, the researcher being a vicarious observer; keeping this in mind will help the investigator avoid being misled by such documents.
Archival documents can be service records, organizational records, lists of names, survey data, and other such records. The investigator has to be careful in evaluating the accuracy of the records before using them
I nterviews are one of the most important sources of case study information. There are several forms of interviews that are possible: Open-ended, Focused, and Structured or survey. In an open-ended interview, respondents are asked to comment about certain events. They may propose solutions or provide insight into events. They may also corroborate evidence obtained from other sources. The researcher must avoid becoming dependent on a single informant, and seek the same data from other sources to verify its authenticity.
The focused interview is used in a situation where the respondent is interviewed for a short period of time, usually answering set questions. This technique is often used to confirm data collected from another source.
The structured interview is similar to a survey. The questions are detailed and developed in advance, much as they are in a survey
Direct observation occurs when a field visit is conducted during the case study. It could be as simple as casual data collection activities. This technique is useful for providing additional information about the topic being studied. Participant-observation makes the researcher into an active participant in the events being studied. This often occurs in studies of groups. The technique provides some unusual opportunities for collecting data.
Physical artifacts can be physical evidence that may be collected during the he perspective of the researcher can be broadened as a result of the discovery.
It is important to keep in mind that not all sources are relevant for all case studies .The investigator should be capable of dealing with all of them, should it be necessary, but each case will present different opportunities for data collection.
There are some conditions that arise when a case researcher must start data collection before the study questions have been defined Another important point to review is the benefit of using rival hypotheses and theories as a means of adding quality control to the case study. This improves the perception of the fairness and serious thinking of the researcher.
Throughout the design phase, researchers must ensure that the study is well constructed to ensure construct validity, internal validity, external validity, and reliability. Construct validity requires the researcher to use the correct measures for the concepts being studied. Internal validity that certain conditions lead to other conditions and requires the use of multiple pieces of evidence from multiple sources to uncover convergent lines of inquiry. The researcher strives to establish a chain of evidence forward and backward. External validity reflects whether or not findings are able to generalize beyond the immediate case or cases; the more variations in places, people, and procedures a case study can withstand and still yield the same findings, the more external validity. Techniques such as cross-case examination and within-case examination along with literature review helps ensure external validity.
Reliability refers to the stability, accuracy, and precision of measurement. Exemplary case study design ensures that the procedures used are well documented and can be repeated with the same results over and over again.
Step 3. Prepare to Collect the Data
Because case study research generates a large amount of data from multiple sources, systematic organization of the data is important to prevent the researcher from becoming overwhelmed by the amount of data and to prevent the researcher from losing sight of the original research purpose and questions. Advance preparation assists in handling large amounts of data in a documented and systematic fashion. Researchers prepare databases to assist with categorizing, sorting, storing, and retrieving data for analysis.
Good case studies prepare good training programs for investigators, establish clear protocols and procedures in advance of investigator field work, and conduct a pilot study in advance of moving into the field in order to remove obvious barriers and problems.
The investigator training program covers the basic concepts of the study, terminology, processes, and methods, and teaches investigators how to properly apply the techniques being used in the study. The program also trains investigators to understand how the gathering of data using multiple techniques strengthens the study by providing opportunities for triangulation during the analysis phase of the study. The program covers protocols for case study research, including time deadlines, formats for narrative reporting and field notes, guidelines for collection of documents, and guidelines for field procedures to be used.
Investigators need to be good listeners who can hear exactly the words being used by those interviewed. Qualifications for investigators also include being able to ask good questions and interpret answers. Good investigators review documents looking for facts, but also read between the lines and pursue collaborative evidence elsewhere when that seems appropriate.
Investigators need to be flexible in real-life situations and not feel threatened by unexpected change, missed appointments, or lack of office space. Investigators need to understand the purpose of the study and grasp the issues and must be open to contrary findings. Investigators must also be aware that they are going into the world of real human beings who may be threatened or unsure of what the case study will bring.
After investigators are trained, the final advance preparation step is to select a pilot site and conduct a pilot test using each data gathering method so that problematic areas can be uncovered and corrected. Researchers need to anticipate key problems and events, identify key people, prepare letters of introduction, establish rules for confidentiality, and actively seek opportunities to revisit and revise the research design in order to address and add to the original set of research questions.
Step 4. Collect Data in the Field
The researcher must collect and store multiple sources of evidence comprehensively and systematically, in formats that can be referenced and sorted so that converging lines of inquiry and patterns can be uncovered. Researchers carefully observe the object of the case study and identify causal factors associated with the observed phenomenon. Renegotiation of arrangements with the objects of the study or addition of questions to interviews may be necessary as the study progresses. Case study research is flexible, but when changes are made, they are documented systematically.
Good case studies use field notes and databases to categorize and reference data so that it is readily available for subsequent reinterpretation. Field notes record feelings and intuitive hunches, pose questions, and document the work in progress. They record testimonies, stories, and illustrations which can be used in later reports. They may warn of impending bias because of the detailed exposure of the client to special attention, or give an early signal that a pattern is emerging. They assist in determining whether or not the inquiry needs to be reformulated or redefined based on what is being observed. Field notes should be kept separate from the data being collected and stored for analysis.
Maintaining the relationship between the issue and the evidence is mandatory. The researcher may enter some data into a database and physically store other data, but the researcher documents, classifies, and cross-references all evidence so that it can be efficiently recalled for sorting and examination over the course of the study.
Step 5. Evaluate and Analyze the Evidence
This aspect of the case study methodology is the least developed .As a result, some researchers have suggested that if the study were made conducive to statistical analysis, the process would be easier and more acceptable. This quantitative approach would be appealing to some of the critics of the case study methodology. Miles and Huberman suggested analytic techniques such as rearranging the arrays, placing the evidence in a matrix of categories, creating flowcharts or data displays, tabulating the frequency of different events, using means, variances and cross tabulations to examine the relationships between variables, and other such techniques to facilitate analysis.
There must first be an analytic strategy, that will lead to conclusions. Yin presented two strategies for general use: One is to rely on theoretical propositions of the study, and then to analyze the evidence based on those propositions. The other technique is to develop a case description, which would be a framework for organizing the case study. In other situations, the original objective of the case study may help to identify some causal links that could be analyzed.
Cambell described “pattern-matching” as a useful technique for linking data to the propositions. He asserted that pattern-matching is a situation where several pieces of information from the same case may be related to some theoretical proposition.
Construct validity is especially problematic in case study research. because of potential investigator subjectivity.
Yin proposed three remedies to counteract this: using multiple sources of evidence, establishing a chain of evidence, and having a draft case study report reviewed by key informants. Internal validity is a concern only in causal (explanatory) cases. This is usually a problem of “inferences” in case studies, and can be dealt with using pattern-matching, which has been described above. External validity deals with knowing whether the results are able to generalize beyond the immediate case. Reliability is achieved in many ways in a case study
Pattern-matching is another major mode of analysis. This type of logic compares an empirical pattern with a predicted one. Internal validity is enhanced when the patterns coincide. If the case study is an explanatory one, the patterns may be related to the dependent or independent variables. If it is a descriptive study, the predicted pattern must be defined prior to data collection
This researcher examines the proposed methodology for the development of survey instruments. This aspect is an important element of the data gathering function in the study.The researcher examines raw data using many interpretations in order to find linkages between the research object and the outcomes with reference to the original research questions. Throughout the evaluation and analysis process, the researcher remains open to new opportunities and insights. The case study method, with its use of multiple data collection methods and analysis techniques, provides researchers with opportunities to triangulate data in order to strengthen the research findings and conclusions.
The tactics used in analysis force researchers to move beyond initial impressions to improve the likelihood of accurate and reliable findings. Good case studies will deliberately sort the data in many different ways to expose or create new insights and will deliberately look for conflicting data to disconfirm the analysis. Researchers categorize, tabulate, and recombine data to address the initial propositions or purpose of the study, and conduct cross-checks of facts and discrepancies in accounts. Focused, short, repeat interviews may be necessary to gather additional data to verify key observations or check a fact.
Specific techniques include placing information into arrays, creating matrices of categories, creating flow charts or other displays, and tabulating frequency of events. Researchers use the quantitative data that has been collected to corroborate and support the qualitative data which is most useful for understanding the rationale or theory underlying relationships. Another technique is to use multiple investigators to gain the advantage provided when a variety of perspectives and insights examine the data and the patterns. When the multiple observations converge, confidence in the findings increases. Conflicting perceptions, on the other hand, cause the researchers to pry more deeply.
Another technique, the cross-case search for patterns, keeps investigators from reaching premature conclusions by requiring that investigators look at the data in many different ways. Cross-case analysis divides the data by type across all cases investigated. One researcher then examines the data of that type thoroughly. When a pattern from one data type is corroborated by the evidence from another, the finding is stronger. When evidence conflicts, deeper probing of the differences is necessary to identify the cause or source of conflict. In all cases, the researcher treats the evidence fairly to produce analytic conclusions answering the original “how” and “why” research questions.
Step 6. Prepare the report
The guide for the case study report is often neglected, but case studies do not have the uniform outline, as do other research reports. It is essential to plan this report as the case develops, to avoid problems at the end.
Exemplary case studies report the data in a way that transforms a complex issue into one that can be understood, allowing the reader to question and examine the study and reach an understanding independent of the researcher. The goal of the written report is to portray a complex problem in a way that conveys a vicarious experience to the reader. Case studies present data in very publicly accessible ways and may lead the reader to apply the experience in his or her own real-life situation. Researchers pay particular attention to displaying sufficient evidence to gain the readers confidence that all avenues have been explored, clearly communicating the boundaries of the case, and giving special attention to conflicting propositions
Techniques for composing the report can include handling each case as a separate chapter or treating the case as a chronological recounting. Some researchers report the case study as a story. During the report preparation process, researchers critically examine the document looking for ways the report is incomplete. The researcher uses representative audience groups to review and comment on the draft document. Based on the comments, the researcher rewrites and makes revisions. Some case study researchers suggest that the document review audience include a journalist and some suggest that the documents should be reviewed by the participants in the study.
APPLYING THE CASE STUDY METHOD TO AN ELECTRONIC COMMUNITY NETWORK
By way of example, we apply these six steps to an example study of multiple participants in an electronic community network. All participants are non-profit organizations which have chosen an electronic community network on the World Wide Web as a method of delivering information to the public. The case study method is applicable to this set of users because it can be used to examine the issue of whether or not the electronic community network is beneficial in some way to the organization and what those benefits might be
Step 1. Determine and Define the Research Questions In general, electronic community networks have three distinct types of users, each one a good candidate for case study research. The three groups of users include people around the world who use the electronic community network, the non-profit organizations using the electronic community network to provide information to potential users of their services, and the “community” that forms as the result of interacting with other participants on the electronic community network.
In this case, the researcher is primarily interested in determining whether or not the electronic community network is beneficial in some way to non-profit organization participants. The researcher begins with a review of the literature to determine what prior studies have determined about this issue and uses the literature to define the following questions for the study of the non-profit organizations providing information to the electronic community network:
Many communities have constructed electronic community networks on the World Wide Web. At the outset of the design phase, the researcher determines that only one of these networks will be studied and further sets the study boundaries to include only some of the organizations represented on that one network. The researcher contacts the Board of Directors of the community network, who are open to the idea of the case study. The researcher also gathers computer generated log data from the network and, using this data, determines that an in-depth study of representative organizations from four categories — health care, environmental, education, and religious — is feasible
The researcher considers multiple sources of data for this study and selects document examination, the gathering and study of organizational documents such as administrative reports, agendas, letters, minutes, and news clippings for each of the organizations. In this case, the investigator decides to also conduct open-ended interviews with key members of each organization using a check-list to guide interviewers during the interview process so that uniformity and consistency can be assured in the data, which could include facts, opinions, and unexpected insights. In this case study, the researcher cannot employ direct observation as a tool because some of the organizations involved have no office and meet infrequently to conduct business directly related to the electronic community network. The researcher instead decides to survey all Board members of the selected organizations using a questionnaire as a third data gathering tool. Within-case and cross-case analysis of data are selected as analysis techniques.
The researcher prepares to collect data by first contacting each organization to be studied to gain their cooperation, explain the purpose of the study, and assemble key contact information. Since data to be collected and examined includes organizational documents, the researcher states his intent to request copies of these documents, and plans for storage, classification, and retrieval of these items, as well as the interview and survey data. The researcher develops a formal investigator training program to include seminar topics on non-profit organizations and their structures in each of the four categories selected for this study. The training program also includes practice sessions in conducting open-ended interviews and documenting sources, suggested field notes formats, and a detailed explanation of the purpose of the case study. The researcher selects a fifth case as a pilot case, and the investigators apply the data gathering tools to the pilot case to determine whether the planned timeline is feasible and whether or not the interview and survey questions are appropriate and effective. Based on the results of the pilot, the researcher makes adjustments and assigns investigators particular cases which become their area of expertise in the evaluation and analysis of the data
Investigators first arrange to visit with the Board of Directors of each organization as a group and ask for copies of the organization’s mission, news clippings, brochures, and any other written material describing the organization and its purpose. The investigator reviews the purpose of the study with the entire Board, schedules individual interview times with as many Board members as can cooperate, confirms key contact data, and requests that all Board members respond to the written survey which will be mailed later.
Investigators take written notes during the interview and record field notes after the interview is completed. The interviews, although open-ended, are structured around the research questions defined at the start of the case study.
The investigators field notes record impressions and questions that might assist with the interpretation of the interview data. The investigator makes note of stories told during open-ended interviews and flags them for potential use in the final report. Data is entered into the database.
The researcher mails written surveys to all Board members with a requested return date and a stamped return envelope. Once the surveys are returned, the researcher codes and enters the data into the database so that it can be used independently as well as integrated when the case study progresses to the point of cross-case examination of data for all four cases.
Step 5. Evaluate and Analyze the Data
Within-case analysis is the first analysis technique used with each non-profit organization under study. The assigned investigator studies each organizations written documentation and survey response data as a separate case to identify unique patterns within the data for that single organization. Individual investigators prepare detailed case study write-ups for each organization, categorizing interview questions and answers and examining the data for within-group similarities and differences.
Cross-case analysis follows. Investigators examine pairs of cases, categorizing the similarities and differences in each pair. Investigators then examine similar pairs for differences, and dissimilar pairs for similarities. As patterns begin to emerge, certain evidence may stand out as being in conflict with the patterns. In those cases, the investigator conducts follow-up focused interviews to confirm or correct the initial data in order to tie the evidence to the findings and to state relationships in answer to the research questions
Step 6 Prepare the Report
The outline of the report includes thanking all of the participants, stating the problem, listing the research questions, describing the methods used to conduct the research and any potential flaws in the method used, explaining the data gathering and analysis techniques used, and concluding with the answers to the questions and suggestions for further research. Key features of the report include a retelling of specific stories related to the successes or disappointments experienced by the organizations that were conveyed during data collection, and answers or comments illuminating issues directly related to the research questions. The researcher develops each issue using quotations or other details from the data collected, and points out the triangulation of data where applicable. The report also includes confirming and conflicting findings from literature reviews. The report conclusion makes assertions and suggestions for further research activity, so that another researcher may apply these techniques to another electronic community network and its participants to determine whether similar findings are identifiable in other communities. Final report distribution includes all participants
A report of case studies made for the purpose of studying the circumstances common to several instances of some particular educational condition, should present a schedule of the antecedents studied, the amount of each factor present in each particular situation ,a record of whether the antecedent was or was not judged to be the determining factor in each specific situation, the adjustments made, and the results secured.
ADVANTAGES OF CASE STUDY
The examination of the data is most often conducted within the context of its use that is, within the situation in which the activity takes place. A case study might be interested, for example, in the process by which a subject comprehends an authentic text. To explore the strategies the reader uses, the researcher must observe the subject within her environment, such as reading in classroom or reading for leisure. This would contrast with experiment, for instance, which deliberate isolates a phenomenon from its context, focusing on a limited number of variables.
Variations in terms of intrinsic, instrumental and collective approaches to case studies allow for both quantitative and qualitative analyses of the data. Some longitudinal studies of individual subjects, for instance, rely on qualitative data from journal writings which give descriptive accounts of behavior. On the other hand, there are also a number of case studies which seek evidence from both numerical and categorical responses of individual subjects
Help to explain the complexities of real life situations The detailed qualitative accounts often produced in case studies not only help to explore or describe the data in real-life environment, but also help to explain the complexities of real life situations which may not be captured through experimental or survey research. A case of reading strategies used by an individual subject, for instance, can give access to not only the numerical information concerning the strategies used, but also the reasons for strategy use, and how the strategies are used in relation to other strategies. As reading behaviors involve complex cognitive processes, each reading strategy cannot be examined in isolation but rather in relation to other strategies .
Stimulating new research. A case study can sometimes highlight extraordinary behavior, which can stimulate new research. For example, Luria’s study of the memory man “S” enabled researchers to begin to investigate cases of unusual memory abilities, and the cognitive mechanisms, which made such phenomena possible. Without the case study, it is unlikely that this area of research would have been opened up in the same way.
Contradicting established theory . Case studies may sometimes contradict established psychological theories. Searle cites the case study of severely deprived Czechoslovak twins, and the remarkable recovery they showed when placed in caring social environment, as an example of a case study which challenged the established theory of the early years of life being a critical period for human social development,
Giving new insight into phenomena or experience. Because case studies are so rich in information, they can give insight into phenomena, which we could not gain in any other way. For example, the case of S.B., a blind man given sight in adulthood, gave researchers a particularly detailed insight into the processes and experiences of perception, highlighting aspects of the experience, which had not yet previously been suspected.
Permitting investigation of otherwise inaccessible situations. Searle claimed that the case study gives psychological researchers the possibility to investigate cases, which could not possibly be engineered in research laboratories. One example of this is the case of Genie, the severely deprived child whose case enabled researchers to study the effect of extreme social deprivation continued from infancy to puberty. To create such a situation for research purposes would be totally unethical and not possible but when Genie was discovered by social workers, the use of case-study methodology permitted much deeper insights into the mechanisms, processes and consequences of her experience and recovery.
LIMITATIONS OF CASE STUDY
Despite these advantages, case studies have received criticisms
Are often accused of lack of rigor. Case study method has always been criticized for its lack of rigor and the tendency for a researcher to have a biased interpretation of the data. Too many times, the case study investigator has been sloppy, and has allowed equivocal evidence or biased views to influence the direction of the findings and conclusions.
Provide very little basis for scientific generalization since they use a small number of subjects, some conducted with only one subject. The question commonly raised is “How can you generalize from a single case?”
Often labeled as being too long, difficult to conduct and producing a massive amount of documentation . In particular, case studies of ethnographic or longitudinal nature can elicit a great deal of data over a period of time. The danger comes the data are not managed and organized systematically.
Dependency on a single case exploration making it difficult to reach a generalizing conclusion . Grounds for establishing reliability and generality are also subjected to skepticism when a small sampling is deployed
Considered case methodology ‘microscopic’ because of the limited sampling cases. , however, parameter establishment and objective setting of the research are far more important in case study method than a big sample size
Replication not possible . Uniqueness of data means that they are valid for only one person. While this is strength in some forms of research, it is a weakness for others, because it means that findings cannot be replicated and so some types of reliability measures are very low.
The researcher’s own subjective feelings may influence the case study
(researcher bias). Both in the collection of data and their interpretation. This
is particularly true of many of the famous case studies in psychology’s history,
Memory distortions. The heavy reliance on memory when reconstructing the case history means that the information about past experiences and events may be notoriously subject to distortion. Very few people have full documentation of all various aspects of their lives, and there is always a tendency that people focus on factors which they find important themselves while they may be unaware of other possible influences.
Not possible to replicate findings. Serious problems in generalising the results of a unique individual to other people because the findings may not be representative of any particular population.
The situation with reference to use of case study materials might be greatly clarified , if the investigator understood that the case study method may serve two purpose ;(1)
To determine the antecedents of some particular instance of a phenomenon,(2)To discover the circumstances common to a number of instances of some condition.
The first type of case study deal with similar problems and, further the scientific study of education .In this respect reports of the case study indicate that it had served the intended purpose. The report contains evidence concerning the initial status of the phenomenon under investigation, a statement of the symptoms observed, conditions drawn ,evidence concerning the supposed antecedents of the unsatisfactory status of the condition under investigation, the remedial adjustments made, and the observed effects ,Although it is true that case studies of a particular phenomenon were designed first of all to improve some given condition, they may however, provide suggested procedure for those who deal with similar problems .
Case studies are considered useful in research as they enable researchers to examine data at the micro level. As an alternative to quantitative or qualitative research, case studies can be a practical solution when a big sample population is difficult to obtain. Although case studies have various advantages, in that they present data of real-life situations and they provide better insights into the detailed behaviors of the subjects of interest,
Critics of the case study method believe that the intense exposure to study of the case biases the findings. Some dismiss case study research as useful only as an exploratory tool A common misconception is that the various research strategies should be arrayed hierarchically. Thus, we were once taught to believe that case studies were appropriate for the exploratory phase of an investigation that surveys and histories were appropriate for the descriptive phase, and that experiments were the only way of doing exploratory or causal inquiries.
The hierarchical view, however, is incorrect. Finally, case studies are far from being only an exploratory strategy. Yet researchers continue to use the case study research method with success in carefully planned and crafted studies of real-life situations, issues, and problems
Often time, case study research is dismissed as useful only as an exploratory tool. Despite these criticisms, researchers continue to deploy the case study method particularly in studies of real-life situations governing social issues and problems. Case studies from various disciplines and domains are widely reported in the literature.
Case studies are complex because they generally involve multiple sources of data, may include multiple cases within a study, and produce large amounts of data for analysis. Researchers from many disciplines use the case study method to build upon theory, to produce new theory, to dispute or challenge theory, to explain a situation, to provide a basis to apply solutions to situations, to explore, or to describe an object or phenomenon. The advantages of the case study method are its applicability to real-life, contemporary, human situations and its public accessibility through written reports. Case study results relate directly to the common readers everyday experience and facilitate an understanding of complex real-life situations.
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Dr. Suraksha Bansal for being the scribe to this article.
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well, kind of interesting post, thank you. http://www.1001passagens.com
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Developing Educational Case Studies
Case studies can be used in education as a teaching tool. Many students learn better using real-life examples, and case studies can be an effective way to learn in the classroom.
Case studies have a history of being used in business schools, law schools, medical schools, and other master programs. These cases can come in different forms, with some being basic "what would you do?" type questions, and some being very detailed and requiring data analysis.
Assignments and homework for these types of studies usually require students to answer open-ended questions about a possible solution to a problem. Usually these projects are done by a group of students, as group learning is often more effective.
What Are Case Studies?
A case is basically a story. A case recounts events or problems in a way that students can learn from their complexities and ambiguities. The students can learn from the original participants in the case, whether it is business people, doctors, or other professionals.
The students are able to take over a case, and dissect key information in order to find solutions to the problems. This allows students to be able to:
1. Determine pertinent information
2. Identify the problem and its parameters
3. Identify possible solutions
4. Form strategies and ideas for action
5. Make decisions to fix the problems
The History of the Case Study Method
The founder of the case study method was Christopher Langdell, who attended Harvard Law School from 1851-1854. He was very studious, and spent most of his time in the library. This is when he started to formulate the case method.
At the time, law schools used the Dwight Method of teaching, which was a combination of lecture, recitations and drills. This method focused highly on memorization, and didn't allow for much actual learning, just rote repetitions.
Langdell's method was completely different. He required his students to only read cases, and to draw their own conclusions. To help them, he published sets of cases with a short introduction.
Narrative Case Studies
Narrative case studies use a comprehensive history of a problem, along with the several parts of the typical case study, to teach using the case method. With this method students try to find better solutions to problems, and find ways to analyze why their chosen solution is best.
An example of a narrative case study is the Tylenol cyanide scandal. In 1982 seven people died after ingesting Tylenol tablets laced with cyanide.
Almost immediately Tylenol's market share dropped from 37% to 7%. Johnson & Johnson, the parent company had to work quickly to save the product. They reintroduced the product with tamper resistant packaging and a large media campaign.
Johnson & Johnson was successful. The Tylenol brand recovered and regained customer trust.
The Tylenol Scandal case study details everything that happened from beginning to end. It also details each step J&J took when turning the scandal around…both positive and negative steps.
This case study is now used in business, marketing, crisis management and other disciplines to help them solve their own problems. They can look at what J&J did to solve their problems, and use that information to fix their own issues.
As a teaching tool, this case study allows the students to analyze each step Johnson & Johnson went through, and whether or not any other solutions were possible.
A decision-forcing case doesn't provide an outcome, and therefore forces the students to determine an outcome on their own. Often these cases have an epilogue, which completes the story.
The formats of these cases can vary. They can be standard written cases, PowerPoint presentations, movies or movie clips, or even TV or news stories. Regardless of the type of case, they all:
llustrate the issues typical to the type of case study
Show theoretical frameworks
Leave out assumptions
Show realistic ambiguities and tensions.
Common Case Elements
Most cases, whether legal, business, or other, have the same common elements. These are:
1. A decision maker who has a problem that needs to be solved.
2. A description of the context of the problem.
3 . Data that supports the study, which could include interviews, documents or images.
Case studies can be done individually, but are usually done in a small group so students can problem solve together as a team.
The Case Study Method
The case study method is two-parted. One part is the case itself, and other part is the discussion of the case. Case studies are chosen for teaching based on how rich the narrative is, and whether the people in the study are required to make a decision or solve a problem.
When using case studies, the focus is not on the data or the analysis. The students analyze the case and try to find ways to find solutions and solve problems. This method is most often used in groups, with a focus on classroom discussion.
When students are given a study by a teacher, they should attack each case with the following checklist.
1. Thoroughly read the case and formulate your own opinions before sharing ideas with others in your group or class. You must be able to identify the problems on your own, as well as be able to offer solutions and alternatives. Before the study is discussed with the group, you must be able to form your own outline and course of action.
2. Once you have a clear understanding of the case, you can share your ideas with other members of your group.
3. Open discussion of the case and listen to the input of others in your group and class.
4. Reflect back on how your original ideas changed as a result of the group discussion.
Teaching the Case Method
Professors have several ways to use case studies in the classroom. The first way is as an adjunct to normal lectures. A lecture might discuss a certain facet of business, and the case study can be used to backup the information learned in the lecture.
This type of teaching doesn't require large case studies, and can get by using excerpts and other extractions. The benefits of this method are that it only needs little preparation, and is a great way to introduce case studies into the classroom.
The second way is to use the case studies to challenge the student's solutions, and help them formulate new strategies. This is the typical case study method. Students work together to formulate solutions and conclusions, and allow students to learn from each other.
Gaining Skills With The Case Method
The case method is an excellent way for students to learn new cognitive skills, as well as improve their analysis and evaluation skills. Here is a list of the skills that can be improved, and how the case method helps this process.
Knowledge – This is the student's ability to remember information and ability to recall it.
Comprehension – This is the student's ability to understand what they are learning. The case method helps this by using examples in a real-world context.
Application – This is the student's ability to use their knowledge in new ways. This could mean new rules, ideas or theories. The case method helps students understand how these ideas and theories are used in the real world.
Analysis – This is the student's ability to break down information so it can be better understood. Since analysis is the basis of the case method, this skill is greatly improved.
Synthesis – This is the student's ability to form new ideas. Case studies help this skill by requiring them to identify new information and concepts. This is developed during group activities and discussions.
Evaluation – This is the student's ability to judge information for a particular reason. Again, this skill is a hallmark of the case study method, and the use of cases will help improve the student's evaluation skills.
Case Method Advantages
The largest advantage of the case study method is that students must actively and openly discuss the principals of the study. This helps develop their skills in:
Analysis, both quantitative and qualitative
Dealing with ambiguities
Case Method Criticisms
While the case study method has been seen as a very successful way of learning, it does have its criticisms. Here is a list of some of the drawbacks of the learning method.
1. Students often fight for airtime, and may not fully think through their thoughts. Many students want to be first, and place more importance in that than being right. This results in analysis that is superficial and not well thought-out.
2. Students in business management courses don't always have the same background experience, and this can contribute to issues with experience.
3. The background information provided for the case analysis is often limited to whatever was supplied with the case.
4. If cases are too old, they may no longer be relevant. Cases that are older than 10 years shouldn't be used if possible. This is particularly the case with business studies, since changes occur quite frequently in the business world. For example, case studies that detail companies before the Internet are often out of date. You wouldn't want to study Barnes & Noble without knowing how eBooks affected their bottom line.
5. The case study method is not a good way to learn the technicals of finance and accounting. Not every MBA student has a strong background in accounting or finance, and vice versa. Furthermore, students don't always attend business school at the same time in their careers. Many students get their MBA's while in their 20's, while other students wait until they are in their 30's or 40's.
6. With the case method, there isn't a right or wrong answer. This can cause students to leave the lesson without key takeaways. In addition, this method cannot work for areas that have unique answers…this is why the case method would never work in physics or mathematics.
Those who disagree with the total case method teaching method believe the best alternative is a balance between cases and lectures.
The most recent iteration is a combination of both. They offer lectures to learn the fundamentals, and cases to determine whether or not the students understand the fundamentals enough to apply them to real-world situation.
The Case Study Method in Business School
Most top business schools use the case study method, including Harvard Business School. When students are given a case, they are required to be the decision maker, and they must read the study and identify the problems.
Once the problem has been identified, the student must analyze the situation and find solutions that can solve the problem. There can often be several possible solutions.
Students work in teams to solve the cases, discussing each facet of the case with their classmates. The teacher or instructor guides the students when necessary, and will often suggest courses of action when necessary.
Case Studies in Psychology and Social
Case studies are used in just about every discipline, from business, to the arts, and education. But case studies are most prevalent in psychology and the social sciences, where case studies form a strong basis for all other clinical and non-clinical research.
If you are studying psychology, a part of your education will include the use of case studies. Case studies are how we learn and expand our knowledge, and how we build on older ideas and theories and attempt to make them better.
The Most Well-Known Psychological Case Studies
One of the best ways to learn about and better understand psychological case studies is to read and familiarize yourself with the most well-known case studies. These are the studies that every psychology student will learn about.
The John-John case was a pioneering study about gender and sexuality. This is one of those unique cases that cannot be recreated.
John-John focused on a set of twin boys, both of whom were circumcised at the age of 6 months. One of the twin's circumcisions failed, causing irreparable damage to the penis. His parents were concerned about the sexual health of their son, so they contacted Dr. John Money for a solution.
What makes the John/John case study so valuable?
What can be learned about the psychological case study method itself?
Dr. Money believed that sexuality came from nurture, not nature, and that the injured baby, Bruce, could be raised as a girl. His penis was removed and he was sexually reassigned to become a girl. Bruce's name was changed to Brenda, and his parents decided to raise him as a girl.
In this case, Dr. Money was dishonest. He believed that gender could be changed, which has since been proven false. Brenda's parents were also dishonest, stating that the surgery was a success, when in fact that wasn't the case.
As Brenda grew up, she always acted masculine and was teased for it at school. She did not socialize as a girl, and did not identify as a female. When Brenda was 13 she learned the truth, and was incredibly relieved. She changed her name to David, and lived the rest of her life as a male.
Jill Price was believed to have a condition called hyperthymesia, which gave her a remarkable memory. She could remember the tiniest details, such as what she ate for lunch 10 years prior on a random Monday.
This condition caused her great harm because she focused on all the negative events in her life, even the small ones like derogatory remarks. Price participated in the study hoping it would help her deal with her condition.
Through the study, it was determined that Price wasn't a memory whiz, and that her abilities were completely blown out of proportion. She wasn't able to memorize lists of words or names. Her memory was focused only on events that were relevant to her. For example, she could remember famous dates, but only if they were relevant to her or her life.
Doctors also did brain scans, and through the study, determined that she had a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. Price was obsessed with the negative things that had happened to her in her life, and that obsession cause the increased memory in her instance.
Future research will have to be done to corroborate this theory.
H.M., the initials of Henry Molaison, is probably the most important case study in the field of neuroscience. HM was in a bike accident at the age of 9, and it caused brain damage that resulted in seizures.
In an attempt to end his seizures, surgeons removed small slivers of his brain from the hippocampus, which we now know is the area of the brain that is critical to memory. As a result of the surgery, HM was left with amnesia. He was unable to form new memories, and had issues remembering old memories.
This case study was the basis for future studies of human memory. Because of this study, we know that memory has two parts that work together. One part is located in the hippocampus, which is where facts and memories are stored. This one study revolutionized the study of the brain and memory.
Phineas Gage was a railroad worker who was injured in a workplace accident. He was packing gunpowder into a rock, and a spark caused the tampering iron to shoot through his cheek into his skull. His frontal lobe was damaged, but he survived the accident and was able to talk and walk immediately after.
The study was done about his personality, which immediately changed. He became short tempered and angry. He lost his friends, family, and his job. This study allowed researchers to study the frontal lobe and how it is involved in higher mental functions. It also proved that the brain was the basis for personality and behavior.
By now you are probably familiar with Genie case, and why it was such a breakthrough case study. Of all the case studies that exist, it is Genie that has allowed the most inroads to be made in the psychological field.
Genie was a feral child. She was raised in completed isolation, with little human contact. Because of the abuse she withstood, she was unable to develop cognitively. From infancy she was strapped to a potty chair, and therefore never acquired the physicality needed for walking, running and jumping.
If Genie made a noise, her father beat her. Therefore, she learned to not make a noise. Once she was found, researchers studied her language skills, and attempted to find ways to get her to communicate. They were successful. While she never gained the ability to speak, she did develop other ways to communicate. However, the public soon lost interest in her case, and with that, the funds to conduct the study.
However, her case was extremely important to child development psychology and linguistic theory. Because of her, we know that mental stimulation is needed for proper development. We also now know that there is a "critical period" for the learning of language.
The Most Well-Known Case Studies in Sociology
Sociology is a science much like psychology. In sociology, the study is of social behavior, how it originated, and how it exists today. Like most sciences, it isn't perfect, and therefore benefits from the use of case studies.
Sociological case studies have helped us identify problems in our culture, and have helped define possible solutions. Here are some of the most well-known studies in sociology, the ones that defined and shaped the field.
Fast Food Nation
Fast Food Nation is a book by Eric Schlosser, about how the fast food industry is related to the American life.
Americans love their fast food. It is said that most toddlers are able to identify the golden arches of McDonald's before they are able to read. Fast Food Nation uncovered some disturbing facts about the fast food industry. He discovered that fast food has widened the gap between rich and poor, and has contributed to the obesity epidemic.
His study details how much of this happened, and most of it is very unsettling.
The study also touched on other sociological issues, such as farming and ethics. Since fast food restaurants needed more beef than ever, cattle farmers would find ways to make bigger cows, and would find ways to own more cattle. This often led to overcrowding and poor care of the animals.
Milgram Obedience Studies
Stanley Milgram did a study from 1960 to 1974 in which he studied the effects of social pressure. The study was set up as an independent laboratory. A random person would walk in, and agree to be a part of the study. He was told to act as a teacher, and ask questions to another volunteer, who was the learner.
The teacher would ask the learner questions, and whenever he answered incorrectly, the teacher was instructed to give the learner an electric shock. Each time the learner was wrong, the shock would be increased by 15 volts. What the teacher didn't know was that the learner was a part of the experiment, and that no shocks were being given. However, the learner did act as if they were being shocked.
If the teacher tried to quit, they were strongly pushed to continue. The goal of the experiment was to see whether or not any of the teachers would go up to the highest voltage. As it turned out, 65% of the teachers did.
This study opened eyes when it comes to social pressure. If someone tells you it is okay to hurt someone, at what point will the person back off and say "this is not ok!" And in this study, the results were the same, regardless of income, race, gender or ethnicity.
Why are sociological case studies necessary? Name a sociological case study that has changed the way we think about culture today.
Nickel and Dimed
Nickel and Dimed is a book and study done by Barbara Ehrenreich. She wanted to study poverty in America, and did so by living and working as a person living on minimum wage.
She set up her experiment with three rules.
1. When looking for a job, she is unable to use her education or skills.
2. She had to take the highest paying job she gets, and do her best to keep it.
3. She had to take the cheapest housing she could find.
She lived in three cities in Florida, Maine and Minnesota.
Through her experiment, she discovered that poverty was almost inescapable. As soon as she saved a little money, she was hit with a crisis. She might get sick, or her car might break down, all occurrences that can be destructive when a person doesn't have a safety net to fall back on.
It didn't matter where she lived or what she did. Working a minimum wage job gave her no chances for advancement or improvement whatsoever. And she did the experiment as a woman with no children to support.
This study opened a lot of eyes to the problem of the working poor in America. By living and working as the experiment, Ehrenreich was able to show first-hand data regarding the issues surrounding poverty. The book didn't end with any solutions, just suggestions for the reader and points for them to think about.
The Culture of Fear
This study was written in 1999 by Barry Glassner, a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California. The study investigated why Americans are so engrossed with fear.
The study examined the organizations that caused the fear, and how they profited from the anxiety that resulted. Politicians, television news and magazine programs, were all found guilty of peddling fear, which causes people to worry needlessly and cost billions of dollars.
The study investigated why Americans have so many fears today, and why Americans are more fearful now than they were 20 years ago. Life is not more dangerous now than it was 20 years ago, and yet Americans are more afraid.
Glassner discovered that there are businesses and organizations that actually profit from these fears, and as such, find ways to create them. This of course leads to wasted money, time and resources.
Much of the blame is placed with the news media, who constantly inundates us with news stories that will increase their ratings. This is called the media-effects theory.
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CASE STUDY RESEARCH IN EDUCATIONAL SETTINGS
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Charmaine Agius Ferrante
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Abstract How does geography play a role in student learning and teacher instruction? Limited research efforts reveal that the needs of students in rural areas are quite distinct from other settings (Muijs & Reynolds, 2003; Rice, 2003). It is not until exclusive qualities are determined in both rural and urban environments that instructional plans can be geared to each student body. Addressing these sociocultural issues is crucial with an increasingly diverse population of students nationwide.
Lorna Hamilton, University of Edinburgh SAGE OPEN SAGE Open July-September 2013 3: 2158244013495052, first published on July 4, 2013 doi:10.1177/2158244013495052
Discipline or behavior management in schools is a common concern for beginning teachers and is frequently cited as a significant component in early career attrition (Goddard & Goddard, 2006; Hammerness, 2011; Hong, 2010). Moreover, the impact of perceived failure in relation to behavior in the classroom can substantially affect the self-efficacy of teachers particularly at the beginning of their careers (Hoy & Burke-Spero, 2005; Peters, 2009) and the wide variety of discipline approaches adopted within different schools can provide conflicting experiences and models. Consequently, exploring and understanding more fully how we can support student teachers in this area is important on a personal and professional level for the student teacher and teacher educators. Underpinning an urgency to consider this area, lies concern for the young people who may find themselves the focus of often punitive regimes (Bright, 2011; Reay, 2009). We know that certain pupils (Gillies, 2011; Gray, Miller, & Noakes, 1994; Reay & Wiliam, 1999) can be disproportionately affected by school discipline approaches particularly with regard to exclusion or expulsion from schools (Bright, 2011; Gillies, 2011; Osher, Bear, Sprague, & Doyle, 2010). This paper then is concerned with the details of two individual case studies of student teachers during a 1-year Initial Teacher Education (ITE) program—a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE).1 The concern, here, was with exploring the ways in which the beliefs and values of student teachers might affect their engagement with different approaches to behavior and how they could be encouraged to reflect critically on the philosophies underpinning them. This critical engagement was supported through a new elective course that set out to encourage a bridging between theoretical and practical components of early professional development (EPD). Establishing a stronger link to the cognitive aspects of EPD while also helping student teachers to engage meaningfully and critically with the social and relational influences in schools, underpinned the elective course.
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