Case study methodology in educational evaluation

Bedrettin Yazan, University of Alabama Follow Abstract Case study methodology has long been a contested terrain in social sciences research which is characterized by varying, sometimes opposing, approaches espoused by many research methodologists. Despite being one of the most frequently used qualitative research methodologies in educational research, the methodologists do not have a full consensus on the design and implementation of case study, which hampers its full evolution. Focusing on the landmark works of three prominent methodologists, namely Robert Yin, Sharan Merriam, Robert Stake, I attempt to scrutinize the areas where their perspectives diverge, converge and complement one another in varying dimensions of case study research. I aim to help the emerging researchers in the field of education familiarize themselves with the diverse views regarding case study that lead to a vast array of techniques and strategies, out of which they can come up with a combined perspective which best serves their research purpose.

Case study methodology in educational evaluation

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 and provide the basis for the application of ideas and extension of methods.

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 Yin,p.

Critics of the case study method Case study methodology in educational evaluation that the study of a small number of cases can offer no grounds for establishing reliability or generality of findings.

The Case Study as a Research Method

Others feel that the intense exposure to study of the case biases the findings. Some dismiss case study research as useful only as an exploratory tool. 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.

Reports on case studies from many disciplines are widely available in the literature. This paper explains how to use the case study method and then applies the method to an example case study project designed to examine how one set of users, non-profit organizations, make use of an electronic community network.

The study examines the issue of whether or not the electronic community network is beneficial in some way to non-profit organizations and what those benefits might be. Many well-known case study researchers such as Robert E. Stake, Helen Simons, and Robert K. Yin have written about case study research and suggested techniques for organizing and conducting the research successfully.

This introduction to case study research draws upon their work and proposes six steps that should be used: Determine and define the research questions Select the cases and determine data gathering and analysis techniques Prepare to collect the data Collect data in the field Evaluate and analyze the data Prepare the report 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.

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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.

Case study research generally answers one or more questions which begin with "how" or "why. 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 guide how the study will be designed, conducted, and publicly reported. 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. 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.

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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. For example, a case study may involve study of a single industry and a firm participating in that industry.

This type of case study involves two levels of analysis and increases the complexity and amount of data to be gathered and analyzed. 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.

The researcher must use the designated data gathering tools systematically and properly in collecting the evidence. Throughout the design phase, researchers must ensure that the study is well constructed to ensure construct validity, internal validity, external validity, and flight into case study as a rejection of other practices (e.g.

educational researchers in flight from psychometrics); and truly sui generis thinking (e.g. case study as democratic political action). Using Case Studies to do Program Evaluation valuation of any kind is designed to document what happened in a program.

Evaluation should show: 1) what actually occurred, 2) whether it had an impact, expected or unexpected, and 3) what links exist between a program and its observed impacts. Despite being one of the most frequently used qualitative research methodologies in educational research, the methodologists do not have a full consensus on the design and implementation of case study, which hampers its full evolution.

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 . Using Case Studies to do Program Evaluation: This paper, authored by Edith D.

Balbach for California Department of Health Services offers guidance on the use of case studies in program evaluation. Case Study Evaluations: This guide, written by Linda G.

Morra and Amy C.

Case study methodology in educational evaluation

Friedlander for the World Bank, provides guidance and advice on the use of. May 01,  · Although case studies were considered a novel method of science education just 20 years ago, the case study teaching method has gained popularity in recent years among an array of scientific disciplines such as biology, chemistry, nursing, and psychology (5–7, 9, .

Case study - Wikipedia