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Drawing on case study research methodology


Merriam (1998) defines a case study as “…an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context” (p. 27).  According to Yin (2014), a case study is pertinent when “you want to understand a real-world case and assume that such an understanding is likely to involve important contextual conditions” (p. 16).  This makes case study appropriate to answer proposed research questions.  Furthermore, a “case study is preferred when examining contemporary events, but when the relevant behaviors cannot be manipulated” (Yin, 2014, p. 12). Merriam (1998) clarified that a case study does not have particular associated data collection or analysis methods. The methods are determined by questions surrounding the case, which have been defined in the following sections of this protocol.


Case study research can be used to measure impact on student learning in a variety of ways.  An effective case study serves to examine different perspectives that can provide insights into teacher education program outcomes.  Results of case study research can provide meaningful information for making data informed decisions for program improvement.  A number of qualitative and quantitative components should be employed to collect diverse perspectives of the issue, as well as to triangulate data.

Case study research, on a smaller and more infrequent scale, can serve as a deeper exploration to address patterns or particular cases of interest that arise from supervisor evaluations and survey interview questions.

Limitations of using case study methodology
for program improvement


Although case studies can be used to investigate complex educational phenomenon such as investigating early career teachers’ impact on student learning, there are limitations. Three of the most common limitations include:

  • Time and Costs Case studies are time intensive and may not be a viable option for institutions with limited funds or human capital. 

  • Bias While efforts to address bias in case study research have been made, bias remains an inherent issue when studying values, perceptions, and experiences.


  • Generalizability The representation of the entire program may be limited, as case studies focus on a small number of participants from an overall population. Case studies would be best used to address specific programmatic questions and appropriate cases should be selected as exemplary, illustrative, or typical in order to inform program improvement.​

Components of Quality Case Studies


The list below identifies several qualitative and quantitative components that can potentially be used in case study research to investigate impact on student learning.

Table 4.9

Components of Quality Case Studies


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