TEL 780: Case Study Research Topic 1

Response 1-1: 

Two “how” or “why” questions that would serve as the rationale for a case study I might conduct are:

  1. How do educational leaders’ perceive the challenges of our whitewater world and the demands on possibilities for the educational systems they lead?
  2. How do educational leaders perceive impacts of a curricular innovation of Learning Futures Leadership programming on their agency to lead future systems design and innovation?

The first question is a relatively recent derivative of the question I have been playing around with since last fall or so, when my problem of practice began to emerge from the work I’m doing on leadership and systems change. As my team worked through design partnerships with local schools and districts, I had many conversations with leaders who described an array of bureaucratic and systemic constraints on their ability to lead. Others articulated frustrations with the seemingly untamable complexity of schools, which have been recognized as complex social service systems (van der Brijl Brower, 2017).  This led me to a curiosity to dig further into how school leaders perceive these challenges, and into how they see both the challenges to and opportunities for leadership in this context.

The second question relates to the planned action research study I hope to do, which would use the professional learning workshops we’re building, known as Learning Futures Leadership, to expand leaders’ mindsets, skillsets, and toolsets to redesign systems of education in innovative ways.

Response 1-2:

Consider the two-fold definition of a case study.  In a paragraph (or two) of 150 to 200 words total, explain how the case study work you are considering meets the criteria in the two-fold definition. 

Yin (2018) offers the following two-fold definition of a case study: 

1) A case study is an empirical method that investigates a contemporary phenomenon (the “case”) in depth and within its real-world context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context may not be clearly evident.

2) A case study copes with the technically distinctive situation in which there will be many more variables of interest than data points, and as one result benefits from the prior development of theoretical propositions to guide design, data collection, and analysis, and as another result relies on multiple sources of evidence, with data needing to converge in a triangulating fashion. (p. 15)

My study meets this criteria because it will be situated within an ongoing cohort of educational leaders in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Because it is grounded in the real world and in real time, I’ll argue that it has met the first criteria. Secondly, I will definitely need to triangulate data across multiple sources of evidence. I am proposing to use observations, student interviews and work products, thus meeting the second criteria. The overall design of the study is aligned along my theoretical propositions; as such, I believe a case study methodology is appropriate and meets Yin’s two-fold criteria.

Response 1-3:

The pragmatist paradigm that informs this study serves as an overarching lens for my ontological, epistemological and theoretical perspectives. These views also inform the research design and methodology of this study, as they adopt a pragmatic, design-oriented view on the role of inquiry in education, suggesting that inquiry is not just about finding better educational practices to engage in or policies to enact, but that inquiry is instrumental for discovering the values of education itself. Table 2 shows the alignment of my theoretical paradigm to my research methods.

OntologyEpistemologyTheoretical PerspectivesMethodologyMethods
Transactional realismPragmatismDesign Thinking and abductive reasoning;Transformative leadershipAction research;Case studySemi-structured interviews;Observations;Document analysis;Researcher journaling


The selection of action research as a methodology to systematically study and introduce an innovation into the research design aligns closely with my overarching pragmatist paradigm for educational research.