There are six case study scenarios for you to consider. Each has its distinctive nature but all the researchers were attempting to conform to the principles described earlier
CASE STUDY SCENARIO (1)
Meg Bonewright (pseudonym), a deputy head in a medium-sized suburban High School, is interested in the extent of unauthorised absence in her school and its impact upon GCSE results. From her experience of speaking with truants over a number of years, she has been struck by their insistence that they give school a miss because they find lessons 'boring and irrelevant'. Many have admitted to committing petty crimes locally as a way of 'having a laugh' and passing the time.
Meg can see the value of using her own school as a case study to inform school policy in ways to handle the problem positively. She is aware from staff room talk that some colleagues, weary of battling with disillusioned youngsters, favour excluding them from mainstream schooling altogether. As the person with responsibility for 'pupil behaviour and control' in the school, Meg feels that a systematic case study might offer findings of substance to enhance the quality of the debate.
What key issues should Meg consider before embarking upon this study?
What logistical considerations will need to be thought through?
What ethical and/or political issues are at stake?
CASE STUDY SCENARIO (2)
Mary Watkin (pseudonym), the SENCO at a small, rural secondary school, is disturbed to read that school exclusions have increased. She has had suspicions that something like this would happen due to the competitive pressures upon schools to produce good exam results and is determined to do something to be better informed about the position in her own school.
Mary considers doing a case study as a means of gaining insights into the real reasons for the apparent widening gulf between the achievers and non-achievers and is particularly concerned about the gradual decline in the fortunes of male pupils compared to their female counterparts. She has a feeling that staff attitudes and expectations about male pupils is one of the key factors in seeking explanations about the poor performance.
Mary is sure that a case study would yield some interesting and valuable evidence about the situation but is anxious that colleagues might accuse her of being alarmist or even prejudiced against high achievers and/or female pupils. After chatting things through with the head, he suggests that she have an informal talk with the chair of governors before taking things further.
What does May need to have clear in her own mind before this meeting?
What is the Chair of Governors likely to ask?
How can she sharpen her focus?
CASE STUDY SCENARIO (3)
Ted Arrowsmith (pseudonym), the head of a five-teacher primary school, has become interested in the impact of different teaching styles and the subsequent political interest in urging teachers to adopt particular methods. Ted realises that the significance of teacher 'setting' (i.e., teacher-controlled decisions about the range and variety of activities) and active teacher intervention (during lesson time) has been insufficiently explored. He feels that a case study using the teachers at his school (including himself) will strengthen the school's position when they are inspected. At the back of his mind, he has some genuine concerns about the diversity of teaching method across the staff.
What should Ted make his priority?
What are the pitfalls awaiting him (ethical & practical)?
What sort of working hypothesis could Ted use?
CASE STUDY SCENARIO (4)
Avril Eyles (pseudonym) is a college librarian at a community college. She reads about the emphasis given to 'lifelong learning' at the above secondary school and feels that she could learn a great deal from carrying out a case study of the school's approach. Avril is particularly interested in the ways in which the local community are involved and the resourcing implications. She is also interested to hear that some of the librarians are used as tutors in the school and wants to discover how this widening of responsibilities is perceived by the staff involved.
What obstacles may face Avril as she seeks to gain access to the proposed case study school?
What logistical implications must she consider?
What different data sources might be available and useful?
CASE STUDY SCENARIO (5)
Greg Bellinger (pseudonym), head of department at a college of FE, is unsure about how seriously his own college management parents and students views. From casual comments with parents and some more serious discussions with close colleagues, Greg ponders whether the college's image could be enhanced through paying closer attention to the views of parents and students. He feels that he needs detailed evidence to put before his senior colleagues before making any firm proposals about any changes in marketing strategy. Greg is generally unhappy about the move towards a market-driven consumerism but acknowledges that failure to respond to market forces could have serious consequences for jobs and education quality. He has little idea about how to organise his research and is anxious not to upset staff at a time of heavy workloads and new contractual negotiations.
What advice would it be helpful to give to Greg in his attempts to organise a research programme?
Which forms of data are likely to offer the most useful evidence?
How can Greg minimize any potential upset without compromising his research?
How might Greg's own disposition towards consumerism interfere with the research?
CASE STUDY SCENARIO (6)
The following scenario is cited in Delamont (2002, p. 163; slightly amended).
Atkinson (1997) conducted fieldwork over two years. In his first year he spent all three terms observing the bedside teaching of internal medicine. In the second year he spent two terms observing surgery teaching. He therefore saw two different cohorts of students during their first clinical year. As each cohort moved on to a long summer holiday and then into their second clinical year, the research came to a natural end. Within each subject, Atkinson had to choose which particular ward, doctor and student group to observe and how long to stay in that setting. Atkinson later noted that after a month of daily participation and observation, many of the features of life in the unit were tending to become familiar and the freshness of his perceptions was wearing thin. He tried to combat the inertia by regularly relocating to a new ward.
Atkinson, P. A. (1997) The Clinical Experience, Aldershot: Ashgate.
Delamont, S. (2002) Fieldwork in Educational Settings, London: Routledge.
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