Case Study Research Course- Focus – Research paradigms

Discussion Questions:

Is all educational research case study research? What is a research paradigm? How many different ways are there to conduct educational research?  Why do you suppose there are many controversies over educational research approaches?

I looked back to my original design -based research course to find my online discussion answer to my epistemological and ontological beliefs as a researcher. My answer would not meet the fantasy qualitative classroom nor writing assignment expectations described by Wolgemuth (2016).

“… I was really being asked to describe my epistemological beliefs. I described learning as demonstrating deep empathy. I believe meaningful learning happens when learners share their learning with each other. Sharing includes connecting with other learners or digital content, collaborating with other learners and creating “something” that communicates learning to others. Endelson describes the potential for design based research to develop design domain theories, design frameworks and design methodologies (2002). My epistemological beliefs stem from connectivist and constructivist learning opportunities where teachers guide learners to the nodes of learning found in various mediums that best support personalized and collective student learning pathways (Siemens, 2004; Vygotskiĭ,1978). My research focus in k-12 open learning provides the potential for a design domain theory integrating connectivism and constructivism.

Davis, Sumara and Luce-Kapler (2015), distinguish between four historical movements that are associated with distinctive teaching practices and theories. As a design based researcher, I consider my ontological stance as one that blends two of these movements, democratic citizenship education and systemic sustainability education. I believe Individuals will learn by participating in learning with others and building upon the knowledge of all learners. As such, Barab and Squire best described my ontological epistemological stance when they described the goal of design based research is, “to directly impact practice while advancing theory that will be of use to others” (2004, p. 8)” (Roberts, 2017).

My online discussion answer  from my design based research course, was similar to the student examples Wolgemuth used in her article. While my answer is not inaccurate or incorrect, it could be so much more. It still lacks the breadth and depth case study research can offer.  A research paradigm includes the epistemological and ontological beliefs of a researcher as well as a theoretical framework and methodology. (Patel, 2015) I demonstrated that I was becoming aware of my research paradigm, but what I lacked was opposing views and different perspectives in order to make my research paradigm even stronger. I also gave a very specific answer which could restrict my potential to research my topic of interest from different perspectives. Wolgemuth’s article criticizes forced research paradigm and research frameworks within qualitative research. Instead she supports to, “…seek to create opportunities for students to take up multiple paradigms, methodologies, and methods; to foster paradigm proliferation (Lather, 2006) and creative, ambiguous, and boundary-defying research designs” (Wolgemuth, 2016, p. 518).

In her article, Lincoln’s overview of the historical context and success of qualitative case study research supports Wolgemuth’s views on flexible and unique research paradigms, especially in light of recent emphasis on static positivist scientific inquiry. Lincoln, like Wolgemuth, supports the flexibility, breadth, and depth of case study and qualitative research with a plethora of flexible definitions, perspectives and examples. “We have become, largely because of our methods,lenses, and paradigms, rather awesome purveyors of some of the most profound insights into Western society ever assembled” (Lincoln, 2010, p. 3).

Within the qualitative research world there is debate over the flexibility of interpretivism. There are examples of the ambiguous postmodern lens without a particular research methodology or research direction as opposed to  more pragmatic transformationism, which is based on those who believe research methodologies, theory, processes and approaches connect. Howe’s (1998) article suggests the new debate within interpretivism is not as essential as the old debate between, positivism and interpretivism. In fact, by trying to distinguish interpretivist qualitative research perspectives, quantitative positivist researchers have more ammunition to critique and disseminate all the progress and quality research created by qualitative researchers.

Thomas (2011) has created a choose your own adventure research paradigm to support case study research. His article was not an attempt to validate the potential for case study research in terms of a single framework. However, Thomas understands that case studies need some structure, especially in the planning and organizing stages, regardless of the research paradigm attempts .Thomas provides an opportunity for future case study researchers to consider how research paradigms can be flexible yet pragmatic, open-ended yet credible. He is able to help future researchers identify their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of their own epistemological and ontological beliefs based on purposes and approaches while still integrating theory and methodology into a diverse research framework.

There are controversies over educational research approaches because there is a competitive aspect to research in that one way to do things is the “right way” as it provides the best results. Society will also support research that gives them the answers they want, not necessarily the data to support answers they do not want. It is difficult to accept change and different perspectives. It is always easier to stay the same and provide evidence of why the “same” is the best.

As I look back to my online discussion answer, I am proud of my iterative attempt as a researcher to be flexible enough as a researcher to understand that a research paradigm helps to create my research identity in terms of interest and passion, but does not limit my potential to research similar topics from different methods and perspectives. I do research about open learning and I do not want to limit myself as to how I will continue to research this topic in the future.

Week 2 question for my colleagues: Is flexibility and an iterative process important to you as you consider your own research paradigm?


Davis, B., Sumara, D.,& Luce-Kapler, R. (2015). Engaging minds: cultures of education and practices of teaching (3rd edn.). New York: Routledge.

Edelson, D. C. (2002). Design research: What we learn when we engage in design. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 11(1), 105–121.

Howe, K. (1998). The interpretive turn and the new debate in education, Educational Researcher, 27(8), 13-20.

Lather, P. (2006). Paradigm proliferation as a good thing to think with: Teaching research in education as a wild profusion. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19, 35-57.

Lincoln, Y. S. (2010). “What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been…”: Twenty-Five Years of Qualitative and New Paradigm Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(3), 3-9.

Patel, S. (2015, July 15). The research paradigm – methodology, epistemology and ontology – explained in simple language. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. [online]. Retrieved  from

Thomas, G. (2011). A Typology for the Case Study in Social Science Following a Review of Definition, Discourse, and Structure. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(6), 511-521.

Roberts, V. (2017, January 20). Verena’s Preliminary Position Statement [Online discussion group]. Retrieved from

Wolgemuth, J. R. (2015). Driving the Paradigm: (Failing to Teach) Methodological Ambiguity, Fluidity, and Resistance in Qualitative Research. Qualitative Inquiry 1-8.

Vygotskiĭ, L. S., & Cole, M. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.