The power of the case study within practice, education and research

Monica Short, Heather Barton, Brian Cooper, Mark Woolven, Melissa Loos, Jan Devos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The case study method is a popular pedagogical tool within social work education. It is, however, unclear if individual organisations, students, practitioners and academics have fully appraised the value and power of the case study beyond research activities. This article describes a critical reflection exercise into the functionality of the case study method. It presents the themes from a co-operative inquiry conducted by six professionals with experience in social work field education. This professional collaboration, informed by the authors’ practice knowledge, considers how the case study enhances practice, education, research and personal and professional development within an organisational context. Emerging key themes indicate that the case study method is not confined to research and that it can also be extensively applied within field education and industry. A case study can be a powerful learning tool sparking empathy, providing context to situations, allowing people to connect to social phenomena intellectually and emotionally, counterbalancing efficiency-driven environments and enabling ethical practice. The inquiry concludes that, when applying the case study, it is important to be reflexive and reflective in utilising the method, and to elicit the humanity of a situation respectfully.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-106
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Social Work and Welfare Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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