Writing Case Studies

Case Studies (All categories)

Please refer to the Advance HE Guidance on the Dimensions of Practice  and Exemplars resources alongside this guidance.

Purpose of the case study

The case study is a substantive part of your claim for fellowship and is complementary to the other elements of your submission. It is primarily intended to:

Elicit depth. The focus on a single project or initiative allows you to go into more depth in terms of rationale (particularly your evidence base and relevant scholarship), and evaluation (both in terms of impact but also reflectively – what did you learn? How did your practice change/evolve?)

Distinguish your practice. While many activities undertaken by academics are similar at the global level (teaching, assessing, researching) the case study allows you to give a real flavour of your own individual practice. Your teaching philosophy, your disciplinary interests and your personal style are more in evidence.

Demonstrate the Dimensions of Practice (UKPSF). There is less emphasis on mapping the dimensions to your professional practice (for Associate and Fellow this is done in the practice examples) and more focus on how you understand them and use them. Each dimension should be signposted individually and explicitly within the text and should provide a clear example.  Do not simply provide a list (A4, K2, K3, V1) – this references the dimensions but does not demonstrate them!

Demonstrate the descriptor (UKPSF). The case studies should reflect the level of fellowship you are applying for. Ensure your case study reflects appropriate:

  • Scope eg own practice; practice of others; policy/strategy)
  • Scale eg a few students (AFHEA); a few modules or courses (FHEA); faculty/institution (SFHEA); national/international (PFHEA)
  • Impact eg improve individual student learning/experience; improve course or programme outcomes; improve subject or professional outcomes

Subject of the case study

You can interpret this quite flexibly; just make sure you are able to demonstrate the above requirements.

Examples of suitable case studies include:

  • A response to a perceived problem (eg retention; lack of firsts; lack of real-world experience)
  • A major curriculum innovation or change (eg new professional requirements; distance mode; internationalising content; embedding placements)
  • A planned project (introducing peer assessment/online marking; redesigning a learning space; funded pedagogical research)
  • A pedagogical approach (values-based education; enquiry based learning; peer-assisted learning)
  • A development experience (how researching/being a student/making a mistake/change of role etc. has impacted your practice)
  • A theme (developing employability/digital literacy/inclusivity in the curriculum; this may draw together several different, smaller initiatives)

You may want to mix up the type of case studies you use – it is up to you, provided you demonstrate the UKPSF effectively. At our support workshops and writing retreats the facilitator will help you to identify suitable case studies.

Writing your case study

The case study should focus primarily on pedagogical aspects. Resources, logistical and other pragmatic elements should only be mentioned where they contribute to the context or constraints and should be kept brief.

Avoid general statements which could apply to any course or teaching situation and be specific (eg: ‘taking into account learners’ needs I…’ versus ‘because the learners were particularly time-poor due to demands of work I….’).

Use the first person and the active voice. (NOT ‘it was decided’ but ‘I decided’)

There are many ways of structuring a case study but common elements are likely to include:

  • Context: What was the situation of challenge? Relevant objectives and/or constraints.
  • Activity: What did you decide to do and why? (focus on the latter in order to avoid excessive description). What evidence and/or theory did you use? Why did you choose a particular approach or course of action? Rationale is the most important factor the panel will look for.
  • Outcome: Was this a product (such as a new course, assessment or resource)? An approach (eg pedagogical, curricular, policy)? Or an effect (eg on engagement; participation; attainment).
  • Impact: What difference did it make? To whom? How do you know? (Evaluation? Evidence? Change?)

There is no need to use these headings but try to ensure that you have addressed these questions somehow in your narrative. These are essentially where the panel will focus.

Case Studies – Senior Fellow (D3) only

Your should aim to use the two case studies to address different aspects of Descriptor 3, with a focus on your organisation, leadership and/or management of specific aspects of learning and teaching provision which:

  • have had a significant impact upon the co-ordination, support, supervision, management and/or mentoring of others (whether individuals and/or teams), in relation to learning and teaching;
  • demonstrate your sustained effectiveness in relation to learning and teaching that meets Descriptor D3.
  • have an impact on students who are not taught by you directly.

You might include informal activities, whether individual, collaborative or team-based, that have had a significant impact on your academic practice and/or on the practice of others. You should clearly demonstrate an integrated and reflective approach to academic practice that incorporates research, scholarship and/or professional practice.

You might focus on particular aspects of your work such as (note that these aspects are for guidance only and not intended to be prescriptive):

Developing quality enhancement

  • Ways you interact with others to ensure appropriate alignment of teaching, learning and assessment practices;
  • How you ensure that student learning within the context of your responsibilities is enriched by disciplinary and pedagogic research, scholarship and professional practice (your own and that of others);
  • Ways you have fostered dynamic approaches to learning and teaching through creativity and innovation.

Supporting other colleagues

  • How you have supported other colleagues to enhance their practice;
  • Specific examples of how you have enhanced academic practice through co-ordinating/managing others;
  • Your roles in learning and teaching projects and initiatives at departmental, institutional level or in the wider HE context;
  • Course and programme development, review and revalidation.

Sustained engagement with educational and staff development

  • Staff development activities you have facilitated (informal and formal) that enhance your colleagues’ abilities to meet the dimensions of the UKPSF;
  • How your contributions have promoted the student learning experience through professional development of staff under your influence and guidance e.g. through informal or formal mentoring arrangements;
  • How you have disseminated your knowledge and skills in teaching and supporting learning to audiences both within and external to your institution.

Evaluation of academic practice

  • Steps you have taken to develop your own practice and how you have used your own experience to enable others to reflect on and critique their own practice;
  • How you support, encourage and implement evaluation processes designed to enhance the student learning experience.