Complexity Thinking and Methodology: The Potential of ‘Complex Case Study’ for Educational Research
Hetherington, Lindsay Ellen Joan
Complicity: an international journal of complexity theory and education
University of Alberta
Complexity theories have in common perspectives that challenge linear methodologies and views of causality, but in educational research, relatively little has been written explicitly exploring the implications of complexity theoretical perspectives for educational research methodology in general and case study in particular. In this paper, I offer a rationale for case study as a research approach that embodies complexity, and explore the implications of a ‘complexity thinking’ stance for the conduct of case study research that distinguish it from other approaches to case study. A complexity theoretical framework rooted in the key concepts of emergence and complexity reduction, blended using a both/and logic, is used to develop the argument that case study enables the researcher to balance the open-ended, non-linear sensitivities of complexity thinking with the reduction in complexity inherent in making methodological choices. The potential of this approach is illustrated using examples drawn from a complexity theoretical research study into curriculum change.