Willis presents just one example of a fundamental and longstanding dilemma within qualitative and ethnographic research (Walford, 2001). The method requires a focus on a very small number of sites, yet there is often a desire to draw conclusions which have a wider applicability than just those single cases. Within the ethnographic literature about education there is a plethora of examples where schools, or particular groups of children or teachers within schools, are researched because they are seen as ‘typical’, or because they can offer ‘insights’ into what may be occurring in other schools. Thus, for example, we have many studies of single schools where racism and sexism has been shown to occur. Strictly, such studies can only show that events that have been interpreted as racist (usually by the researcher alone, but sometimes by those involved as well) occurred in that one particular school, with those particular teachers and students, at a time that is often many years before the publication of the academic article or book. Such studies cannot provide information about what might be happening now even in that same school and, most importantly, cannot provide any evidence about what is happening or what was happening in any other schools.
Walford, G. (2007), "Everyone Generalizes, but Ethnographers Need to Resist Doing So", Walford, G. (Ed.) Methodological Developments in Ethnography (Studies in Educational Ethnography, Vol. 12), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 155-167. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1529-210X(06)12009-4Download as .RIS
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