New Directions in Educational Ethnography: Volume 13

Cover of New Directions in Educational Ethnography

Shifts, Problems, and Reconstruction


Table of contents

(13 chapters)


Pages i-xii
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Drawing from ethnographic work among Haitian street youth and domestic workers, this chapter explores potential new directions for the ethnographic study of youth in difficult circumstances. In particular, it suggests that hope is a key theme in youth’s lives and that it ought to be explored ethnographically through a lens focusing on cultural practices: that is, on the ways youth actively construct their futures through engagement and agency across time and space. Focusing on the situated cultural practices of youth helps to move the discourse beyond constructs of risk and resilience toward understanding the ways in which youth use actively construct their futures through mobility, personhood, and collective identity.


This chapter explores queer theory as a “thought of a method” in educational ethnography by sharing stories of two third grade boys and situating them in a discussion of Britzman’s ideas about reading and Butler’s notion of fantasy. The stories are presented as a possible queer educational ethnography, in which the ethnographer writes the fantastic narrative of the boys as they read creatively to reveal and unsettle gender and reading as sites of constraint to which other constraints adhere. The boys’ reading itself is a queer reading of these constraints and as such makes alterity visible and possible. The study and the methodological framework suggest that educational ethnographers and other adults who work in schools should become attuned to the markers of constraint and alterity, so as to recognize, shelter, and maintain the alterity that children make possible. The chapter asserts children must be allowed to read for alterity, and shows how fantastic narratives that emerge from such readings are limited by the hushing of individuals who disallow alterity in classrooms. Ultimately, this chapter is relevant to ethnographers of education in that it suggests that queer theory not only is necessary to narrate and thus shelter the ways that gender can and should be unsettled in classrooms, but also allows us to narrate and shelter other queer urgencies related to fear, violence, and vulnerability that children experience or share in classrooms. Implications for the current climate of school reform based on standardization of curriculum are also discussed.


The author conducted an ethnography of a social network site (SNS), a secret Facebook (FB) group with more than 60,000 members consisting of public school teachers from all over the Philippines, with the country being one of the fastest growing markets for FB in Southeast Asia with 47 million active FB accounts. The author frames her analysis of a social media group for educators within the larger socio-historical context of the Philippines to explore teacher agency. Teachers in the Philippines have historically held a low social and occupational status, shaped in part by colonialism, and maintained in policy discourse, social perceptions of cultural capital. Within a social media group, teachers are able to express frank views, but also reinforce certain norms. The chapter posits that the nuance of teacher status can be revealed from ethnographies that explore and promote teachers’ historical narratives. This study was undertaken during the initial stage of the implementation of the K-12 reform when various directives regarding curriculum, materials, pedagogy, medium of instruction, assessment, and reporting systems are being issued from the central office based in Manila to all 46,404 schools spread in the three major island groups.


This chapter details how local racial contexts and educators’ readings of those contexts shape actions they took in sponsoring Black students. Sponsorship was understood as the process in which agents provide, stymie, and/or enhance access to valued resources. The author utilized data collected during a yearlong ethnography of two high schools – one urban and the other suburban – both within a metropolitan Midwestern city. Findings from the study highlighted that teachers’ involvement in sponsorship was shaped by how they understood local racial disparities and contrasting views of equality. First, teachers noted residential segregation patterns as evidence of past and present manifestations of systemic racism that disadvantaged Black students. Second, they relied on their knowledge of racialized educational disparities to shape equitable actions. Third, teachers employed a restrictive equality approach to argue that access to high-performing schools was enough for some Black students in order to neglect modifying assignments. The need exists for researchers to examine complexities of sponsorship and how racism (re)shapes actions sponsors take toward fostering Black student academic success. Additionally, it is important for teachers to deepen their understanding of systemic racism and its manifestations within particular localities.


The purpose of this chapter is to propose a new direction in ethnographic research in education through the emergence of critical presence ethnography (CPE). Through a review of the evolution of the field of ethnography as well as the positionality of the self as ethnographer, this chapter illuminates the ways in which critical ethnographic commitments and critical reflexivity can support a critical presence perspective that captures the ways in which the researcher impacts the internal epistemology and ontology of the research environment. This chapter is a conceptual chapter and does not include a specific research design, methods, or approaches. As a conceptual piece, there are no clear-cut findings, however a review of the extant literature concerning the field of ethnography is presented as well as the roles, opportunities, and tensions that ethnographers experience in the field. Based on the authors’ ethnographic work in the field, they employ a CPE to capture the ripples of self in the research context.

The limitations of this work are that it is only presented in its conceptual form and has not been implemented nor tested in the field. As such, the implications of this work are that it be further developed and operationalized in the field of ethnography. Upon implementation and in depth testing, CPE may have the potential to positively impact the way in which education ethnographers manage researcher identity, conceptions of the self, and researcher bias within a given context. This chapter builds upon a strong body of literature concerning ethnography and critical ethnography in education. Using these processes of ethnography and the ways in which the positionality of the ethnographic researcher have been conceptualized and operationalized in the extant ethnographic literature, our work seeks to provide a way in which the ethnographer can measure his or her impact on the given context. Although infant in our conceptualization, we aspire to contribute to the conversation about ethnography, researcher positionality, and context.


In this chapter, we propose a blended methodological approach (critical) educational ethnography, to address problems of education. The chapter includes a brief overview of critical and educational ethnography, which inform the methodology, followed by a discussion of the essential elements and pedagogical objectives that undergird and operationalize the methodology. The essential elements include articulating a critical context, defining and understanding culture, establishing relationships and embeddedness, and multiple ways of knowing. Rather than articulate a curriculum and content for teaching (critical) educational ethnography, pedagogical objectives are provided to support the development of novice researchers (i.e., doctoral students, researchers-in-training).


While scholars recognize that parent engagement in children’s education is beneficial, much of the normative parent involvement literature rests on the assumption that marginalized parents of color must be taught white middle-class norms of conduct in order to engage with the school system. In this chapter, we describe the ways our critical ethnographic implementation and analysis of the Parent Mentor Program – a parent engagement project in a small urban school district in Central New York – re-envisions parent engagement in three interrelated ways. First, we argue that the project is race-, class-, gender-, and power-conscious, drawing on the interrelated theoretical frames of Critical Race Theory and Critical Whiteness Studies. Second, we argue that the program and research are unique in utilizing the toolkit of critical ethnography to not merely describe, but also to intervene in educational inequity. Third, we argue that the program has a more holistic goal than much of the parent engagement literature, as it seeks to connect parent engagement and activism with the larger antiracist goal of using restorative justice strategies to disrupt the disproportionate disciplining of Black students. Focusing on critical ethnographic methods in practice, we analyze the shifting positionalities of a multiracial research team as we grappled with methodological dilemmas in the first three years of the program. We document how we balanced the goals of introducing a race-conscious framework and catalyzing critical consciousness with the realities of constantly renegotiating entry in a school district characterized by colorblindness and colormuteness.


This chapter examines the practical and conceptual limitations and possibilities of using ethnographic methods in the college writing classroom for the purpose of instructors’ professional development. The study is based on ethnographic research with a second-year course in Stanford University’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric. The study’s dual foci included the teacher–researcher’s pedagogical practices and students’ learning, and entailed participant-observation and the recording of ethnographic fieldnotes. It builds on the anthropology of literacy, a tradition of action research among educational ethnographers, and scholarship on composition pedagogy. Participant-observation could be helpful to other college instructors interested in improving their teaching. However, combining participant-observation with direct student feedback through interviews or surveys will be most effective in shaping educators’ professional development. Using participant-observation for professional development in the college writing classroom did not only situate me, the ethnographer, as both subject and object of research. Unexpectedly, my research also placed ethnographic methods as objects of research. By examining student learning and teaching practices ethnographically, researchers create opportunities to illuminate assumptions related to research as well as broader lessons about the study of teaching and learning.


If institutions of higher education are to remain at the forefront of the knowledge-generating enterprise, the nature of graduate-level teaching must be critically examined. Exploring the manner in which discussion is facilitated in a seminar-like context offers one avenue for attaining this understanding. This study aims to shed light on the prevalence, purpose, and form of discussion facilitation practices that were observed in a small group setting within a social science academic program at a large Southern California university. An exploratory, embedded case study was conducted over approximately 24 weeks using ethnographic and conversation analytic methods. Data sources consisted of ethnographic field notes, audio recordings of meetings, transcripts from those recordings, and artifacts, including literature used during each session. Results suggest that facilitating small group discussions requires balancing focus on the selected text and participant engagement, a diverse set of facilitation practices, and use of different strategies (or micro-avenues) to arrive at the same end. Study findings emphasize the importance of intersubjectivity and form versus function of speech in an educational environment. What is said and how it is said both have great implications for shared learning and understanding. Adaptability of mixed qualitative methods in this study demonstrates the potential of ethnography and conversation analysis as complementary approaches for understanding the functional nature of talk and interaction. Thus, the criteria for rigorous qualitative research, the view that ethnography and conversation analysis do not mix, and the under-valuing of critical multiplism in research need to be re-examined.

About the Authors

Pages 249-253
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Pages 255-264
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Cover of New Directions in Educational Ethnography
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Book series
Studies in Educational Ethnography
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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