Hi all. I'm writing my PhD proposal. I know ethnography is dependant on what you want to observe but ethnography in education, how long would you say is long enough for a PhD project? I'm planning to observe a set of participatory practices backed up with group interviews of students and semi-structured interviews with management about the observed practice (of course there is more to this, i.e testing a new theory/model of practice). To put this in context I will also look at organisational policy/procedures on the thing I will be observing and look at anything produced after e.g meeting minutes etc. I was thinking 3 months in the field? Thanks in advance. :-)
I suppose it all depends on whether you believe ethnography to be a method or a methodology. If you think ethnography is a method, three months is fine. Whereas if you think ethnography is a methodology, I guess the 'participant-as-observer' / 'observer-as-participant' should ideally be at least nine months; and some people use terms like 'ethnographically-informed' if they think ethnography is a methodology and they do not manage nine months.
There is also whether you are interested in one or multi-sites to consider.
If you are interested in policy / procedures I guess you have already come across Conducting Interpretive Policy Analysis by Dvora Yanow; she also has a book out on organisational ethnography.
Hope this helps.
Thanks. I haven't read that book as I was told to streer the research more to the student voice than the policy but as it will be an important part of the research I think I'll have a look, it sounds very useful. My worries are that 9 months somewhere will be over egging it and how much extra could I learn would be questionable (well to me anyway or is that naive?) Also the planning and 9 month worth of field notesmonths could surely not be transcribed, analysied and wrote up in the 3 years you get for funding? Ah the dilemas!
I suppose the easy answer is that you have to be extremely organised so that by the end of the first year you have draft chapters of intro, lit review and methodology by; by the second year you have to have completed your fieldwork and have some results written-up along the way; and the third year you finish off. This, of course, means you effectively have to know the answers before you begin and you disregard / save for later anything else interesting that crops up.
I do not personally know anyone who has managed to keep to this. Most people I know who have tried this end up with a really short time in the field, which I do not feel is ethnography per se. But then this seems the only way to get it done on time. It is a shame because a PhD should be the one time where you can go into depth...
Hi wowzers. I'm doing an ethnography (as in using an ethnographic methodological framework). I gave 8 months for my fieldwork (this is all I could squeeze in realistically) and I think that it was enough to get an in-depth familiarity with my topic. I would say though it depends on how focused you are - mine is a policy ethnography which means I am looking at how a particular policy is being implemented. To understand it better, the rich detail and context doing an ethnography provides was useful. Doing it just on a single policy meant that 8 months fieldwork time was ample as my focus was fairly narrow. However, I would say that 3 months would not have been enough, especially when you consider that ethnography relies on having enough time to build relationships with those in the field - although saying that I suppose you could look at rapid ethnography as a framework. I'm just about on time in terms of my analysis - hoping to finish around the 3 year mark. I would second above comment about Yanow's book - it is really helpful (and brief!) and focuses very much on participants understandings of policy which would fit in well with your focus on the student voice. Also you could have a look at Hammersley and Atkinson - Ethnography: Principles in Practice - I've found it incredibly helpful.
Thanks for this, it has certainly given me a lot to think about and I will definately be checking that book out now. I get what you are saying about 'sort of knowing the answers before you start' so to speak. I agree that 3 years seems such a short time to cram all that I will need to be organised and start writing early.Thankfully my OCD helps with that! I am a driven by just having to get things done, great for essay writing, not so great for the hubby who gets me nagging about getting things in the house done ASAP, ha ha ha. I will look again at how I can organise a 9 month study. :-)
I spent two terms in a school ranging between one and four days a week depending upon other commitments. This was easily enough to collect the data for my PhD - you start to get a lot of repitition after a while. In terms of books, the following are all essential.
Hammersley & Atkinson (2007) Doing Ethnography: Principles and Practice.
Delamont (2002) Fieldwork in Educational Settings.
Wolcott (2005) The Art of Fieldwork
Wolcott (2008) Ethnography: a way of seeing.
The journal Ethnography and Education is also essential for many relevant papers on methods.
Best of luck.
I did three to four days a week from May to July, and then one, sometimes two days a week between September and December. I had previously taught in the school for twelve years (although that was five years before I went back for the ethnography). Therefore I had worked with most of the staff, but had never taught any of the kids. Some of the sixth formers remembered me, but I hadn't taught them. There were many ethical dilemmas that occured - I have submitted an abstract to BERA to present on them this summer, but I feel that I was able to collect enough data in that time period to inform the next stage of the PhD. I managed to generate two large journals worth of data, and conduct nine interviews. In terms of making the familiar strange, and the strange familiar, I was always thinking and analysing while I was in the school - in fact I still am now as I try to finish off my methodology chapter (23000 words and two sections to go). I have a full time lecturing post, so it was/is difficult balancing the roles. I already was fully aware of the socio cultural / historical identity of the area / school / management / teachers, so there was less to do in that aspect.
Hammersley and Atkinson is excellent, but much of my material has come from the journal Ethnography and Education.
Meant to add that for your proposal you could look at Wolcott's idea in your methodology.
Data collection split into:
This takes into account all the methods that you would use for collecting your data as part of a school based ethnography. From unsolicited conversations, interviews, observations through to documentary evidence.
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