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Short term ethnography in education research

Unsworth, Ruth ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4900-3590 (2023) Short term ethnography in education research. In: ECER 2023, Glasgow, 22-25th August 2023, Glasgow University, UK. (Submitted)

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In this paper, I explore the benefits and challenges offered to education research by a short-term ethnographic approach. Short-term ethnography is being increasingly used in the fields of education and medical education, emerging under a variety of labels, such as ‘rapid ethnography’, ‘micro-ethnography’ (Pink and Morgan, 2013) or ‘focused ethnography’ (Andreassen et al, 2020). Drawing on a body of international short-term ethnographic studies, as well as on my own experiences and data from the field, I explore this approach and its value for the researcher of education. I first detail the key epistemological assumptions and ethnographic methods at the core of short-term ethnography, explicating certain differences the approach entails in relation to longer ethnographies, particularly around the selection of a focus of study and common differences in researcher positionality. After explicating the approach, I consider the benefits and challenges that a short-term ethnographic approach offers to education research. I describe a perspective of education as a conglomerate of practices which are multi-faceted and episodic (Nespor, 1987; Kind, 2016). I draw on this perspective to argue the value of studying 'episodes' through short-term rich ethnographic explorations. Finally, I explore issues pertaining to researcher positionality in short-term ethnographic studies. I consider the common consequences of tendencies, in taking a short-term approach, for researchers to be familiar with the field (Andreassen et al, 2020), and the simultaneous drawbacks and benefits this entails. In exploring the benefits and challenges offered to education research by a short-term ethnographic approach, I draw on my own experiences and data from the field. Specifically, I draw upon field journals from a four-month long study of the practices existent within an English primary school (providing education for pupils aged 3-11 years). I relate this data to a body of international literature from the fields of education and medical education which employs a short-term ethnographic approach. It is hoped that this paper will offer food for thought for researchers of education in the usage of short-term ethnographic methods, raising awareness of the value and challenges offered by this increasingly popular approach.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Submitted
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/8641

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