Using Ethnography in Educational Research
- LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0208
- LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0208
The ethnographic study of education combines participatory research methodologies, theoretical engagement, and a richly descriptive genre of writing to depict the lived, everyday complexities of learning in all its forms. The etymological roots of ethnography—“writing the people”—underscore the field’s commitment to writing and to analytical holism. An ethnographic sensibility is key to understanding the power-laden subjectivities created in both formal education and informal learning practices. Education is ubiquitous, and there are many approaches to its ethnographic study. Participant observation is integral to many—but not all—ethnographers. Researchers use a range of qualitative methods (including sensory, visual, and creative approaches) to immerse themselves in, and make sense of, educational cultures. Ethnographic approaches have diffused from their early roots in anthropology and sociology across the social sciences. This bibliography suggests some general overviews of this diverse field, and highlights a range of relevant work. The most insightful ethnographies are book-length monographs, providing authors the opportunity to link together the empirical with broader questions of power and difference. Working across a range of learning fields, ethnographers are united by their careful attention to the everyday, the unexpected and the implicit. They highlight education’s role in generating and reproducing inequalities, at the same time as offering emancipatory possibilities. Any review is inevitably partial. Rather than using theoretical categories, the bibliography is roughly sorted by educational type, with sections on parenting, classrooms, schooling, and students. Further sections highlight innovative ethnographic work on informal learning and educational policies.
General Overviews and Anthologies
Given the diverse range of ways in which ethnographic research is deployed to understand learning, the best overviews are edited collections, bringing together a range of voices and perspectives. Delamont 2011 is a four-volume selection of published journal articles, and complements the earlier handbook, Atkinson, et al. 2007. Delamont 2014 reviews recent methodological developments. Yon 2003 offers an overview of the history of the field. Levinson, et al. 1996 and Levinson, et al. 2000 are useful readers in the anthropology of education. Anthropological approaches dominate much ethnographic work on education, and the US focus of contributions to Levinson and Pollock 2011 is balanced by the internationalism of Anderson-Levitt 2011. Educational ethnographers increasingly study policy fields, and McCarty and Castagno 2018 brings together a range of recent work
Anderson-Levitt, K. M., ed. 2011. Anthropologies of education: A global guide to ethnographic studies of learning and schooling. Oxford: Berghahn.
Chapter-by-chapter review of different national histories of ethnographic research of education, highlighting traditions beyond the anglophone world.
Atkinson, P., A. Coffey, S. Delamont, J. Lofland, and L. Lofland, eds. 2007. Handbook of ethnography. London: SAGE.
An authoritative five-hundred-page handbook. Thirty-three chapters on different US and UK ethnographic traditions, some with a focus on education; plus advice on the practicalities of ethnographic research and analysis. Each chapter comes with an extensive bibliography.
Delamont, S., ed. 2011. Ethnographic methods in education. 4 vols. London: SAGE.
A four-volume collection of journal articles. Spanning fifty years, the first volume republishes work by Margaret Mead, George Spindler, Douglas Foley, and Harry Wolcott. The second includes ethnographies of a wide range of learning environments, from kindergartens to skateboarding parks; the third addresses power relations within education; and the fourth explores the perspectives of teachers and students.
Delamont, S. 2014. Key themes in the ethnography of education: Achievements and agendas. London: SAGE.
An account of developments in the field, celebrating the strengths of ethnographic research. It includes chapters on movement, memorials, time, bodies, performativity, multisensory research, and narratives, to name a few, and encourages further methodological innovation and creativity.
Levinson, B. A., K. M. Borman, M. Eisenhart, M. Foster, A. Fox, and M. Sutton, eds. 2000. Schooling the symbolic animal: Social and cultural dimensions of education. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Classic reflections by Émile Durkheim, Margaret Mead, Raymond Williams, and Clifford Geertz. Contemporary contributions from scholars such as Deborah Reed-Danahy, Dorothy Holland, Margaret Eisenhart, Jan Nespor, and Sherry Ortner.
Levinson, B. A., D. Foley, and D. Holland, eds. 1996. The cultural production of the educated person: Critical ethnographies of schooling and local practice. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.
Influential collection of ethnographic cases showing how the concept of the “educated” person takes different meanings in a range of learning cultures.
Levinson, Bradley A. U., and M. Pollock, eds. A companion to the anthropology of education. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
Thirty leading US and Latin American anthropologists of education review the rich Pan-American ethnographic literature on schooling, language, the state, and reform. It introduces a range of different approaches taken by ethnographers and anthropologists working on education.
McCarty, T. L., and A. Castagno, eds. 2018. The anthropology of education policy. London: Routledge.
Work illustrating the range of approaches to the study of policy.
Yon, D. 2003. Highlights and overview of the history of educational ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology 32:411–429.
This article offers a concise but comprehensive review of the emergence of the field in the United States and Britain, from the early work of Mead on socialization to the first critical ethnographies of schooling.
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- Academic Achievement
- Academic Audit for Universities
- Academic Freedom and Tenure in the United States
- Action Research in Education
- Adjuncts in Higher Education in the United States
- Administrator Preparation
- Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Courses
- African American Racial Identity and Learning
- Alternative Certification Programs for Educators
- Alternative Schools
- American Indian Education
- Art Education
- Assessing School Leader Effectiveness
- Assessment, Behavioral
- Assessment, Educational
- Assessment in Early Childhood Education
- Athletics, College
- Beginning-Teacher Induction
- Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
- Blended Learning
- Case Study in Education Research
- Changing Professional and Academic Identities
- Character Education
- Children’s and Young Adult Literature
- Children's Beliefs about Intelligence
- Children's Rights in Early Childhood Education
- Classroom Management
- College Admissions in the United States
- Community Relations
- Comparative Education
- Computer-Based Testing
- Counseling in Schools
- Critical Race Theory
- Crossborder and Transnational Higher Education
- Culturally Responsive Leadership
- Culturally Responsive Pedagogies
- Culturally Responsive Teacher Education in the United Stat...
- Curriculum Design
- Data Collection in Educational Research
- Data-driven Decision Making in the United States
- Deaf Education
- Desegregation and Integration
- Development, Moral
- Digital Age Teacher, The
- Distance Learning
- Distributed Leadership
- Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) in Denmark
- Early Childhood Education and Development in Mexico
- Early Childhood Education in Australia
- Early Childhood Education in China
- Early Childhood Education in Europe
- Early Childhood Education in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Early Childhood Education in Sweden
- Early Childhood Education Pedagogy
- Early Childhood Education Policy
- Early Childhood Education, The Arts in
- Early Childhood Mathematics
- Early Childhood Teacher Education
- Early Childhood Teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand
- Early Years Professionalism and Professionalization Polici...
- Economics of Education
- Education For Children with Autism
- Education Leadership, Empirical Perspectives in
- Education Reform and School Change
- Educational Statistics for Longitudinal Research
- Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
- Epistemic Beliefs
- Ethics and Education
- Ethics of Teaching
- Ethnic Studies
- Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention
- Family and Community Partnerships in Education
- Family Day Care
- Federal Government Programs and Issues
- Finance, Education
- Financial Aid
- Formative Assessment
- Gender and Achievement
- Gifted Education
- Global Mindedness and Global Citizenship Education
- Global University Rankings
- Governance, Education
- Grounded Theory
- Higher Education and Globalization
- Higher Education and the Developing World
- Higher Education Governance
- Higher Education in China
- Higher Education in the United States, Historical Evolutio...
- Higher Education, International Issues in
- Higher Education Policy
- Higher Education Research
- Higher Education Student Assessment
- High-stakes Testing
- History of Education in the United States
- Inclusive Education
- Indigenous Education in a Global Context
- Inservice Teacher Education
- Integrating Art across the Curriculum
- Intensive Interventions for Children and Adolescents with ...
- Intersectionality and Education
- Knowledge Development in Early Childhood
- Leadership Development, Coaching and Feedback for
- Leadership Training
- Learning Difficulties
- Learning, Lifelong
- Learning, Multimedia
- Legal Matters and Education Law
- LGBT Youth in Schools
- Linguistic Diversity
- Linguistically Inclusive Pedagogy
- Literacy Development and Language Acquisition
- Literacy, Multiple Documents
- Literature Reviews
- Mathematics Instruction and Interventions for Students wit...
- Mathematics Teacher Education
- Measurement in Education in the United States
- Meta-Analysis and Research Synthesis in Education
- Methodologies for Conducting Education Research
- Mindfulness, Learning, and Education
- Mixed Methods Research
- Multivariate Research Methodology
- Museums, Education, and Curriculum
- Music Education
- Narrative Research in Education
- Numeracy Education
- Online Education
- Pedagogy of Teacher Education, A
- Performance Objectives and Measurement
- Performance-based Research Assessment in Higher Education
- Performance-based Research Funding
- Phenomenology in Educational Research
- Philosophy of Education
- Physical Education
- Politics of Education
- Portable Technology for Special Education
- Pre-Service Teacher Education
- Problem Solving
- Professional Development
- Professional Learning Communities
- Program Evaluation
- Programs and Services for Students with Emotional or Behav...
- Psychology Learning and Teaching
- Psychometric Issues in the Assessment of English Language ...
- Qualitative Data Analysis Techniques
- Qualitative Research Design
- Quantitative Research Designs in Educational Research
- Race and Affirmative Action in Higher Education
- Reading Education
- Refugee and New Immigrant Learners
- Religion in Elementary and Secondary Education in the Unit...
- Researcher Development and Skills Training within the Cont...
- Response to Intervention
- Restorative Practices
- School Accreditation
- School Choice
- School Culture
- School Improvement through Inclusive Education
- School Reform
- Schools, Private and Independent
- School-Wide Positive Behavior Support
- Science Education
- Secondary to Postsecondary Transition Issues
- Self-Regulated Learning
- Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices
- Severe Disabilities
- Single Salary Schedule
- Single-sex Education
- Single-Subject Research Design
- Social Context of Education
- Social Justice
- Social Network Analysis
- Social Pedagogy
- Social Science and Education Research
- Social Studies Education
- Sociology of Education
- Statistical Assumptions
- Student Assignment Policy
- Student Engagement in Tertiary Education
- Student Participation
- Student Voice in Teacher Development
- Teacher Evaluation and Teacher Effectiveness
- Teacher Preparation
- Teacher Training and Development
- Teacher Unions and Associations
- Teaching Critical Thinking
- Technology Education in Early Childhood
- Technology, Educational
- The Bologna Process
- The Regulation of Standards in Higher Education
- Theories of Educational Leadership
- Tracking and Detracking
- Transitions in Early Childhood Education
- University Faculty Roles and Responsibilities in the Unite...
- Using Ethnography in Educational Research
- Value of Higher Education for Students and Other Stakehold...
- Vocational and Technical Education
- Women's and Gender Studies