Week #2: Ethnographic Perspective

Carol Frank’s article really made an impression on me relevant to my upcoming classroom ethnographic observation.  Frank’s use of comparison between the student-teachers and her own notes was impressive.  I could see myself being tempted to say “the classroom was noisy,” rather than “the soft, classical music ebbed in and out, as the kids interacted with each other.”


Purcell-Gates’ article is a theoretical review of the field of ethnography.  While Frank centers on the “how-to” of ethnography, Purcell-Gates concentrates on the theories and states that ethnography is “qualitative research” rooted in the concept of culture”(93).  It is a literacy research methodology used for research in which questions such as “why, how, what is happening, and what does it look like?” (93). Purcell-Gates goes on to explain the elements of ethnography.


At this point in my ethnographic observation of classrooms, I intend to follow Frank’s model for note taking and note making.  I am trying to do my homework and think hard about what my biggest challenge will be in the classroom and am making lists of the kind of things I will be investigating: example, the dynamics in the classroom between the Instructor and the students, is the Instructor’s teaching philosophy visible in his methods of teaching?  I will also make an effort to keep the ethnographic perspective of a student-teacher when performing my observation.



1 comment for “Week #2: Ethnographic Perspective

  1. James
    March 1, 2009 at 7:56 am

    One of the things Purcell Gates mentioned, that Frank also touched on, and that I find to be the most important factor in ethnographic observations is that you should go into a situation without any agenda, but simply to observe the ebb and flow of the interactions between the participants. If it is a classroom, or a club, or whatever that you can actively participate in, so much the better. Think about what you are learning from the situation OUTside of the situation, otherwise you miss too much of what is happening while you are there because you are not wholly in the situation. My first observations for this class will be conducted in Josh Kerr’s ENG 1001 class here at CSU. He insists that I be a full participant in his classroom, and then that we can talk about how the class went afterwards. Josh is a Philosopher, and a seriously smart guy in a phenomenological sort of way. He immediately caught the import and significance of ethnography, and his concern was that I would be sitting in a corner disecting his class. That is not the purpose, nor the intent of ethnography. Don’t worry about what it is that you might see or do, just go do it, and see what you see.

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