Purcell-Gates reading response

While I have long been familiar with ethnographic research due to my background in sociology, this essay struck me as being very useful to both the novice, and to the experienced ethnographer because it covers the field in enough detail to act as a basic primer on the topic, yet is short enough that it makes referencing the material easy. So, when I go to write up my field notes, or do my final paper on my observations I will be able to reference it for terms, such as semi-”participant observer,” or an “environmental research” model. Also, it seemed to me that while she wasn’t extremely thorough, neither did she overlook anything important entirely, nor did she misrepresent the process in any way that I could detect. Furthermore, she gave good references, and her bib looks to be useful for getting more detailed analyses of the process.

Personally, I have done research as a participant observer, as a partially-participant observer, as a past participant observer and as an outside observer with connections to the subculture that allowed me nonthreatening access. I would say that all four ways of observing are useful in different ways, but that immersion is to a large extent the best way. So, I would like the opportunity to observe my own class for a couple of hours this semester. I can probably arrange to video-record the session or sessions through a web-cam, but I would also like to do some analysis on the discussion boards that I have up on blackboard. I think that most of the teaching I am doing is being done through their writing, and my responses to that writing anyways, and I have a complete record of all of those interactions and of all emails relating to the class.

Personally, I try to conduct as much of the work of the class as I can on the blackboard because I think that we are in the business of teaching them to think and interact in text, and it makes sense to conduct the teaching of the process in the medium of the process as much as possible. Now, some students do not like that…Whoops, too bad.

In fact, this semester, in approximately the past eight days, I have about two-hundred and fifty entries in four forums on my blackboard, now, admittedly, many are short, and many are from me, but it still represents an enormous amount of reading, acting, and responding by twenty some 18-21yr olds. Not only that, but they are (mostly) stepping up to some very high expectations, and actually thinking outside the box, and engaging at cognition at what seems to be a very high level.

Maybe that is just because my previous classes have been developmental, or maybe because it’s an eight am class and only motivated students want to be there at eight in the morning, or because I had so many on the waitlist to start I did not hesitate to scare away the ones who didn’t want to work, or maybe I just got lucky, but in any case I am enjoying it and engaging in participant observation of necessity because of the way I am working the class, so I’d like to kill a couple of observation hours with this giant rock I’ve got here if I could.

I am also pretty certain that I can observe Josh Kerr’s class here on campus at least a few times, and I think he is also teaching a philosophy class at MJC, so hopefully I can watch that one a few times also, and I’ve got inquiries out with a couple other friends and acquaintances, so that part of the plan is on track, and I find myself looking forward to it. I have not done this sort of research much in the past few years, and I miss it.

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