The Intricacies of Classroom-Based Ethnography
Classrooms are complex environments. Ethnography can help researchers understand these complexities as they gather information by watching and talking with people, reading available reports and records and mapping out the environment. This case adds to existing literature on ethnography as we share our own experiences of what we refer to as classroom-based ethnography. Ethnography is sometimes overlooked in educational research due to its time-intensive nature and the general ‘messiness’ involved in collecting and making sense of data. However, when ethnography is applied to classroom-based settings, researchers are able to interrogate and explicate the complex material and immaterial processes that occur for educators and children. Methodological questions might include the following: How might you pose your research questions? How might the cyclic nature of ethnography ‘work’ in classrooms? How can you collect the most appropriate data? How do you analyse these data forms? How do you report back to the field? Without offering definitive answers, this case begins to offer some clarity by describing how we have responded to these questions in our own work: what we did, the difficulties we encountered and insights generated from these types of data and analysis. This case provides an account of how we three have planned, managed and analysed ethnographic data in classroom-based settings.