Proximal Ethnography: ‘Inside-Out-Inside’ Research and the Impact of Shared Metaphors of Learning

Published: 
Dec. 01, 2013

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Volume 19, Issue 6, 2013, Pages 595-609.


This article investigates the way Higher Education (HE) students use metaphors to make tangible the lived and living experience of learning. It provides a contemporary development of the ethnographic paradigm by offering a new model termed ‘proximal ethnography’ to capture the sense of inside-out-inside research, of being what one has studied. In this innovative model, the researcher shares the same experiences as the observed but does so outside their specific domain.

Semi-structured interviews were held with eight trainee educational professionals at intervals during their two-year courses, and an online survey was sent to students on the same courses in regional Further Education colleges.

The findings reveal that students possessed a hierarchy of motivating drivers; some of these remained stable while others fluctuated. Students' acceptance of this instability helped them succeed on their course. The results also show that some students used metaphor to associate their trainee identities with previous successful professional characteristics to help them cope with the demands of HE study.

Updated: Sep. 10, 2017
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