Journey to Ethnographic Research

Sep. 29, 2016

Leah Shagrir, Ph.D., is the head of the School for Continuing Education and Professional Development at Levinsky College of Education, Tel Aviv, Israel.

The book Journey to Ethnographic Research extends an invitation to readers to participate in a researcher's journey to carry out an ethnographic research in the U.S.A, on behalf of the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program.

The first part of the book deals with the nature of ethnographic research and the research tools it employs. The second part presents the voices that emerged from the various roles of the researcher from a multidimensional perspective that facilitates the presentation of the whole, at the same time foregrounding experiences, values, world-views, rules and regulations, culture and way of life, interpersonal relations, and so on. This chapter in the book consists of four parts. In each part, the events and findings are presented from different points of view, derived from the perspective of each one of the researcher's roles during the research period. The various stops along the way enabled to investigate the research area from a variety of viewpoints, to fulfill diverse roles, and to present the research findings in a range of voices: the voice of the teacher educator, the voice of the faculty member, the voice of the researcher, and the voice of the student. These viewpoints allowed to move naturally between the data that were gathered and the research information that was furnished by the researcher. Using the voice of one of the roles to present the issue allows its examination each time from a unique perspective and to get a broad and deep picture of the research population, process and results. Such multi-dimensional sight enables the presentation of a whole, emphasizing experiences, perceptions, values, world views, rules and regulations, culture and life style, interpersonal and intrapersonal relations and more.

The first voice is that of a teacher educator. With two decades experience as a teacher educator, the first aim of the research was to learn about the world of teacher education in the host country. The research was an opportunity to examine the way in which another teacher education system operates and to get in-depth knowledge of the working approaches of the professionals who lead it - teacher educators.

The next voice is that of the ethnographic researcher. Planning the research and constructing its aims and questions were carried out before entering the research field. The amount of time spent in the field, four and a half months, and the infrastructures that were available to the researcher allowed for carrying out ethnographic research according to the accepted rules of this genre, using a variety of research tools.

The third voice is that of higher education faculty. The research population included colleagues from the faculty of a College of Education. With much experience of and a researcher into the professional work of teacher educators, the researcher chose to base her work on the professional development of American participants, who are colleagues in the same profession in higher education.

The next voice is that of a student. The researcher's participation in courses as an active student enabled her to examine the work of teacher educators from students' points of view. Situations arose that allowed her to get to know the students, closely and informally, and to learn how they perceived the work of the lecturers, what they thought of them, and how formal and informal relationships between faculty members and students are expressed.

Ethnographic research methodology is used for in-depth analysis of empowering personal experiences, in which growth, personal and professional development exist, in order to enrich the world of knowledge and professional development doctrine of higher education faculty members, whilst adhering to their roles as teacher educators. The amounts of time spent in this research field allowed ethnographic research to be conducted out and to define the proceedings of the research whilst it was being carried out. Narratives written by the researcher and analysing narratives written by the participants created a wealth of data and findings, themes, key lines of enquiry and ideas that resulted in general and generic conclusions being reached. The fact that a veteran faculty member conducted research in a foreign institution that shared her own specialization posed many fascinating challenges and accentuated the differences between world-views, operating modes, and ways of working. The uniqueness and the power of the undertaking sparked the desire to generalize personal experiences to rich generic knowledge that may well benefit researchers, wherever they may be, and to derive broad insights from the particular experience.

Journey to Ethnographic Research is published by Springer (Springer Briefs in Education series)

Updated: Oct. 10, 2016