19 SES 01, Doing Ethnography, Interactions and Reflexivity
This paper draws on a three year long single-site ethnographic study carried out in a multilingual setting, in which nine children were followed in and out of school 2010-2012 (Schmidt, 2013). The participating children were nine, ten and eleven years old during the study, and the project was part of my PhD. In this paper I revisit the same study with the aim to reflect on methodological and ethical aspects in relation to aspects of self-reflexivity and representation
The central foci of the study were the nine participant children’s experiences of texts, how they used texts and in what contexts, and what this use means for their learning of literacy as well as of their identity making trough texts. Apart from the ethnographic approach of the study, the theoretical perspectives drew on New Literacy Studies (e.g. Heath, 1983) and Critical Literacy (e.g. Janks, 2010; Luke & Freebody, 1997). The fieldwork included participant observations, group and individual interviews, surveys and photographs. During the course of grade four and five, four home visits of each one of the nine children were made, including semi-structured individual interviews. School visits were carried out on a more regular basis. In total, three surveys were carried out among the nine children and their peers considering various aspects of text use.
The ethnographic fieldwork can be described as an inductive knowledge trajectory for me as a researcher (see Blommaert & Dong, 2010, p.12-13), where I listened to the nine children’s demonstrations of how to use, for example, various online texts as well as their thoughts about books that they read, in and out of school. Through this, and by talking to them about their text use, ethnographies were created in closely followed situations over time, where the participants respectively talk were interpreted and translated into transcriptions, field notes and photos. I agree with Network 19 (2016) that ethnography as a methodology can reveal “a durable and interesting capacity to represent knowledge and to mediate the knowledge produced by different intersubjectivities”. At the same time, ethnography can be challenging and sometimes very difficult to conduct. There is, for example, an obvious risk of loosing sight, and stringency, because of all impressions, relations, and the often overwhelmingly amount of created empirics. In my own study the results were presented in three parts:
- A descriptive review of the local contexts, inside and outside school
- Nine narratives from the participant children
- A concluding analysis
In the concluding analysis, the local results served as a background. The local context was related to macro perspectives of institutional and national aspects, and then back to the nine children’s perspectives. The four resources model (Luke & Freebody, 1997) was used as an analytical tool to make the repertoires at hand and their registers visible, and to address how they were orchestrated. The borders that emerged were then analysed with the purpose to highlight conditions and possibilities for children’s meaning- and identity making through texts.
In order to reflect methodologically and ethically on this study I will make use of the concepts of self-reflexivity and representation, which I will relate to sequences from both the descriptive and concluding results. I ask the following tentative questions to spark of a retrospective analysis:
- What patterns in the results emerge in relation to self-reflexivity and representation?
- What does it mean to capture various perspectives and voices among young children, how can it be done and what do I today believe that I could have done differently and why?
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