19 SES 06, Ethnographies of Educational Policies and Social Change
The theoretical frame in this paper takes as reference the sense of the ethnographic research in the society from a critical perspective that considers the transformation in researched scenarios.
From a critical perspective, ethnographic research highlights each real situation is historically constructed and recognizes the need of changing the structures imposed on subordinated groups and the possibility to contribute to a process of transformation in researched scenarios. The interaction between researchers and researched groups, and the feedback of the research is meant to contribute to generate possibilities of change in the policies and practices of schools researched. In essence it is the development (and ideally even the realisation) of a potential for transformational change that forms the main foundation of validity. Lather (1986) refers to this as catalytic validity. It has formed an interest in our research for several decades (e.g. Beach, 1995).
The concept of catalytic validity relates to the concept of conscientisation from Paulo Freire, which was a means of helping subordinated groups to recognize their potential for critical analysis through their literate competencies in the languages of life, of work, of suffering and of struggle (Boal, 1998). It was a concept to help the citizenry to discover their critical potential and to realise their abilities for self-determination and rational control. It was importantly also part of a process within which both teacher and pupil learn. However, it is also broadly recognised that conscientisation and the potential for change are quite difficult to both identify and attain and it is this recognition that forms the starting point for the present paper, which focuses on the interaction between researchers and researched groups and how this can possibly contribute to generate possibilities of change in investigated situations. As far as we know there are so far few studies that refer the changes in policies and practices of researched scenarios in this way to describe and show what happens in researched scenarios, how and how this may contribute or not to the realisation of catalytic validity .
The research questions in the paper have been developed from the above broadly described intentions. They are centred on the analysis of the effects of research from an ideological and committed perspective in a research project on the participation of families in schools. They ask what changes were promoted by the ethnographical research in different research scenarios and in particular and specifically what are the different aspects that seem to promote the possibilities of deep (or transformational) change and which don’t. We focus here in particular on the developments in one school located in a deprived context. Intended kinds of change developed in this school. In the paper we will describe how the change is different to that in other schools and what might have led to these different kinds of development.
Beach, D. (1995). Making sense of the problems of change: An ethnographic study of a teacher education reform (Göteborg Studies in Educational Research 100). Göteborg, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis Boal, A. (1998) Legislative Theatre. Using performance to make politics. London: Routledge. Lather, A. (1986). Research as praxis. Harvard Educational Review 56 (3), 257-277. Marcus, G.E. (1995). Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology 24, 95-117
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