19 SES 03 A, SPACE: Ethnographic doings and researchers' positionality
In popular discourse the terms space and place are often used interchangeably and sometimes metaphorically to define physical locations and social relations, structured by and structuring social practice (Giddens, 1984; Lefebvre, 1991; Meyrowitz, 1985; Massey, 2004). As Tuan (1979) notes both terms ‘are familiar words denoting common experiences’ yet when we seek to understand how these terms are used in research ‘they may assume unexpected meanings and raise questions we had not thought to ask’ (1979, 3). In the social sciences both terms are used as organizing concepts (Valentine, 2001) and are often defined by discipline and theoretical perspective (Agnew, 2011). While there are many texts devoted to defining both terms (cf. Cresswell 2015; Hubbard and Kitchin, 2011), in this paper, as in much educational research, space is never simply a metaphor ‘rather it is a conceptualisation of the co-construction of the social-cultural and the material in everyday life’ (Thomson et al. 2010).
Following a research-informed pedagogical enquiry with beginner teachers; post-graduate students training to be English teachers (White & Murray, 2016), this paper reports on an ethnographic research project which develops the work of social geographers to consider spatiality as a way of understanding and being in the world using space and place to investigate the complex intersectionality between teacher education and schooling, educational achievement, poverty, physical and social geography (or ‘spaces’) and ethnographic practice. In considering the spatial, temporal, material and social practices of teacher education and of ethnographic practice I draw on the spatial theories of Lefebvre (1974, 1991) and Soja (1989, 2010) and of social geographers writing about space and place from sometimes contradictory and often intersecting positions. In this research space is socially constructed as well as material (metaphoric and discursive) and embodied and thinking spatiality is a way to understand and experience teacher education; of being, researching, writing and retelling knowledge production.
The research was conducted through ethnographic fieldwork in a number of educational settings in an English city. Although the names of participants and places discussed in the paper are pseudonyms, the setting for much the research is a university-based post-graduate teacher education programme in one inner city, which with 30% child poverty levels ranks highly in the city against indicators of deprivation and the thirteenth in the UK overall. This project involves participant observation (DeWalt and DeWalt 2002) inside school and university settings, reflections on workshops and teaching sessions and semi-structured interviews, field interviews and visual materials (video and photographic images) produced by beginner teachers with ethnographic observations and reflections recorded in research diaries (Burgess 1981). In this project I use mobile methods (Kusenbach, 2012) and participatory mapping (Emmel, 2008) - to engage beginner teachers in discussions about space both to harness their individual knowledge about geographic space, and to concurrently empower them as research participants by inviting them to take an active stake in the representation and explication of the spatial environment. Participatory mapping is used to explore and represent beginner teachers personal geographies of knowledge, comfort and fear (defined as the spaces where they feel most comfortable or, respectively, most apprehensive) and to develop innovative visual and spatial pedagogies for investigating how pre-service student-teachers articulate their views about the effects of poverty on educational attainment.
Reflecting the conference theme of inclusion and exclusion, this paper is concerned with how pre-service students conceptualise and experience poverty and disadvantage when teaching in schools in socio-economically deprived areas and how spatial pedagogies might be developed as a model of teacher education. The findings of this study indicate how space both structures and is structured by the social practices of teacher education, and how it affects the possibilities for the construction of student teachers’ identities and the social and psychic boundaries of their ‘self’ as they come to terms with working in schools in deprived areas with pupils living in poverty. At a time when one in four people in the EU experience poverty or social exclusion (Eurostat online data code (t2020_50) this research offers one approach to spatializing ethnography and developing teacher education practices. There is of course, a complex relationship between our identities and ethnographic locations. Indeed, it is almost impossible to conceive of a meaningful space without considering our embodied self and the ethnographic practices that connect our professional identities to our bodies. For many ethnographers an understanding of and an engagement with the location of study is used to establish the authenticity of the project and the authority of the researcher (Coleman and Collins, 2006). Like Pink (2009) who draws on the work of Massey (2005) and Ingold (2008), I am using spatiality as a framework for thinking about the ethnographic research process and ‘the situatedness of the ethnographer, as a multi sensory concern.’ (Pink, 2009, 29). In this paper, I will explore the relationship between the production of space, practices of place, and embodied identity in teacher education and in ethnographic practice.
Burgess, R. G. (1981) Keeping a Research Diary. Cambridge Journal of Education 11 (1): 75–83. DeWalt, K. M., and B. R. DeWalt (2002) Participant Observation: A Guide for Fieldworkers. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press Lefebvre, H. (1991) The production of space. Oxford, OX, UK: Blackwell Massey, D. (2004) Foreword, Forum, 46(1), 1 Massey, D. (2007) World City. Polity, Cambridge Pink, S. (2009) Doing Sensory Ethnography, Sage, London. Soja, E.W., (2010) Seeking Spatial Justice, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press Tuan (1979) Tuan, Y-F. (1977) Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Mineapolis: University of Minnesota Press. White, M., & Murray, J. (2016) Seeing disadvantage in schools: exploring student teachers’ perceptions of poverty and disadvantage using visual pedagogy, Journal of Education for Teaching, 42:4, 500-515, DOI: 10.1080/02607476.2016.1215543
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