University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Ethnographic Chats: A ‘Best of Both’ Method for Ethnography

Selleck, Charlotte (2017) Ethnographic Chats: A ‘Best of Both’ Method for Ethnography. SKY Journal of Linguistics, 30. pp. 151-162. ISSN 1456-8438

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Conventionally, ethnographic methods aim to discover how language works as ‘situated social practice and how it is tied to social organisation’ (Heller 2011: 10). Within this, ethnography has viewed participant observation as central and essential. More recently ethnographers have moved to combine this with more structured, researcher-facilitated question-based tools such as ethnographic interviews (Spradley 1979) and focus groups. This article reports on a creative method, aiming to bring together the strengths of both these approaches to access school-age young people’s orientations to language education policies. There were three main motivations: firstly to minimise the distracting influence of the researcher’s presence; and to aid in empowering participants, encouraging them into an active role in the research process; and to avoid favorability bias in participant responses. On the latter point, to truly value the voice of participants you have to find creative ways to move beyond the ‘right answer’. This often requires pushing methodological boundaries in new or creative ways. Building on prior approaches I developed a new protocol, ‘ethnographic chats’, which I found offered the ‘best of both’: a compromise between the immersive depth of participant observation and the greater thematic focus of focus groups or ethnographic interviews. The method was characterised by specific procedural and interactional characteristics of frame and genre, which differentiate it from ethnographic interview and focus group methods in specific ways. Rich data emerged from this process, which would not otherwise have been available. I conclude by outlining the potential for ethnographic chats in other social and geographical contexts. Ethnography

Item Type: Article
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Uncontrolled Keywords: ethnography, ethnographic methods, language education, social and educational research
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
Divisions: Academic Departments > Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts
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Depositing User: Charlotte Selleck
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2017 10:41
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2018 13:29

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