Thursday, May 28, 2009

Topic: Ethnography As a Writing Assignment

10-second review: Students pick a “culture,” ask a question about behavior typical of that culture and try to answer the question.

Title: “Teaching Ethnography: Reading the Word and Developing Student Agency.” J Arias. English Journal (July 2008), 92-97. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: Technically, the author’s use of the term ethnography (see definitions of ethnography on the Internet) is not the same as engaged in by research ethnographers. The “culture” the students choose is a familiar one—high school dances, sports events, dating rituals, etc. One student studied two classes, one taught by a male teacher, the other by a female teacher, to see if girls participated more in one class or the other. Another compared her experiences in two different churches. The key, after selecting a “culture,” is the question they want to answer.

Comment: A challenging assignment for the teacher to prepare and for the students to carry out. It is an assignment, however, in which the writing is authentic. Real writing for real purposes. The students should at least look at the format for published ethnographies to see how to organize their report of the study. RayS.

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