Ethnographic portrait: A case study of a community taking into account the range of experiences services sites and opportunities available to learners. A description of
pre-colonial history of the community, alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) community groups today and sites of Aboriginal history in the local community is an essential requirement of the task.
Task 2 Outline
…ethnography takes the reader into an actual world to reveal the cultural knowledge working in a particular place and time as it is lived through the subjectivities of its inhabitants. (Britzman 2003 p234)
…it is not the ethnographer’s work to bestow or to disavow the verisimilitudes of others. Instead, the problem is to theorize the modes of intelligibility that constitute subjects. The problem is not one where the ethnographer authenticates a particular truth. Rather, the ethnographer traces, but not without argument, the circulation of competing regimes of truth. (my emphasis, Britzman 2003 p251)
This task will involve sketching a portrait of a community. In the first task students were encouraged to look into their personal experience as a means of exploring beliefs, values, assumptions and identities in teaching and learning.
This second task takes your gaze out into the community as a means of exploring how these same issues are represented, experienced, consumed and regulated (see Hall 1997) in the broader society. Only using public domain materials (McCulloch 2004) such as websites, pamphlets, signs, advertising and ‘unobtrusive’ (Kellehear 1993) observational techniques such as field notes, students are to present a learning/teaching portrait of a particular community. Students will explore a geographical location for their case. The ethnographic portrait will illustrate and take the reader into the world of the ‘inhabitants’ of the chosen community. As Britzman points out above, the role of an ethnographer is not to tell or claim to know the ‘truth’ of the community’s experience. Rather, the ethnographer presents a textured portrayal of ‘the way things are done’ or experienced in that community offering possible interpretations of how they make meaning of certain aspects of their lives. In this particular case study students will concentrate on describing, analyzing and presenting evidence as to how learning, learners, education or schooling lives within this community.
Task 2 Assessment Criteria (equally weighted)
The submitted task clearly and concisely details and delineates a specific community including the significance, or justification, for selecting the particular ‘case’.
The submitted task critically analyses and makes meaning of the presented portrayal of the selected community.
The ethnographic portrait is supported by in-depth discussion drawing upon a broad range of public domain evidence.
The task communicates effectively to the reader.
The ethnographic portrait is generative rather than reductionist in nature.
The submitted task is free from spelling, grammatical and typographical errors. It meets the required length and complies with Australian academic rules and conventions. It is referenced (as necessary) through the consistent and accurate use of Harvard referencing convention.
Assessment Task 2: Additional Guidance
Schools are microcosms of community and are embedded in communities. As teachers, we will understand our learners better when we understand where they come from and what they bring to the classroom in terms of their own culture, history and experience.
Your task is to enter into a community and to learn about the people who live, learn and work there in order to answer the questions:
How does this community see itself? How is the community identity constructed, served and represented?
How might I understand learners in this community better from having created this ethnographic portrait?
Ethnographic Portrait – Ethnography “involves in-depth study of a particular group or setting over an extended period of time’ … [and] ‘requires the researcher to immerse herself within the site of study and attempt to experience it from the perspective of an inhabitant” (Curtis, Murphy & Shields 2013, p. 84). In this assignment, the purpose of adopting an approach underpinned by ethnographic principles is to develop an understanding of the complexities in how meanings are produced within particular contexts and how this may be experienced or understood by its inhabitants/learners (Gaztambide-Fernández et. al 2011, p.4). This assignment is framed as an ‘ethnographic portrait’ as it is essentially a sketch, a snapshot, perhaps even a moment in time.
Beliefs, values, assumptions, identities – there is a lot to consider and what you ‘notice’ during your explorations will be influenced and framed by your own beliefs, values, assumptions and identities. How can you design your research so that you can break through these frames and consider alternative perspectives thus avoiding reductionist analyses of the community?
Use Public Domain Materials – Following on from the Assignment 2 Task Outline, using public domain materials means NO FORMAL INTERVIEWS or SURVEYS with the public. You may interview each other. You can generate your own field notes through journaling your experience, recording soundscapes or taking photographs but this must be done in an unobtrusive way that does not breach Research Ethics. If you are unsure what this means (after reading the literature, talking with tutors, etc) then use ONLY Public Domain Materials.
Choosing a location – You will plan and negotiate your own community based experiences (fieldwork) preferably in a community which is not familiar to you. As a starting point, you should select a community that you can access easily and regularly (but one that is not particularly familiar to you). So step outside your comfort zone and try a location that you know very little about, that challenges your preconceptions, or you only know through negative media, or one that makes you feel unsettled. These are the sites that may offer you the best potential for personal and professional growth. Although you might mention schools in your assignment, you are NOT to contact schools or early learning centres for this assignment.
You cannot tell us everything about this community – 3000 words is not a lot. So you may need to find a focus that helps you to answer the broad questions presented on the previous page. You do not have to focus on a particular group of learners in the community – you might focus on the community more broadly (in a geographic sense eg: a particular suburb) and the diverse range of learners within this community, and I suggest that this is the best starting point, even if you do decide to become more specific with your focus.
Whatever approach you take to this assignment, you need to start with the community – it is no use deciding to study, for example, Sudanese learners if you do not know if any Sudanese learners live in the community at all or if there is very little publically accessible information about Sudanese learners (ie: information that you can collect in ‘unobtrusive’ ways). This is not to say that this group of learners is not worthy of consideration, but that the premature selection of such a specific group as a focus may make your task of developing your response to the assignment much more difficult/untenable (although the lack of information about particular groups of learners might be an important point to highlight as part of your final response). If you are going to refine your focus, it is likely that identification of this focus will come after your initial explorations.
What counts as ‘fieldwork’?
This assignment requires you to spend five days exploring a community. There are a variety of ways of exploring a community and you do not necessarily need to take five days leave from your work, university study or personal lives in order to do this. Essentially, your exploration of your community should be the equivalent of five days of focussed, substantive work. It is completely up to you how this is done but you need account for your time. For example, devoting evenings or weekends to collecting publically accessible documents might account for half a day of work or spending time doing web-research on the community might account for one day, visiting a community might account for two days and so on. A combination of approaches would be ideal.
We also strongly encourage and recommend that you print out and complete the ‘Ethnographic Portrait Passport’ (see the additional resources in the EEE751 Assignment 2 Resources folder on the EEE751 CloudDeakin site) and keep this document up to date during your visits to the community. This Passport will provide an additional way to communicate the legitimacy of your visit to the service and can also act as a personal record and reminder of your visits. (nb: this Passport prints out best if you opt for double-sided printing).
Including a copy of your Passport with your assignment is also encouraged although you do not necessarily need to refer to your Passport in your first assignment beyond identifying the Passport as an Appendix. In sum, your response to the assignment task should include reference to a variety of rich data that you have collected, in addition to relevant academic literature that aids an understanding of this data. The following tasks may act as useful starting points for your data collection and may be counted as contributing to your ‘fieldwork’.