In my last post, I wrote about ways of explaining what I do in such a way that teachers will see a purpose to it. The way I framed it was more or less like so: I do my work, and I involve teachers in it as much as I can, and then I try to convince teachers that what I’ve learned through my research is useful to them as well.
Reading about the alt-ac and post-ac movements, though, I’m coming to think that’s not the best way. “My research” isn’t something I’ve done — it’s whatever I’m doing now, and something I’m continually redefining as I progress with it. So why not start by talking to teachers and looking for what might be useful?
.@TheJLV I'm a linguistic ethnographer – qualitative data is what I do. How can I help?
— Daniel Ginsberg (@NemaVeze) July 29, 2013
Among teachers, some of the backlash against the testing-heavy corporate reform movement has brought an increased call for
quantitative qualitative data to be used. That is, student test scores and graduation rates are not the only kind of data that can be informative for improving education, and much of the time, it’s not even useful at all. For an individual teacher trying to improve their classroom practice, “thick” ethnographic data is likely to be more on point than “big” testing numbers. People like math education specialist Geoff Krall, for example:
During the year, pay for subs to watch classes while teachers observe other teachers facilitating inquiry lessons. And have a non-threatening observation protocol in hand.
I’ll take your “non-threatening observation protocol” and raise you “ethnographic field methods.” Let’s dump the checklist altogether. Instead, we’ll talk about ways of understanding the classroom environment on its own terms, abandoning our preconceptions, spending time with the students and teachers in a classroom until we come to understand their way of thinking. No evaluations, no agendas, just colleagues who want to understand what you’re doing so they can help you do it better.
— Daniel Ginsberg (@NemaVeze) July 24, 2013