Teacher Education through an Ethnographic Perspective

A book that helped me (Cathy) process my observations more astutely is Ethnographic Eyes : A Teachers Guide to Classroom Observation, by Carolyn Frank.  This book describes how a teacher educator trains her student teachers to see the classrooms they visit through an ethnographic perspective.  To accomplish this, the teacher educator used the tool described below:

I used an activity called Notetaking/Notemaing to help student teachers understand the differences between their own personal perspectives and an insider, classroom perspective. Notetaking/notemaking was presented to the student teachers as an ethnographic tool to help them observe in classrooms.  The student teachers were asked to keep an observation notebook and to divide their observations into two sections: Notetaking (or descriptive fieldnotes) on one side and notemaking (interpretations of what is being observed) on the other side.  We then showed them either a photograph or a video of a classroom.  In this way, it was hoped that the student teachers would begin to reflect on how their own personal biases interfered with an objective account or differed from the classroom members’ perspective.  (p. 9)

This tool was used by this teacher educator throughout the year.  She also showed her student teachers how to use it as a means of data collection towards effective assessment.  At the close of the year, one of the student teachers stated, “[e]thnography has prepared me to think in a new way: a way that makes me think critically about everything that happens in my classroom.”

Try watching part of a classroom literacy event or a video of a class just to observe, then watch using notetaking/ notemaking.  You may be surprised by what comes up.

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About Dr. Cathy Miyata

Cathy Miyata is a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is also an acclaimed storyteller and writer. She has performed and lectured in Serbia, Japan, Malaysia, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Sweden, Mexico, the United States, Egypt, and across Canada

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