By Peter Woods
Ethnography has a lot to provide lecturers, in particular at a time of turning out to be curiosity within the `teacher-reseacher' and in `action' and `collaborative' examine.
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And if you walked around the school, you could see kids eating crisps and sitting around, you know. But that’s, that’s right at the far end of what we’re talking about. Mr Stones: A long way (muttered) (Concurring laughter) Miss Home: A very long way (More laughter) ’Cos I can see the kids that once they get bored sitting around and eating crisps and reading comics, will just go out of the school and find something more…more exciting. (A. 310) However, these aids can be costly, intrusive, and time-absorbing (I discuss the problem of transcribing tapes in the following chapter), and in most studies, the person of the researcher will still be the main piece of equipment.
King (1984) actually managed to make himself invisible by observing an infant class from the Wendy House. 27) is to ‘lurk and watch’. The main requirements for observation, unsurprisingly, are a sharp eye, a keen ear and a sound memory. Film, photographs and tape recordings are sometimes used to assist the latter, and are indispensable in some projects (see Walker and Adelman, 1972). One use of film has been demonstrated by Silvers (1977). He was seeking a way of ‘gaining access to the child’s understanding OBSERVATION 41 and organizational practices of the school’, so he adopted a procedure of video recording and playback.
The importance of making up notes in full the same evening will be seen, for the next day’s events will soon be crowding in on those memories, promoting confusion and possible loss of important data. In the peace and quiet in front of the evening fireside (this situation is important—it should be favourable to recall and reflection, making no new demands on one’s sensitivities), one can fill out the detail around the indicators. This is still not easy, for accuracy is essential and much concentration required.