Problematising short-term participant observation and multi-method ethnographic studies
Ethnography & Education, 6, (2), . (doi:10.1080/17457823.2011.587361).
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This article reports on a study of apprentices in England and Germany designed to explore young people’s learner identities over time and in relation to particular
learning environments. The research adopts a multi-method ethnographic approach, combining biographical interviews with multi-site participant observation. The article problematises the notion of participant observation and the
possibility of obtaining meaningful data in short-term observations as part of a broader research design. It highlights the importance of the researcher role and the opportunities different roles entail for developing shared understanding and co-constructing meaning. It concludes that the observations yield important findings about the construction of identity in different sites and thus complement the interview data in enabling the researcher to reconstruct the apprentices’ learner biographies.
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