Ethnographic practitioner research

Cooper, Victoria and Ellis, Carole (2011). Ethnographic practitioner research. In: Callan, Sue and Reed, Michael eds. Work-based Research in the Early Years: Positioning Yourself as a Researcher. London: Sage, pp. 47–61.


Ethnographic research has become a method of choice for many practitioner researchers and has attained increased status in response to a series of initiatives which have targeted it as a vehicle to enhance professional practice (the Common Core of Skills and Knowledge: CWDC, 2010; the Early Years Foundation Stage: DCSF, 2008a). Ethnographic researchers have been strident in their reflective accounts of the benefits of using both ethnographic instruments and critical reflection as a means to capture rich educational experience (Clark and Moss, 2001; Tricoglus, 2001). Few accounts of practitioner experiences of designing and conducting research have surfaced. Who better to describe the coal-face experience of doing ethnographic practitioner research than the practitioners themselves? This chapter attempts to address this issue and utilises the recent student experience of a family support worker, Carole, who completed a small-scale ethnographic study as part of her Foundation Degree in Early Years, to illustrate the key features of this approach.

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