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The researcher says that ''intense observations in the classroom and playground area were completedâ€¦and detailed observations were conducted inâ€¦.lessons''(p.184). what can you infer about the things she observed and the methods she used to record her observations?
Answer: The researcher is aim to investigate what constitutes student resistance to schooling. During the research process, the researcher experienced a set of challenging situations, such as how to balance the trust relationship between students and teacher. In the classroom, Russell observed herself as the role between the teachers and students and observed her presence and her disposition change the students and teachers' behaviours. Concerning her research "is focused around the students" (Russell,2005:182), in order to gain valid information from students, the researcher needs to build up trust with students both in lessons and playground. The key is to gain trust from the students is to distinguish herself from the teachers and emphasize that anything the students did and said would not get back to the teachers.
In the early stage, the researcher has used a lot of methods to get close to the students.
For example, shadowing students for a day; playing card game and eating lunch with students. In same case, the researcher has to disclose personal information to the students, as a result, breaking down the potential social barrier (Russell 2005:185-186).
In the mean time, Russell can record data in a quite variety of ways. However, before the rapport relationship is build, it's not necessary to use equipment such as Dictaphone or video camera in front of the students to record the data (students' behaviour). In the article, Russell did not mention the method that she used to record the data; I infer that both in the classroom and the playground when there was some interesting or useful incident happened, the researcher took temporary notes and reorganize the notes, once she moved to a secluded or private place, such as a cloakroom. Refer to Graham Hitchcock and David Hughes 1995(p132), note taking is in engaged in the first preliminary analysis from which ideas and lines of inquiry can develop. However, taking down notes on temporary paper may lead to wrong data collection, this is because those notes are not in full detail, when the researcher refers to the temporary notes after time, it may cause miss understanding. So perhaps, Russell may use a tape recorder secretly to record the unstructured conversation between the students and her. i.e. chatting with the girls during the lunch time.
By the time, the researcher has built a rapport relationship with the students; the researcher can use different kind of ways to collect the data. Refer to Graham Hitchcock and David Hughes 1995(p131): Amongst the major sources of data and means of collecting data in ethnography we find participant observation and non-participant observation, keeping a diary, unstructured interviewing and conversations, collecting evidence of specialized language use, collecting life histories, distributed and analysed a questionnaire, the use of still photography and video cameras.
In addition, according to the article, the research was conducted in three secondary schools. The researcher has spent no less than two months in each school. Therefore, the researcher has time to keeping a diary, refer to Graham Hitchcock and David Hughes 1995(p134):the significance of keeping a diary is allow the researcher to reflect on the research, to step back and look again at the scenes in order to generate new ideas and theoretical directions. As a result, I infer that Russell has kept a diary to consummate her research.
Question2: The author is a "young ethnographer researching teenagers"(p.193). what difference does our knowledge of her age and other personal details make to the account?
Answer: The age of Russell comes as one of the distinctive characteristics of this young ethnographer and her age does have impacts on the fieldwork. We can question that her young age can lead to inaccuracy of information collected. For instance, lacking in experience, the students may try to manipulate her and use her as excuse. As a result, a bias error could occur in her data. On the other hand, teachers who are also involved in this research may not trust the researcher owning to the first impress of her age.
Nevertheless, from what she has produced, it can be inferred that she managed to build up a considerable degree of "trust" between herself and the students, partly because she spent considerable time with them, both in group situations and on a one to one basis. In this she was helped by her appearance, personality, age, inexperienceâ€¦ which enabled her to get along with the young as well as the teachers, who did not see her as a colleague, or nuisance, or some kind of threat. Concerning her research is "focused around the students"(Russell 2005,p182), her age does make positive difference for her conducting and experiencing the fieldwork. In Russell's research report, she recognizes the influence of "her age" and novice naivety acted as benefit. Especially, when she tries to build rapport with the students, there is not age barrier between her and the students. So she can have a good understanding with the students and have various common topics to share with the students. Therefore, because of her young age, Russell establishes trust relationship between the students and her quickly and hence assures the quality of information collected from the students.
From another point of view, if the same research was conducted by an experience researcher (i.e. Mike or Mark), would they get the same data? I suggest we can interpret in two main different levels: methodological level and performance level.
Russell (2005) claims that a good research in ethnographic fieldwork results from the well-established trust relationship with researched groups. However, the establishing of relationship with researched groups in fieldwork is not on the basis of experience only, even not determined directly by experience.
Walford (1991)also argues that the research process within social science does not necessarily follow a fixed approach which contains of a pre-planned set of procedures. However, the own personal disposition (Burgess, 1984; Troman, 2000; Walford, 1991) and the role(Skeggs, 1997) of researcher influence the data collection and analysis. These arguments are based on performance level and underline the importance of fitness between researcher's personal characteristics and the research content itself. Therefore, in this particular situation, Russell as a novice fitting with the context of the research itself can be seen as an advantage.
However, an experienced researcher could add value to this research in other aspects of methodological level. Russell (2005) admits that she has encountered lack of the experience recognizable to qualitative researchers. The paper of Russell (2005) underlines the importance of establishing good relationship with researched in fieldwork but her limitations, such as planning of the research, adopting of appropriate methodology, solving problems, reflexivity and depth limitation of research, have not been discussed fully. On the other hand, an experience researcher like Dr. Mike Humphreys who can conduct the research better in these probable issues facing Russell on the basis of previous studies in variety realms and his past experience as a teacher.
Even in performance level, a novice and other specific dispositions will not always be an advantage outside the fitted background of Russell's research: targeting mainly at students. Hence, an "experience" researcher can do a research better which focuses on old communities i.e targeting at teachers. Moreover, an experienced researcher could do the same research better if he/she can establish rapport relationship with researched groups as well as her. As a result, gain valid information from the researched group.
Question3: Russell claims that her "ethnographic research investigates the complex and sometimes contradictory culture(s) of student resistance to schooling (Willis,1977)"(p.181). How is this claim supported in the paper?
Although Russell frequently referred to the behaviour of students both inside and outside the school, this paper did not clarify what resistance is and what cause the students to behave so rude.
The paper mainly deals with "trust" issues, it provides useful information on what "trust" may mean, especially between young people and adults, as among young people, how to create trusting relationships, the problems of retaining trust once established. However, there is no conclusion about what constitutes student resistance to schooling. The Russell paper is focus only on during the research process. Perhaps, the reason is because she is finding difficulty in data collection. Therefore, she had to spend most of her time to establish trust between her and the researched group in order to gain valid information.
There is little information relating to the relationship between the teachers and the students.
Some evaluation of the Paper
Gephart, in his Paper on Qualitative Research and the Academy of Management Journal, discusses the challenges and opportunities in qualitative submissions to the AMJ. He writes:
Many submissions appear to be "one off" papers that do not seem to be embedded in on -going research projects or programs. Qualitative research manuscripts that emerge from broad, ongoing research programs seem more likely to produce substantial new insights because they address multiple issues and have large corpora of data to analyse.
Against this, Russell's Paper does not deserve high marks.
A second issue to which Gephart refers is the lack of adequate reviews of important literature relevant to the topics of the paper. A surprising number of qualitative papers provide literature reviews as part of their results, finding or conclusions, and only after results and finding have been stated.
Whilst Russell provides a comprehensive list of references, there is no or hardly any evaluation of the text referred to and no comment to what extent Russell's experiences are supported by other academics.
Gephart's third point is: Qualitative submissions often fail to state explicit goals, objectives or research questions that frame the papers and guide data analysis and research outcomes. On this point, Russell gets no marks.