The Importance of Saying ‘Yes’ in Ethnographic Research

To prepare for ethnographic research, doctoral candidates learn a diverse set of skills. From observational techniques to critical discourse analysis, we study the best methodologies to engage in fieldwork studies and document the experience. I’ve taken many classes and read countless guides on best quantitative and qualitative practices, many of which I employ on a daily basis here in China, where I am conducting ethnographic research for ten months. Although I have studied, lived, and worked in China in the past, this is my first time in this country in a new role: researcher. I’m now learning to navigate the fine lines between asking questions vs. interrogating, observing vs. staring, and not being nosy despite trying to be invited to everything. Appropriately conducting oneself as a researcher takes a significant amount of cultural knowledge, aplomb, and to be honest, trial and error. Of all the skills I have studied, practiced, and employed, there is one skill that has provided far more opportunities and data than any of the prescribed methodological practices: always saying ‘yes.’

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Being LGBTQ+ in Schools Today: a Researcher’s Brief Reflections

In this blog post, Charlotte describes how her own experiences during school have influenced her decision to study the secondary school experiences of LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other sexual and gender identity minorities) young people and the processes that enable resilience in response to challenges. She presents some of her initial findings and emphasises that despite recent improvements in the school environment for LGBTQ+ students, we cannot become complacent as there is still a long way to go.

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The #FERSAResearch Challenge: five words or one image

On Nov. 4, 2019 the FERSA blog editors asked our followers on Twitter to participate in the #FERSAResearch Challenge: to explain their research in five keywords or one image. What we’ve learned since issuing that challenge is that, not only does our faculty have a very wide range of fascinating topics being explored under the broader umbrella of “education research,” but also, common interests and connections can be found in unexpected places. Take a look at a small curation of some of our participants’ self-descriptions – and maybe give them a follow if you want to learn more:

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My #PhDShelfie: Lindsay Burton

As the intellectual cousin of the word selfie, a shelfie is a photograph of someone’s bookshelf. In July 2017, FERSA started a #PhDshelfie initiative on social media, encouraging PhD students to share photos of, and reflections about, important books on their bookshelf. In this blog post, Lindsay Burton shares her take on a shelfie that fails to be on a shelf but succeeds in reflecting the chaotic nature of her research topic and approach to study.

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Corpus Linguistics: More than Meets the Eye

As a PhD student, one of the first questions I get asked is “what is your research on?”. When I respond with “corpus linguistics,” many people either raise their eyebrows or proceed to ask me what that is. The brief explanation of this is: A corpus is a collection of written or spoken texts that offer systematic insight into how a language is used in the population that the corpus represents. However, it goes without saying that corpus linguistics encompasses much more than scrutinizing the use of certain words and/or expressions. It is a powerful tool that can offer new insight into both language teaching and learning. It is also a tool that has made a tremendous impact not only in the field of linguistics, but also in various areas of education and material development.

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“Professor I want to know…”: Reflections on working with a local supervisor for conducting fieldwork in Rwanda

My local supervisor was no longer just a part of the ethical or formal procedures. In cross-cultural research, many have shared stories including dilemmas in valuing diverse knowledge systems, respecting different concepts on punctuality, locating “private” space in a communal culture, and ensuring voluntariness in participation. The contextualized advice given by a local expert was thus pacifying. It was invaluable in revealing the cultural norms, which were often misinterpreted by outsiders socialized in western research conventions.

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REAL at UKFIET

Conference delegates trickled in at first but the venue was soon filled. The presentations began. I was excited but soon found myself feeling unexpectedly down and nervous. It was difficult to avoid envisioning some of the disadvantages discussed as being my own burden by extension: a strange sense of empathy and narcissism at once. The discussion of inclusive systems sounded like discussions about a distant extended family member, in another part of my Global home South. The presentations felt heavy, and I wondered where people gained the strength to shoulder them: Does the research subject not feel personal to them? Are they all incredibly strong? I felt weak and guilty: conscious of myself as a black person from the Global South, a lucky one, in a privileged space, reflecting on the stories of distant family who may never see those Oxford walls adorned with images of stolen ‘fantasy’.

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The Mature Student’s Guide to Surviving a Masters When You Wrote Your Last Academic Essay Last Century

I am a primary school teacher, with four teenagers and a husband who is absent in the week. When my first child left for university, I realised that this was going to be the pattern for the next six years and I needed to have a ‘post-children’ plan that would be fulfilling, useful and a little more flexible than a classroom teacher could be. Applying to do a Masters the year when two children had major state exams was perhaps not the most considered decision but after reading about the course structure, I was positive. I imagined us all working quietly then preparing lunches together whilst discussing our various academic endeavours. This was not the case. I was still mother, taxi, counsellor, chef, laundrette attendant, domestic detective, and pet monitor, on top of returning to study after several decades of absence.

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On Judgement

Our society seems to love judgement, and judging, if all the “Britain’s Got Talent” and “X Factor” television shows are anything to go by. Sadly, our education system follows that pattern too. Schools, teachers, students – we’re all forever being judged. Throughout the education system there is a lot of finger pointing and labelling, of standards met or unmet and targets to be reached. There are a lot of “shoulds” and “musts”. Ofsted argues it helps teachers improve their practice, but I have yet to see evidence that judgement ever helps. Judgement stops creativity and risk taking. But most of all, judgement hurts.

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The Trouble with Boys

It became obvious that the usual barrage of punishments commonly administered in schools such as detentions, report cards and internal exclusion (being placed in isolation) were not making even a fraction of a difference. When three of the boys sobbed with frustration at being internally excluded yet again, I began to question the “one size fits all” methods of dealing with challenging behaviour in schools. I worried about their futures as statistics show that boys who are excluded from school are at much greater risk of offending, many ending up in prison; their life chances becoming dire. Apart from the anxiety and unhappiness of these students, what of the stress their teachers and peers experience because of their behaviour? What about the effect on the education of other pupils as well as their own?

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