Ethnographic Methods in Education and Sociology: School Life from an Intercultural Perspective
July 8, 1998
Ethnographic methods have their roots in anthropology and, in the 1920s and 1930s, sociologists of the Chicago School applied these methods in community studies. They combined field work, which previously had consisted mainly of observation, with other research methods, creating, for example, new data through interviews. Such methods are often used in comparative studies and, for the present at least, we can observe a strong trend towards ethnographic methods in Japanese educational sociology as well. The DIJ has employed this new trend in order to discuss methodological approaches, and the possibilities availed to ethnography in comparative education. Susanne Kreitz-Sandberg (DIJ), introduced the topic of the workshop on ethnographic methods in social science research, focusing on German and Japanese educational sociology. David H. Slater (Sophia University/University of Chicago), discussed the questions of how models that focus on special characteristics of Japanese society and sociological concepts can be combined, and if ethnographic studies can contribute to a macro-level analysis of society. His evaluations were based on his own ethnographic studies in public senior high schools in Tōkyō. Miyazaki Ayumi (Harvard University), presented findings from one of her research projects on gender subculture in a senior girls’ high school. Yamada Yōko (University of Tsukuba), reported her observations as a participant in comprehensive schools in Berlin, on the role of social workers in the social integration of foreign students. The workshop shed light on the multitude of the possibilities available with ethnographic methods, even though the round table discussion was a forum which focused primarily on the difficulties of such qualitative research designs. Two of the talks were presented in English, and two in Japanese. Handouts in both languages enabled the workshop participants to easily follow and participate in the discussion in the language of their choice.