A Critical Analysis of an Ethnographic Research

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A Critical Analysis of a Research Article:
Cecile Wright, 1992. Early Education: Multiracial Primary School Classrooms in Racism and education: structures and strategies

Introduction
This paper is a critical analysis of an ethnographic research paper, which examined four inner- city primary schools in London. The study was conducted in 1988-9 by Professor of Sociology Cecile Wright and considers the significant cultural and perceived racial difference in the daily learning experiences and interactions in classroom and school settings. The paper examines in particular the relationships between peer group and the teachers. The study found some of these children to be at risk of experiencing educational and social constructed disadvantages. This paper provides an overview of the background issues explored, methodology used and conclusions reached by the study. What is the problem that is addressed in the research?

Wright argues that before 1992 there was very little research that had examined the effects of school education on children from different ethnic of backgrounds. According to Wright, previous studies were not based on direct observation and rather focus on secondary school students. Wright acknowledges the existence of formal educational distinctions between groups of people along the lines of race and ethnicity. She argued however to fully understand the workings of the education system and its impact on students, it is imperative for observational studies to be done in schools. Her research consequently aimed to fill the gap in the body of existing knowledge, which only explained the different experiences as direct consequence of students’ school behavior. Wright’s study concluded that children of different ethnic backgrounds did experience school differently. By observing and exploring the fundamental processes that lead these children to have different interactions within a primary school setting, the study demonstrated these differences were the result of environmental and structural factors and that ethnicity had a significant impact on their learning experiences.

What approach is taken to address this problem?
The study used the tradition of school ethnography to examine children’s experiences in multiracial classrooms for a twelve-month period. Within the field of social studies, this strategy has been considered one of the most elemental and popular methodologies to collect qualitative research data (Hammersley - Atkinson 1995). Bouma (2000), defines the methodology as simple as observing a group of people over a period of time. This strategy is argued to be particularly useful in answering questions about learning / teaching processes and educational issues (Walford 2008). The main advantage of using this method for Wright was that it enabled her to study behaviours through participant observation in everyday contexts, as opposed to researcher’s created conditions (Hammersley 1998). The study used a multidisciplinary approach to obtain relevant data drawn from observation and informal interviews with students teachers and parents in the four selected schools and also the recording of interaction in different school settings. As claims made by the study were primarily based on qualitative information linked with the particular school context and commonly made in ethnographic research. It is assumed that for validity purposes the study also used quantitative information obtained from census information, schools composition/characteristics and attainment test scores completed by three of the four schools. The essential school selection criterion was based on two variables; a) schools having a significant proportion of children of Afro-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds attending and b) both working and middle-class representations were included in their catchment areas. Table 1 below, shows a summary of research quantitative information about school & nursery demographics....
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