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Wolff-Michael Roth

Much research on different aspects of learning in formal and informal educational settings takes a fly-on-the-wall perspective, observing the participants of interest; other research ([participatory] action research) is conducted by researchers who are embedded in the field. In both types of approaches, the lenses that the researchers bring to their work govern the research of knowing and learning. A reflexive way of studying learning exists in apprenticeship as research method, where the researcher learns what it means to know while working as an apprentice. The method is reflexive because the research focuses on issues that the researcher, during apprenticeship, undergoes and carries out. This chapter focuses on a particular combination of methods that has been shown to be very productive for studying education in a variety of non-school contexts including environmental activism, informal educational settings, scientific research in laboratories and field settings, workplaces (dentistry practices, fish hatcheries, electrical construction work), and community politics. Whereas these settings and activities are non-formal ‘educational’ institutions, they are formal, societally motivated activities in the cultural-historical activity theoretic sense nevertheless. In all of these settings, my graduate students and I use ‘apprenticeship as method’ in addition to formal ethnographic and historical methods. Drawing on the two forms of ethnographic work has allowed us to engage in a reflexive method for researching ‘education in “non-formal” settings’.