Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education
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Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education

Edited by Sara Delamont

The Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education offers both basic and advanced discussions of data collection, analysis and representation of all the best qualitative methods used in educational research.
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Chapter 4: Social Identities and Schooling: Ethnographic Studies

Sean Kelly and Richard Majerus


Sean Kelly and Richard Majerus Ever since the classic studies of comprehensive schooling in England by Hargreaves (1967), Lacey (1966), Ball (1981), Willis (1977 [1981]) and others, ethnographic research has played a crucial role in understanding how social identities impact the school experience as well as levels of educational inequality. Among the many educational disciplines as a whole, ethnographic methods have made perhaps their most indelible mark by identifying key conceptual dimensions of teaching and learning, which have been articulated as compelling ideal types that have come to define our understanding of how schools work. For example, Metz’s (1978) classic study of teacher perspectives on authority in the classroom provided us with the organizing contrast between ‘developmental’ versus ‘incorporative’ approaches to instruction. In research on the effects of students’ social identities, the peer groups themselves – the ‘Lads,’ ‘Burnouts,’ or ‘Hallway Hangers’ – have become prime examples of oppositional alignments to school. Although such memorable labels tend to obscure the heterogeneity of individuals’ alignments to school among the student population as a whole, these compelling portraits of disengagement have made a significant contribution to the educational sciences by uncovering the logic underlying the iterative social negotiations occurring between students, social groups, and schools. Using the social-psychological framework of Tajfel and Turner (1986), in this chapter we provide a review of four seminal studies of social identity and schooling. On the basis of this review we reach two important conclusions. First, ethnographic studies of social identity confirm Tajfel and Turner’s complex...

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