Annual Symposium - Scholarship for Teaching and Learning (SoTL)


Ethnography as a Literacy Tool for Reading and Writing Research

Young-Kyung Min, Ph.D. (Education, CUSP)

This presentation demonstrates how ethnography can be used as a literacy tool for reading and writing research based on the CUSP 135 (Research Writing) class that I taught in the winter quarter 2011. The power of ethnography lies in cultivating an organic environment in which students naturally grow as researchers as well as writers. As students’ research processes are not confined to the Library or to the Internet, their field working process helps students to see themselves as an integral part of their researching and writing processes in a more concrete—rather than abstract—way.  By featuring the students’ multimodal E-portfolios, which are the final project of the course, this presentation shows how the students used their field sites as a “text” to develop their research techniques and strategies. The presentation illustrates how the students are asked to learn that the skills of their research writing and analysis of their field sites are “skills which transfer to their daily life, and that there is a relationship between direct experiences and secondary source knowledge by which these experiences are analyzed and reflected upon” (Heath, 1987). The presentation also shows how the students learn to write to a real audience with a real purpose—a research project which can be used as part of job search or school application document—instead of writing just to fulfill the course requirements. The presentation points out the concrete processes of the students’ engagement with literacy in relation to the social contexts of their everyday lives can cultivate the students’ critical thinking and analytical reading and writing abilities that are integral to their academic career and beyond.