Reid, James (2014) Valuing participants as subjects and not objects in research: reflections on analysis of researcher self during an institutional ethnography in a primary school in the north of England. In: Values of Childhood and Childhood Studies, 07 - 09 May 2014, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland. (Submitted)

This presentation explores the approach to researcher reflection developed during an institutional ethnography (IE) (Smith 2005) in a primary school. The doctoral study included the opportunity of rare and privileged access to the field and required careful consideration of researcher power and responsibility. Yet, while ethnographers agree the need for researcher reflexivity there is little consensus about how this should be undertaken or explored. As a result, in many ethnographic reports, explicit analysis of the researcher’s work, social relationships, power and responsibilities is absent or limited. There are particular tensions for institutional ethnographers in seeking to avoid objectification of participants through both ‘institutional capture’ and ‘privileged irresponsibility’, that is; the imposition of researcher subjectivities in listening for and asking about texts. A significant concern in this research context is the researcher’s place and privilege in the education hierarchy.
Discussion in the presentation illustrates use of ‘The Listening Guide’ (Mauthner and Doucet 2008) as an ethical approach to researcher reflexivity to enable an explicit analysis of the researcher’s subjectivities and use of ethnographic methods. In particular, focus is on the development of an ‘I’ poem during reflective analysis to enhance understanding of privilege and power. The approach works to negate any researcher authority over the textual representations of the research participants and avoid objectifying the participants to Institutional Ethnography’s ontological stance. Comment is also made on overcoming the tensions between the sociological basis of IE and the psychological foundation of the Listening Guide in developing an approach that values participants.

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