ANTH 516 (Ethnographic Methods)
Sept - Dec 2003
Final Reports: Fall 2003
Public Education Chokes on Cup of Campbell’s Soup
(a report on media representation of educational issues)
Keeping it Together:
Challenges for Inner City Education in Vancouver
Analysis of Aboriginal Alternative Programs
Death by a
Thousand Cuts: B.C. Parent Ad-Hoc Organizations Concerned with
This handout describes the purpose, justification, objectives,
methodology and instructions for students regarding the group
project. Please be advised that this project has received
ethical approval under UBC’s ethical review process.
An amendment, to include the names of this year’s class,
is currently under submission. Given the nature of the ethical
review process the group projects must fit within the scope of
the following description.
Within the six general group projects a variety of research methods
and topics can be considered. For example: archival
research into past periods of change, interviews, participant
observation, document reviews, analysis of previously collected
survey data. One should consider widely the possible choice
of individuals for interviews.
Please note that this is an ethnographic research project and
as such is not one that is based on hypothesis testing or experimental
methods involving control groups etc. Also, recall
the discussion in class about the relationship between research
participant and research as discussed by Peter Metcalf in They
Lie, We Lie. Consider that all participants have a view
they may wish to convince you of, including your professor.
On this score it is important to recognize that as a parent activist
I bring a particular point of view to this subject matter.
I also subscribe to a left oriented political vision that prioritizes
social justice and accessible quality education for all.
As a part of this I have supported the local left-centrist municipal
organization, COPE which is currently the majority on the school
I am also very critical of the delivery of special education services
and have been for nearly a decade. The fact that both my
children have special learning needs makes this subject one that
is close to my heart. It has also made me more knowledgeable
on this subject than I might otherwise have cared to be.
As I said during a recent public event having children with learning
disabilities is something that I would not wish on any parent.
From this experience my wife has become a special education teacher
and my own research interests into education and curriculum development
have been intensified (see www.ecoknow.ca, extension/education
activities). For anthropologists the movement from personal
experience to academic research is not uncommon and has been the
foundation of many great 20th century works.
Some of the people that you will come into contact with will know
me. Some will support my political views on public education;
others will be very much opposed to both my vision and my involvement.
This is not an atypical research context to work in. Much
anthropological research, especially the more applied side of
the discipline, is involved in work that is political by its very
nature. Consider the anthropological research mentioned
in class the other day, Charred Lullabies, about the civil war
in Sri Lanka. Or, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Death Without Weeping,
or Michael Taussig’s Colonialism and the Wildman.
All of these books deal with potentially controversial and difficult
subject matters. Yet, there are ways to navigate these ‘rocky
shoals.’ As in all research situations
you will need to determine how to move beyond the ‘official
circle’ of informants, that first group of people that you
meet. In all local research situations there are hidden
and not so hidden agendas and political factionalism. Sometimes
you can navigate between these rocks, other times you are
forced to form alliances and connections. At the very least
these connections and alliances should be consistent with your
principles and values. If not, you will be doing a disservice
Students are advised to review the reports from last year (www.anso.ubc.ca/menzies/sppage.htm)
to avoid unnecessary duplication and to build upon work already
completed. It is important to note that while the
external parameters of these projects are already in place, the
specifics of how they are to be carried out are left to the discretion
of each group.
The Purpose of this research project is to provide 'real time'
research experience for enrolled students in the required graduate
methods course (ANTH 516).
Hands on experience is a critical aspect of learning about research
methodologies. Additionally the instructor understands
that it is critical that students do not simply 'play' at research,
but rather that they engage in socially meaningful research in
a way that may have a wider benefit than simply allows them to
fulfill their course requirements. Professor Menzies has
supervised student projects since first joining UBC in 1996.
First, in collaboration with Dr. Bruce G. Miller in a collaborative
field research program involving the Sto:lo First Nation (3 times)
then as the direct supervisor of student researchers in his own
research projects and their thesis research and, more recently,
as the instructor of ANTH 516.
1. to provide research experience for students enrolled in ANTH
2. to explore teachers' and parents' experiences of recent
changes to education funding and legislation
The research scope of the project is limited to interviews with
teachers, administrators, parents and other affected individuals
(i.e. journalists) living and working within the Vancouver School
District. These interviews will take place at UBC in the
Department of Anthropology, in the interviewees home, or a mutually
acceptable third location outside of school board property unless
permission to hold an interview on school property is granted.
Six research groups have been created. Each group has been
assigned a focal point for their research:
• special education
• inner city schools
• westside schools (essentially Point Grey area)
• ad hoc parent organizations
• teachers’ unions.
• media representation/coverage of public education.
Prospective research participants have already been contacted
by the course instructor (Charles Menzies). Dr. Menzies
met these individuals in his capacity as a parent who has been
actively involved in the life of his children’s schools
A short list of potential contact parents and teachers
from westside schools (those schools west of Cambie), inner city
schools, special education programs, ad hoc parent organizations
(S.O.S., Consortium 43, PACE), and media has been compiled. As
part of Dr. Menzies' normal course preparation this group of individuals
were (and are in process of being) asked in person if they would
mind being contacted by student researchers to speak about their
impressions and experiences of the changes in Vancouver
schools resulting from the recent changes to educational funding
and educational legislation. Each potential contact was/will
be advised that if they agreed they would then be contacted by
a member of one of the student research groups. At that
time they would then be presented with an informed consent form
as per UBC Ethical Review Guidelines.
During the course of ANTH 516 each student group will contact
3-5 people from the list of potential contacts. If the potential
contact agrees to be interviewed and signs the informed consent
form they will be interviewed by a member of one of the student
groups. Each interview will take between 30 and 60 minutes
The students will record notes and provide each interviewee with
the opportunity to review the notes. At the end of the interview
the student researcher will ask the interviewee if they might
suggest one or two other people who might wish to be interviewed
(this is called a 'snowball' technique and is a standard anthropological
practice). If time permits some of these people may
be contacted by the instructor to ask them if they would consider
being approached by the student researchers.
Instructions to Students and Description of Group Project
The ability to work effectively and cooperatively in team or
group settings is an important skill to develop and has applications
in both the public and private sector. Most ‘real-time’
employment situations involve some form of group work. Educational
studies have also demonstrated that students who study and work
in groups generally recall more of their course material than
they if they studied alone. The projects will be developed within
randomly assigned learning teams of 3-4 students. Though class
time will be dedicated to develop and facilitate the assigned
group projects, it is anticipated some additional work will occur
outside of the scheduled class times.
Evaluations of group projects will be based on both individual
participation and the collective outcome. The marking process
will include peer evaluations in the determination of each individual’s
grade. The emphasis is on cooperation and team work. This assignment
will provide students an opportunity of hands on experience of
field research in a controlled environment.
This term our research focus will be on the implications of recent
political and funding changes on the delivery of educational services
within the Vancouver School District from the perspective of parents,
teachers, administrators, and media.
Student Researchers 2003
Kerry Clark, Greg Brass, Tanya Rowe, Kyunghyo Chun, Tatiana Gadjalova,
Christopher J. Condin, Meg Neufeld, Tiffany Gallaher,
Lindsay Thompson, and Nazmul Hasan, Natalie Hemsing, David Geary,
Sarah Martz, Farah Begum