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Charles R. Menzies
Publications and Presentations
Student Projects
Ethnographic Film Unit



Student Projects

ANTH 516 (Ethnographic Methods)

Sept - Dec 2003

Final Reports: Fall 2003

EXTRA! EXTRA! 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

An Ethnographic Analysis of Aboriginal Alternative Programs

Death by a Thousand Cuts: B.C. Parent Ad-Hoc Organizations Concerned with Education

Project Overview

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 board. 
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 to all.
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 516
2. to explore teachers' and  parents' experiences of recent changes to education funding and legislation

Research Methodology

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 since 1996. 

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


Last reviewed 23-Sep-2006

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Charles R. Menzies, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
University of British Columbia
6303 NW Marine Drive
Vancouver, BC. V6T 1Z1
tel 604-822-2240 | fax 604-822-6161 | e-mail cmenzies@interchange.ubc.ca

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