Stop, rewind, pause: Reflecting on video ethnography as an approach to classroom-based research

Year: 2012

Author: Fitzgerald, Ange

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The possibilities inherent in the collection and use of video footage point to an important innovation for classroom-based research. With widespread use of and competence with digital technologies, the timing is right to engage in more in-depth discussions about the role of video methodologies in education research. This presentation aims to explore the use of video ethnography as an approach to classroom-based data collection and analysis.

Ethnography is a qualitative method used to study human behaviour and, importantly, to access the meanings that guide this behaviour. In recent times, the introduction of digital technology, such as video, has become another way of capturing human interactions.  In the broadest sense, video ethnography refers to “any video footage that is of ethnographic interest or is used to represent ethnographic knowledge” (Pink, 2007, p. 169). However, it is important to acknowledge that the reality of a situation or experience does not merely exist as observable facts captured as video footage. More information is required to bring meaning to and make sense of the collected images. Therefore, for more objective understandings to be developed, there needs to be conversation and negotiation between participant and researcher.

Video ethnography has the capacity to capture the complexities of a classroom and enable detailed examination of teaching and learning to occur from multiple perspectives.  This use of video footage can stimulate discussion between teachers, students and researchers after a lesson, and consequently generate deeper understandings of teaching practice.  This suggests that video ethnography creates a new dimension for describing and interpreting learning and teaching.

While there are a number of positive dimensions related to this innovation, there are implications for education researchers. In adopting this approach, researchers are required to develop new technological and cognitive skills for dealing with the planning, capture and analysis of video In particular, consideration will be given to the barriers faced as well as the advantages of this approach.

By elaborating on the potential (and possible barriers) of video technology as a tool for classroom-based research, this presentation will focus on examining the emergent area of video ethnography and its appropriateness for education research.  To provide some context to support this examination, these issues are reflected upon through my experiences using video as the main data source for documenting and examining the practices of primary school science teachers.

Pink, S. (2007). Doing visual ethnography (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications.