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How much do you really know about the lives of your fellow students? In the grand anthropological tradition of making the “familiar strange”, this subject takes the University of Melbourne as a fieldsite in a hands-on ethnographic research project. Stepping away from taken-for-granted assumptions about university education, we will ask big questions like: Is university education really about learning? Or, is it more about credentialling? And, given that learning is most enjoyable and meaningful when undertaken in collaboration, why are measures of educational succcess so individualised? Why is learning clumped into majors and classes and credit points? And what is the real meaning of marks? What pedagogies work, and which leave students frustrated or despondent? How is the experience of university by a student’s national, cultural, or ethnic background, their linguistic compentencies, their class background or economic means, their faith or lack of faith, their extra-curricular activities, their gender, sexuality, or age? Teaching in this subject is seminar style, with short lectures and discussions of the practice of ethnographic research. Assessment is based on individual work, but much of our meeting time will be used to work collaboratively to 1) formulate a set of theoretically-informed research questions; 2) design plans for answering those questions through enthnographic research; 3) develop a protocol for engaging ethically with research subjects; 4) undertake participant observation and conduct semi-structured interviews; 5) interpret the ethnographic data; and 6) reflect on the challenges and insights of ethnographic research. Through this process, students in the subject will deepen their understanding of the craft of research, gain confidence in their research and communication skills, and experience the excitement of ethnographic inquiry.
Intended learning outcomes
- Learn how to formulate theoretically informed questions that can be answered through ethnographic research;
- Undertake hands-on research, gaining practical experience and a critical awareness of the strengths and limitations of diverse ethnographic research techniques;
- Gain new insights into the university and broader community as well as the issue that is the focus of the research for the semester;
- Work collaboratively with peers and instructors on a shared project, making the most of the diverse skills and experiences of individual team members;
- Effectively communicate with peers and a broader audience in oral and written formats.
Last updated: 7 July 2021