Re: qualitative research?

Cathy Lachapelle (aelin@leland.Stanford.EDU)
Sat, 4 Oct 1997 08:48:11 -0400


I don't know of any systematic/analytic studies specifically of American
alternative education (I'd love to hear of any) but I do know some very
good studies of schools and school systems etc.:

Shirley Brice Heath -- Ways with Words: Language, life, and work in
communities and classrooms. Cambridge University Press, 1983. This
excellent book is a study of two communities in the rural carolinas: one
working-class black, the other working-class white (children in both
tending to do very poorly in schools taught by white middle-class
teachers). The study focuses on how children in these communities learn
language in the contexts of their homes and communities, in comparison with
the language-learning contexts of the white middle-class teachers with
their children. Includes a second half which is a discussion of an
intervention by the author (a teacher-educator and anthropologist) working
with a group of teachers to make their classrooms more open (developing
alternative practices) in order to accommodate cultural differences.

Lois Peak -- Learning to go to school in Japan: The transition from home
to preschool life. University of California Press, 1991. This is a study
of the socialization of Japanese children, particularly in the context of
preschool and primary school.

Alan Peshkin -- The Total World of a Fundamentalist Christian School. The
University of Chicago Press, 1986. The results of this study scare me --
showing how a Christian school forces its high school charges into the
Christian mold through its environment and control. This is very well-done
-- a model of ethnographic work, with the author balancing self (Jewish and
disturbed by the school) and fair, careful treatment of the subject. I
talked to the author once (he visited our ethnographic methods class) and
he spoke of the difficulty of presenting the school "as it really is"
without either offending his subjects or minimizing the enormity of what he

I hope this helps.


>Me again!
>I'm taking a course on Qualitative Research this semester, and we have to
>find a couple full-length book studies to read on our own. Didn't like the
>options the prof provided (mostly about feminist issues), and was
>contemplating what other issues which quality ethnographies have been
>written. Then, my boyfriend suggested, "why not a book on all the
>alternative school stuff you're interested in." Dah! Why didn't I think
>of that!
>Now, my question: Of all these books you've mentioned on this "book list"
>in the last couple months, are there any that are systematic/analytic
>studies of specific people or groups (not just one person's ideas), for
>example: case studies or life histories where an outside researcher takes
>time to interview, observe, etc. and then analyze rich sources of "data"
>from theoretical perspectives?
> @>--`---,---- ---,---'--<@
> Robin Martin
> Polk City, Iowa USA
> @>--`---,---- ---,---'--<@

Cathy Lachapelle

1221 Pawtucket Blvd. #79
Lowell, MA 01854