Introduction from Dr. Nancy H. Hornberger Guest Editor

The annual Ethnography in Education Research Forum at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education was first convened in 1980. At the 20th Forum, Saturday evening conversationalists Dell Hymes, David Smith, and Frederick Erickson recalled the beginnings of the Forum and of the Center for Urban Ethnography (CUE) which hosts it. Hymes reminisced about the establishment of CUE with a grant from the Center for Studies of Metropolitan Problems of the National Institute of Mental Health, characterizing those beginnings as "finding a home" for both the center and the cluster of colleagues from anthropology, sociology, linguistics, folkore, and elsewhere, all interested in urban ethnography. Smith recalled the Forum's predecessor conference held in spring of 1978, the Colloquium on Ethnography and Education, organized by Perry Gilmore and featuring Shirley Brice Heath and Hugh Mehan as keynote speakers and Margaret Mead in what turned out to be one of her last public appearances. Both Dell and David recalled that it was Heath, then on the faculty at Penn GSE, who subsequently suggested an annual ethnography and education forum, to be modeled on the Boston University Conference on Language Development for its in-house and student-run qualities.

Thinking about the predecessor colloquium (selected papers are published in Gilmore & Glatthorn, 1982), Gilmore recalls the following:

I was a Research and Development Associate at RBS [Research for Better Schools] … [and]…had received a $40,000 grant from NIE to explore ethnographic approaches to education...which in those days was completely new to the educational research establishment. I sought the funds after having been inspired by the work of people like Dell and David and numerous others at Penn at the time (Goffman, Heath, Szwed, Labov, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Peggy Sanday and many others). Dell was very instrumental in helping me plan that colloquium and select the speakers and participants (Personal communication, 8/28/02).

Hymes was Penn GSE's Dean at the time and Smith convened the Forum for the next six years, 1980-1985, until he moved to University of Alaska. Erickson followed Smith as Forum convenor for 14 years after that, from 1986 to 1999, when he moved to UCLA, and I have convened the Forum since 2000. The Forum has been, from its beginnings, a schoolwide and school-sponsored event, which could not have survived without the generous support of Deans Dell Hymes, Marvin Lazerson, and Susan Fuhrman, successively, and innumerable faculty, staff and student volunteers, and well-wishers at GSE.

Most importantly, the Forum has always been student-run in every detail, from the evaluation of proposals to the organization of sessions to logistical arrangements for meals, lodging, book displays, audiovisual equipment, and on and on. Heath had highlighted student involvement at the time of her initial suggestion. Fred Erickson recalls, "Shirley, in her memo to Dell, suggested doing something like [the Colloquium] annually, with extensive student involvement as in the previous conference and as in the Child Language meetings at B.U." (Personal communication, 8/28/02). This trademark student involvement is represented in an illustrious line of dedicated and hard-working student Forum coordinators, beginning with Tenby Owens in Folklore, followed by GSE students Marge Murray, Gil Israeli, Frances Reimer, Eileen Storer, Marcine Pickron-Davis, Wendy Hobbins, Anne Roberti, Angela Reyes, and, currently, Mihyon Jeon and Diana Schwinge.

Linked from the beginning to the Center for Urban Ethnography, the Forum has maintained a consistent emphasis on urban schools. Perry Gilmore remembers:

One other thing that clearly Dell and David were both committed to was a social justice and activist agenda in their approaches to ethnography (though at the time those words were not usually used)-- a commitment to the people for whom and with whom the ethnographic work was done. .. in keeping with Dell's concern to "Reinvent Anthropology" and David's determination to purge any elitism from all of his projects and his work. From the start, David made certain there were teachers and parents presenting alongside well known scholars. He was committed to giving voice to the range of participants...community residents and practitioners as well as scholars, students and aspiring researchers. In those days we were fully committed to working with West Philadelphia schools (Dell and David had a large NIE grant for studying literacy from an ethnographic perspective...one of the first of its kind) and those community folks were very well represented in many of the sessions. (Will Smith, a young West Philadelphia singer and breakdancer - not yet famous at the time, entertained, with several friends of his, for the Forum audience - one of the Folklore students enlisted him...and we passed the hat to collect money for them!) (Personal communication, 8/28/02).

Equally, the Forum has from the beginning excelled in nurturing ethnographic research and researchers in schools. The Forum is known for its friendly and supportive atmosphere for fledgling researchers and for the spirit of relaxed and open dialogue embracing newcomers and oldtimers alike. An important and unique annual feature of the Forum in that regard are the Data Analysis sessions. In comments read at a memorial session for David Smith, held at the Forum in 2001, Fred Erickson recalled:

The other thing to which David's vision and spirit contributed was the ways in which the Forum welcomed newcomers to research… For me the hallmark of the Forum's welcome to newcomers is the Data Analysis Workshop, a kind of session which Jeffrey Shultz and Roger Shuy initiated at the Forum and which Jeff has continued to this day, with the help of Nancy Hornberger and others over the years. I know of no other academic meeting in which presenters can not only share work in progress but get wise advice on analysis in progress. Early in the Forum's history, David Smith saw the wisdom in that idea and supported it. Since David's time as Forum Convenor there have been other initiatives that also welcome newcomers--the early career scholar meetings focusing on minority issues in education that have been hosted by Michele Foster and Vivian Gadsden, the teacher research activities initiated and continued by Susan Lytle and Marilyn Cochran-Smith. These continue David Smith's vision and sense of resonance for these meetings, in the same spirit as do the Data Analysis Workshops (2/20/2001).

In addition to the Data Analysis Workshop (and the Work-in-Progress paper sessions, which present work at a stage somewhere in between data analysis and paper sessions), the Forum has over the years developed a number of plenary speaker slots, each with its own character and history becoming a Forum tradition. We publish papers from the plenary speakers at Forum 2002 together here in Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education. Though this is the first time, to our knowledge, that Forum plenary papers have ever been gathered together for publication, we expect and hope that it will not be the last. It seems altogether fitting that the venue for publication should be Perspectives, a kindred student-initiated effort focusing on urban education research.

The Keynote talk is the longest-standing of the Forum plenary sessions and is generally held on the first evening, a Friday (and in the early years, a second keynote was held on Sunday morning). A glance back through our (incomplete) Forum program archives reveals a distinguished roster of keynoters including, in order of appearance: John Ogbu, Frederick Erickson, Sondra Perl, Stanley Aronowitz, Laura Nader, Clem Adelman, Henry Trueba, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Regina Sirota, Patti Lather, Suzanne Carothers, Edward Hall, Shirley Brice Heath, Geneva Gay, Margaret Eisenhart, Concha Delgado-Gaitan, Jean Lave, and in 2002, Luis Moll, whose talk is featured in this issue of Perspectives.

The teacher research activities, alluded to above by Erickson, which were initiated and nurtured by PennGSE faculty members Susan Lytle and Marilyn Cochran-Smith (now at Boston College) beginning in the mid-1980s to the present, have developed into a Practitioner Inquiry strand, with numerous designated sessions and a Saturday morning invited plenary talk. For many years, this Saturday morning plenary was delivered more often than not by the inimitable and prolific Lytle and Cochran-Smith themselves, but of recent years, outside speakers have also graced this early morning event, including Denny Taylor in 1990, Karen Gallas in 1996, Susan Noffke in 2000, Dixie Goswami in 2001, and last year Sonia Nieto and her colleagues Stephen Gordon and Junia Yearwood, presenting work from the same Inquiry Group project as is reported in the Nieto, Felix, and Gelzinis piece included in this issue.

The most recent plenary speaker tradition to emerge has been the Saturday evening conversation, which began in the early 1990s as a wrap-up session led by the Convenor, and gradually evolved into the conversation format. Erickson recalls:

For the first few years I made fairly informal remarks in that session and led audience discussion. (A title of one of my talks was "I was in the bottom reading group.") Then I began to have a guest that I would interview, with audience discussion. Perhaps the first of those guests was Ned Hall (Personal communication, 8/28/02).

The Saturday evening conversation continues to be the final session of the Forum, followed by a celebratory dinner for all. At the 1998 Forum, Fred Erickson and George Spindler held forth in a conversation/interview that looked back over the 50 or so years of educational ethnography in which George has been such an active and foundational leader and participant. Subsequent Saturday evening conversations have continued the retrospective theme and informal character of the Erickson-Spindler conversation: the aforementioned 1999 Hymes-Smith-Erickson conversation commemorating the Forum's 20th anniversary was followed by Teresa McCarty and Galena Dick looking back (with me) on the 30 year history of the Rough Rock School in Arizona (2000); David Barton, Brian Street and I reviewing our own and others' trajectories of ethnographic work in literacy over the past few decades (2001); and, in 2002, Kris Gutiérrez and Ray McDermott (and I) dialoguing about the paths that brought them to classroom ethnographic research. A transcription of the 2002 conversation is also included in this issue of Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education.

Another evolving tradition of the Forum has been the setting of a theme, which appears to have happened once in 1987, was picked up again in the 1999 anniversary year which celebrated A Generation of Ethnography in Schools, and has continued to the present, with the 2002 theme being Dialogue across Time, Space, and Perspective.

Ethnography in Education Research Forum 2002

Professor Luis Moll, our 2002 Forum Friday evening keynote speaker, has his Ph.D. (1978) in Educational Psychology from UCLA and is Professor at the University of Arizona College of Education, where he has been since 1986. He is a key figure in the increasingly significant work in sociocultural psychological approaches to education, having argued forcefully, from some of his earliest writings, for the applicability of Vygotsky's ideas to educational research and practice. He is particularly known for his application of the notion of "zone of proximal development" to create instructional settings which lead children to build on strengths to achieve new learnings, a prime example can be found in bilingual instruction, the creating of lessons in which children can build on their strengths in one language while learning the other. One of his very early publications on this topic, the 1986 "Ethnographic Pedagogy: Promoting Effective Bilingual Instruction" co-authored with Stephen Díaz, is a truly ground-breaking piece of research and a classic in the bilingual education literature.

Professor Moll is also widely known for his work of the past few decades on "funds of knowledge," by which he and his colleagues refer to the intellectual and social capital held and shared among members of Mexican American communities of the US southwest -- a concept which put forward a resource, rather than deficit or problem, view of these communities at a time when it was rare to do so. Moll and colleagues have engaged in a program of research not only to document and interpret these funds of knowledge, but also to put them to use in improving education for Mexican American students. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to educational research, Dr. Moll was invited to give the Distinguished Lecture at the 1999 annual meetings of the American Educational Research Association and was nominated to the National Academy of Education that same year.

Luis began his Friday keynote with reminiscences of his own first attendance at the Ethnography Forum in 1979 or 1980, when he presented the ethnographic pedagogy research I mentioned above. Moll credits the Forum's space for open discourse about qualitative research in education as having a profound influence in "nurturing his anthropological imagination," informing the interdisciplinary approach to research he has followed ever since. The heart of his keynote talk focuses on the concept of educational sovereignty, or the need to challenge the status quo for hundreds of thousands of Latino students in U.S. schools, an oppressive status quo made up largely of coercion and control; he suggests and describes a couple of approaches in his own work which go some way toward informing and promoting educational sovereignty, including the funds of knowledge work and, more recently, the documentation and analysis of children's routine accomplishment of biliteracy development and of the language ideologies mediating that development.

Sonia Nieto is Professor of Education at University of Massachusetts, Amherst and holds her Ed.D. (1979) in curriculum from the same university, as well as an M.A. (1966) in Spanish from New York University. Author of two remarkable and enduring books Affirming Diversity (1992; 3rd Edition, 2000) and The Light in Their Eyes (1999), activist and advocate for educational equity and social justice, and a popular and sought-after speaker, Professor Nieto is above all a classroom teacher who has never left behind her love for classrooms and the teachers and children in them. She is a leading figure in the field of multicultural education and critical pedagogy and was named the 1997 Multicultural Educator of the Year by the National Association for Multicultural Education. She has been honored as an Annenberg Institute Senior Fellow (1998-2000) and was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1999.

At the 2002 Forum Saturday morning plenary, Nieto presented a moving and powerful dialogue with two teacher colleagues, Stephen Gordon and Junia Yearwood, who had participated with her during the 1999-2000 school year in a year-long Inquiry Group project with eight veteran and highly respected teachers from the Boston Public Schools, exploring what she had come to call her burning question: "What keeps teachers going - in spite of everything?" (This will also be the title of the book on this work, forthcoming from Teachers College Press). Because the Forum paper was already committed for publication elsewhere, we here include another equally riveting paper emerging from that same project, this one co-authored with two other teacher colleagues, Sonie Felix and Karen Gelzinis. Each paper focuses on selected themes from among the eight which emerged from the year-long inquiry. The themes Nieto, Felix, and Gelzinis write on are: Teaching as Hope and Possibility, Teaching as Anger and Desperation, and Teaching as Collaborative Intellectual Work.

Kris Gutiérrez, Professor at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies since 1989, earned her PhD (1988) in Rhetoric and Composition theory and Literacy and English Education at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Ray McDermott, Professor at Stanford's School of Education also since 1989, and at Teacher's College Columbia for the decade before that, has his PhD (1977) in Anthropology from Stanford. Professor Gutiérrez has written a regular column for the LA Times Reading page and received the American Association of Higher Education's Outstanding Latina faculty Award in 1999. Professor McDermott wrote one of the most cited dissertations in education, entitled Kids Make Sense (1977) and received the American Anthropological Association's Council on Anthropology and Education Spindler Award for Excellence in Educational Anthropology in 2001.

In keeping with the 2002 Forum theme of dialogue across time, space, and perspective, we invited Professors Gutiérrez and McDermott to be our Saturday evening conversationalists, as representatives of different generations of researchers, different gendered perspectives, different disciplinary backgrounds, and originally from different parts of the U.S., yet both of whom have devoted a good part of their careers to ethnographic and microethnographic research in urban classrooms. For me, the unifying thread in Ray's and Kris' work, although they come at it from different angles, is that they seek to understand and analyze in detail those "third spaces" (Gutiérrez) in which "kids make sense" (McDermott) in classrooms, especially kids from ethnic and linguistic minority backgrounds who have traditionally been least well-served by our schools.

As has become our practice for these Saturday evening conversations, Kris, Ray, and I had outlined a set of questions in advance, with the goal of providing some structure to the conversation while also allowing for as natural a flow as possible, including digressions and elaborations that might arise on the spur of the moment. Some of the questions we used as guides in this particular conversation were: What brought you to your interest in looking ethnographically at learning? How have your interests and perspectives changed over time? What are some of the projects you've been working on? What have you found to be helpful in mentoring graduate students and collaborating with teachers in doing ethnographies of learning?

As you read, you can judge for yourselves how well we kept to our agenda. I think that what stood out to many of us about the conversation were the ways in which, in their very personae and interactional styles as well as what they had to say, Kris and Ray did represent very different perspectives, and yet a common, driving concern for children's educational success.

This issue also includes selected papers from among the rich offerings of the nearly 100 sessions at the Forum:

Action Research on Meaningful Family Involvement by Parents, Teachers and Students: Using the Telling Strategically, by Barbara D'Emilio

Beyond "I": Critical Literacy, Social Education and the "I-Search", by Beth Rubin

A Pinch of Old, A Dash of New: Teachers Blending Their Autobiographical Voices, by Monica Taylor, Lesley Coia, Vinni Gallassio, Jeanine Giovannone, Allison Leventhal, David Olah, & Maria Premus.

As Penn GSE's longstanding commitment to the improvement of our urban schools continues to evolve and expand, I am thrilled to inaugurate what I hope will become a new tradition for the Ethnography Forum, namely the publication of Forum plenaries and selected papers each year in Penn GSE's electronic journal, Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education. I want to thank my colleague Katherine Schultz and her fellow editorial board members, Judith Buchanan, and doctoral students Anne Burns Thomas and Susan Goerlich Zief for inviting me as guest editor and working with me and the authors to bring the issue to fruition. We look forward to hearing back from you, the readers, with comments, reflections, and suggestions on this first of many Forum special issues.

Nancy H. Hornberger
26 September 2002

 

References

Gilmore, P., & Glatthorn, A. A. (Eds.). (1982). Children in and out of school: Ethnography and education. Center for Adult Literacy.

Nancy H. Hornberger

After graduating from Harvard and NYU and living and working for over a decade in Quechua-speaking areas of the Andes, where she also carried out her dissertation research on bilingual education, Dr. Hornberger received her Ph.D. in educational policy studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1985 and joined the faculty of Penn's Graduate School of Education the same year. She served as Acting Dean of GSE from 1993-1995, held the Goldie Anna chair from 1993-1998, and has directed Educational Linguistics during most of her tenure here. She is also convener of GSE's annual Ethnography in Education Research Forum. Dr. Hornberger is internationally known for her work in bilingualism and biliteracy, language minority education and language policy, indigenous language revitalization, ethnographic research in education, sociolinguistics, and language teaching. She co-edits an international book series on Bilingualism and Bilingual Education (Multilingual Matters) and serves or has served on the editorial boards of numerous book series and international journals. She researches, lectures, and consults on multilingual language in education policy and practice in the United States, the Andes (Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador), Brazil, South Africa, and other parts of the world. Most recently, she has been twice awarded Fulbright Senior Specialist grants for lecturing/consulting visits to Paraguay and to New Zealand.

Dr. Hornberger investigates language and education in culturally and linguistically diverse settings, combining methods and perspectives from sociolinguistics, educational anthropology, linguistic anthropology, language planning, and educational policy studies. She gives special attention to educational policy and practice for indigenous and immigrant language groups, compared across national contexts. Current projects include: Literacy in Two Languages (1987-present), a long-term ethnographic school/community study in the Puerto Rican and Cambodian communities of Philadelphia; Quechua Language and Literacy in the Urban Andean Highlands (1987-present), an ethnography of communication in urban contexts of the Andes; and Multilingual Language Policy and Classroom Practice: Comparative Perspectives on Indigenous Language Revitalization (1995-present), a series of case studies based on short-term consultancies and classroom observations in South Africa, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and elsewhere.

Professor Hornberger is author of Bilingual Education and Language Maintenance: A Southern Peruvian Quechua Case (Mouton, 1988) and editor of Continua of Biliteracy: An Ecological Framework for Educational Research, Policy, and Practice in Multilingual Settings (Multilingual Matters, forthcoming); Indigenous Literacies in the Americas: Language Planning from the Bottom up (Mouton, 1996), Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching (Cambridge, 1996, with S. McKay) and Research Methods in Language and Education (Kluwer, 1997, with D. Corson).