This paper relates to an ethnographic study of a group of eighteen-year-old girls, in their final school year, in a secondary school in Ireland. The ethnography explored social class and gender discourses that presented in the girls’ various relationships in the school and in broader peer culture. This paper outlines the methodological phenomena I experienced as the ethnographic researcher and a teacher in the school. In this paper, I explore my insider positionality as a teacher-ethnographer from perspectives such as: access, ethics, power and relationships, within the specific context of this girls’ Catholic school in Ireland. The paper makes a specific contribution to the particular and contextualised insider-outsider positionality of the teacher-ethnographer. This dual role required me to transition back and forth between the roles of teacher and researcher, in order to access the cultural stories of the girls’ lived experiences. This dual role was informed by my strong reflexive stance throughout the process. This paper argues that despite significant existing research on the insider-outsider methodological debate, there are benefits to exploring and reviewing new contexts and varied approaches to teacher-insider research. The teacher-ethnographer is a role fraught with ethical and logistical dilemmas, but this paper offers some contextualised generalizability to other practitioners considering this insider approach.


Teacher-Ethnographer, Insider-Outsider, Ethics, Reflexivity

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Miriam Hamilton is a lecturer in education in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland. Miriam teaches pre-service primary teachers science education and postgraduate research methods modules. Her research interests include sociology of education, social class and school experience, pedagogy and cultural studies. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: miriam.hamilton@mic.ul.ie.

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