Reading: A Journey © 2005 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Donald Gensler. Used by permission.

Convened by the Center for Urban Ethnography at Penn GSE since 1980, the Ethnography in Education Research Forum is internationally recognized for its encouragement of original and in-depth ethnographic research on education broadly defined, within and outside the context of schooling. The Forum provides a space for ethnographers in a range of disciplines and fields to come together across generations to share and learn from each other and, in so doing, to become part of a broader intellectual community. Coordinated by current and former graduate students in collaboration with faculty members, the Forum is committed to advancing systematic, rigorous, and engaged inquiry and to involving students in all phases of the meeting.

Announcements & News

Outstanding Book Award

The Ethnography in Education Research Forum Outstanding Ethnography in Education Book Award honors a recent book-length, academic publication that draws on ethnographic inquiry into education.

Book Award Guidelines

Winner of 2019 Outstanding Ethnography in Education Book Award

Congratulations to Gabrielle Oliveira, whose book, Motherhood across Borders: Immigrants and Their Children in Mexico and New York, was selected as the Outstanding Ethnography in Education Book Award winner.  Dr. Oliveira will speak at the 2020 Ethnography in Education Research Forum.

Registration Open for 2020 Forum

This year’s theme, Ethnography in Education: Partnerships for Change, highlights research partnerships as pivotal to understanding the critical dimensions of context, cultures, and social practices. 

Ethnography Forum Registration Information

Forum Fast Facts

  • Next Conference Dates: February 21-22, 2020
  • Location: The University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, Philadelphia
  • Submissions: Submissions open September 6 and close November 8; proposal decisions are made by December 9.
  • Advance Registration: Opens December 9 and closes February 10. After February 10, attendees can register during the conference.
  • Plenary and Keynote Speakers: TBA
  • Volunteers: Penn Students will be able to volunteer here.
  • Questions:
  • Follow Us: @EthnoForumGSE, #EthnoForum
  • Keep updated: Join our mailing list.

Conference Theme 2020

Ethnography in Education: Partnerships for Change

This year’s theme highlights research partnerships as pivotal to understanding the critical dimensions of context, cultures, and social practices. 

At once, research partnerships adhere to the ethical standards of scientific inquiry but also challenge traditionally established operating procedures that reinforce power asymmetries. Partnerships foreground the central role of relationships between researcher and communities, and are based on collaborative, co-constructed approaches to inquiry, which inform all aspects of the research process. There is compelling evidence of the promise of partnerships—to enhance cultural and linguistic sensitivity, draw on different sources of wisdom, build upon local knowledge, and eliminate barriers that reduce reciprocity. Through the multiple forms they may take, research partnerships aim to embrace the diversity of participants in the work of research—not restricted to intervention but open to expanding the imagination and creating new dialogues and technologies that can lead to meaningful change. 

We welcome research submissions that push the field’s thinking about approaches that enhance how we interpret the role of ethnography, how we partner with communities and build relationships, and how we respond to potential methodological and ethical dilemmas. Presentations should consider the wide range of ethnographic-focused inquiry with an eye toward the ways in which partnerships serve as conceptual and methodological assets that help us imagine possibilities to effect educational and social change. 

The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and the Center for Urban Ethnography will celebrate the 41st convening of the Ethnography in Education Research Forum, one of the most longstanding and renowned scholarly venues for this intellectual tradition, on February 21 and 22, 2020.

Ethnography Forum Submission Guidelines

Ethnography Forum Registration Information


Forum Leadership & Staff


Vivian L. Gadsden
William T. Carter Professor of Child Development and Education

H. Gerald Campano
Professor of Education

Book Award Committee Chair

Alex Posecznick
Adjunct Associate Professor of Education; Program Manager of Education, Culture, and Society and International Educational Development

Forum Coordinator

Christopher R. Rogers

Practitioner Day Coordinator

Emily Plummer

Graduate Assistants

OreoLuwa Badaki, Yihong Shi


Mary Yee

Our History

The Center for Urban Ethnography (CUE) was founded in 1969 with a major grant from the Center for Studies of Metropolitan Problems of the National Institute of Mental Health. CUE moved to the Graduate School of Education in 1976, where it undertook a series of funded research projects, including studies of urban literacy, urban neighborhoods, and a range of other urban issues. The expertise of the staff and faculty associates of the Center for Urban Ethnography is nationally recognized in the areas of practitioner research, ethnographic research design, school/community studies, qualitative evaluation and technical assistance, and monitoring classroom instruction and learning environments.


CUE first convened the annual Ethnography in Education Research Forum at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in 1980. 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.  

Practitioner Inquiry Day at the Ethnography Forum was initiated in 1987 by Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Susan L. Lytle – both assistant professors at Penn GSE at the time – and grew from the burgeoning interest in teacher research, action research, critical action research, and participatory research that was evident across the U.S. and internationally. From the beginning, the intent of Practitioner Inquiry Day was to provide a space for educators to share their research in various formats, including papers, symposia, data sessions, and informal group discussions. A number of featured speakers, groups, and individuals from around the U.S. and internationally have attended and presented during Practitioner Inquiry Day. Participants are K-12 teachers, community college and university teachers, public and independent school leaders, community organizers, social activists, and others who share a commitment to democratizing the discourse around teaching, learning, and leading to include the voices and ideas of a wider span of participants.

Practitioner Inquiry Day celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1997, its 20th in 2007, and its 25th in 2012, each time with a special program to acknowledge and explore the evolving movement of practitioner research. At its 20th anniversary, there was a memorable Reader’s Theater performance, “Practitioners’ Voices,” that highlighted the rich perspectives and diverse experiences of teachers, school leaders, and other educators whose inquiries explore teaching, learning, and schooling (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009). In 2012, on the 25th anniversary of Practitioner Inquiry Day, Professor Gerald Campano initiated a midday Forum for presentations that focus on Communities of Inquiry. Special celebrations and events have marked milestones in Teachers College Press’ Practitioner Inquiry Series, which grew out of the Ethnography Forum’s Practitioner Inquiry Day, and each year there has also been a special display of books by and for practitioner researchers. 

After more than three decades, Practitioner Inquiry Day remains faithful to its roots by providing a dedicated space for educators, practitioners, and community organizers to come together and inquire into, theorize, and collectively make meaning of their sites of practice. 

View Past Keynotes & Panels

2020 Forum Registration

Participants are encouraged to advance register between November 1 and February 10. Attendees can also register onsite during the conference.

Forum 2020 Registration Rates

Advance Registration

(November 1, 2019, to February 10, 2020) 

On-Site Registration 

(February 21-22, 2020)






General admission 





Graduate Student (non-Penn)





Undergraduate Student (non-Penn)





School District of Philadelphia Employees



Current Penn Card Holders*


K-12 Students (accompanied by adults - teachers, parents, and so on).


Group Rates**

Please contact Ms. Suzanne Oh (

* Includes current faculty, students, and staff, but not alumni. Active Penn E-mail address required at registration. PennCard may be requested on arrival.

** A minimum of ten (10) persons are required for group rates.  Payment is handled through institutional purchase orders/invoicing. 

Ethnography Forum Submission Guidelines

To submit an abstract proposal, you must create an account on our submission portal.  More details can be found in the Steps for Submission section below. If you have any technical problems, please send us an e-mail at

Fast Facts

  • All presenting authors of accepted papers must register for the Forum and present at the assigned time.
  • All papers, abstracts, etc. should be submitted without any identifying information. Authors should ONLY be identified in fields specifically requesting this information.
  • Accepted papers will be notified by e-mail in early November.

Proposal Evaluation Criteria

  • Significance for education
  • Conceptual orientation
  • Methodology
  • Description and data analysis
  • Clarity and quality of proposal

Steps for Submission

The SUBMISSION PORTAL is now closed. 

Please follow the link above and select “Create Account.”  Once you have created an account and selected a password, please return to the submission portal and select “Log In.”  It is important to retain your e-mail/username and password for all future participation in the Forum - please use the same account for submissions, registration, and so on.

Once you are logged in you can select “Abstract Submissions” to submit a new proposal, or look for updates on proposals already submitted.  Select the green button “Submit Abstract” to begin a new proposal. As the conference draws closer, you will also be able to register for the conference and preview the program through this portal. 

Note: In this system, proposals are referred to as “abstracts.”  You will, however, be asked to submit more than an abstract for your proposal submission (see more details below).

Step 1: Enter Title and Select Submission Type

Please enter a title for the paper (sessions Type A, B, G) or for the session (Types C, D, E, F).  In addition, please select the appropriate conference track/session type as described below:

Defining Conference Tracks

PRACTITIONER INQUIRY:  Individual papers and panel sessions may be designated as Practitioner Inquiry. This method of inquiry includes practitioner research and uses an inquiry stance to consider and generate local knowledge. Practitioner inquiry in education research includes research by educators (pre-K to higher ed) as well as activists, community organizers, educational leaders, university researchers among others. Practitioner Inquiry Day, held on the Saturday of the Forum, will highlight presentations that use these methods.

TRADITIONAL RESEARCH PAPERS: Traditional individual papers and panel sessions are papers conducted by professional researchers or researchers in training (i.e., graduate students).  

Session Types

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS: TRADITIONAL RESEARCH TRACK (TYPE A) OR PRACTITIONER INQUIRY TRACK (TYPE B) (15 MINUTES):  We invite single- or co-authored papers on issues in education, child, and youth studies. Papers must draw upon in-depth ethnographic research. Proposals should describe the research problem, methodology, theoretical framework as well as the paper’s argument and its significance to the field. Final analyses, results, and conclusions OR preliminary findings and tentative conclusions (Works-in-Progress) may be submitted. If it is a Work-in-Progress, please include this information in the body of your description.

PANEL GROUP SESSIONS: TRADITIONAL RESEARCH TRACK (TYPE C) OR PRACTITIONER INQUIRY TRACK (TYPE D) (75 MINUTES): Panel proposals should include a statement of the panel topic and descriptions of three or four papers to be presented during the 75-minute slot. The person who submits the proposal will be responsible for submitting all of the information about all of the papers in the panel, so be sure to have this information handy.  The proposal should also include information on how each paper approaches the panel topic. Note that the Abstract Title should be for the session as a whole, but the uploaded proposal should include the titles and abstracts of each paper proposed.

ALTERNATIVE FORMAT SESSIONS: TRADITIONAL RESEARCH TRACK (TYPE E) OR PRACTITIONER INQUIRY TRACK (TYPE F) (75 MINUTES): Each year, a handful of sessions follow innovative or alternative formats, which do not conform to traditional presentations of research.  For example, such formats have included a short film and discussion; a researcher, teacher and students each sharing perspectives on a shared, ongoing project; performance art; or a structured breakout session to promote dialogue on particular issues. Panel proposals should include a statement about both the session topic, participants, and the innovative or alternative format/structure to be presented during the 75-minute slot. Any special technical or facility set-up should be highlighted.  The person who submits the proposal will be responsible for submitting all of the information about the session, so submitters should have all such information at hand. Note that the Abstract Title should be for the session as a whole, but if there are individual papers, the uploaded proposal should include the titles of each paper presented.

DATA ANALYSIS WORKSHOPS (TYPE G) (35 MINUTES): Workshop sessions provide an opportunity for participants to discuss data analysis plans and issues with senior scholars and others attending the sessions. Proposals should include a discussion of the research problem and research questions, the methodology, the nature of the excerpts from interview transcripts, relevant documents, and/or field notes to be considered, as well as potential theoretical or conceptual frameworks for the analysis. Proposals should also provide a clear rationale for why a particular piece of data is important and worth analyzing.

Step 2: Input Abstract/Proposal Summary

The abstract summary should be a brief (100 word) overview of the work to be presented. Note: This should be submitted WITHOUT author identification.

Step 3: Identify Key Words

At this time, we have 44 topical key words available.  Please select the three words/phrases that best describe the proposal overall, from the following listing: 

  • Adult, Post-Secondary and Higher Education
  • African-American/ Diaspora
  • Arts Education
  • Asian-American, Pacific Islander/ Diaspora
  • Bi/Multilingualism
  • Boys’ Education/ Experience
  • Citizenship and Civic Education
  • Critical Theories
  • Curriculum Development and Pedagogy
  • Digital/Virtual/Online Contexts
  • Disability and Special Education
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Educational Policy
  • ESL/Second Language Acquisition
  • Evaluation, Testing, Assessment
  • Family- Community- School Relations
  • Film, Media and Technology
  • Foreign or Heritage Language
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Girls’ Education/ Experience 
  • Identity/Subjectivity
  • Immigration/ Migration 
  • Indigenous Contexts
  • International and Comparative Education
  • Informal Education
  • K-12
  • Latino, Latin-American/Diaspora
  • Literacies
  • Markets and Neoliberalism
  • Math Education
  • Methodological Reflections/ Innovations
  • Multi-Modality
  • Narrative
  • Race or Ethnicity
  • Rural
  • Science Education
  • Semiotics
  • Social Interaction
  • Study Abroad
  • Teacher Education
  • Transnationalism
  • Urban
  • Writing

Step 4: Upload Proposal

A detailed description of the work to be presented should be uploaded as a file (.pdf, .doc, docx).  Individual paper proposals (Types A, B, G) should include conceptual orientation, data collection and analysis methods, data interpretation, and significance to education (limit 1500 words, not counting references). Panel Group Sessions (Types C, D) should include this information, as well as titles and abstracts for each individual paper (limit 4000 words, not counting references). Alternative format sessions should include details about the format of the session (workshop, discussion, film viewing) and any special requirements.

Selection for the program is based primarily on this description. Please indicate if it is a Work-in-Progress (i.e., offering preliminary findings and tentative conclusions) in the body of your description. Note that this description should be submitted without author identifications. If you cite your own work in the description, please blind the reference by listing “Proposal Author, (year)” instead of a traditional reference. Please remove all identifying information including site and participant details.

Upload Data Files 

If you are submitting a Type G session (Data Analysis) you will be asked to submit a sample of the sort of data you will ask to be reviewed at the session.  You will be invited to submit other forms of data for review as we approach the conference dates.

Step 5: Identify Author(s) and Affiliation(s)

Please identify all authors, their contact e-mail addresses, their affiliations, and Status (student, faculty member, and so on). Please note that the titles, authors, institutions, and emails you give here will appear in our program, so it is important to include this information in full.

For individual paper submissions (Type A, B, G), one person must be identified as a primary author, although there may be multiple co-authors.  Please select “Presenting Author” for all authors who plan to attend and speak at the conference. Please leave the "paper title" field blank.

For panel-group submissions with papers (Type C, D, and possibly E, F), please include a paper title to be associated with each author. In addition, one person must be identified as a primary author, who will be considered chair and organizer.  Please select “Presenting Author” for all authors who plan to attend and speak at the conference.

For alternative format sessions (Type E and F), which typically don't have traditional papers, please include a listing of participants as "authors" but leave the "paper title" field blank.

Step 6: Review and Submit Your Proposal

Please review all elements of the proposal and the detailed steps outlined above.  Please remember that as this is a peer-reviewed conference; authors names should only be included in Step 5. At this point, you may either "Save and Submit Later" or simply "Submit" your proposal for review.  In order to be considered, please be sure to click "Submit" by November 1st. 

Contact Us

Center for Urban Ethnography

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Street 
Philadelphia, PA 19104