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. The Forum is committed to advancing systematic, rigorous, and engaged inquiry and to involving students in all phases of the meeting.

We would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to the outgoing leadership team for their dedication and exemplary service in organizing our conference. They have been apt stewards of the conference, its legacy, and its mission to foster meaningful connections among participants. As we embark on a new chapter, we are excited to announce a seamless transition of leadership, ensuring continuity and fresh perspectives. Our focus now shifts toward charting an ambitious path forward, with plans to expand the conference’s scope and impact, promising an enriching experience for all attendees. We remain as dedicated as ever to sustaining the legacy of the Forum as the lead conference in the field of ethnography and education as well as an intellectual space that nurtures younger scholars and students. We look forward to sharing further updates on the Forum soon.

Forum Fast Facts

  • Next Conference Dates: February 7–8, 2025
  • Location: University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, Philadelphia PA
  • Submissions: Open through June 1, 2024, via our submission portal
  • Theme: Narratives of Struggle and Hope: Ethnography, Education, and Democracy at a Crossroads (see more below)
  • Registration: TBA
  • Plenary and Keynote Speakers: TBA
  • Questions:
  • Follow Us: @EthnoForumGSE, #EthnoForum

Call for Papers 2025

Narratives of Struggle and Hope: Ethnography, Education, and Democracy at a Crossroads

We live in politicized times. Global crises, political divisions, and economic insecurity have come to mark the last decade, and the approaching 2024 election holds the potential to redress or exacerbate these tensions. As we anticipate the political landscape unfolding, a wide and growing array of issues pose challenges for educators, schools, families, and scholars as they seek to understand and navigate an evolving landscape. For our February 2025 conference, the Ethnography in Education Research Forum invites scholars and researchers to submit their qualitative and ethnographic inquiries that interrogate the connection between democracy and education, particularly in uncertain or precarious times. This call for papers seeks to explore the nuanced ways in which educators and educational institutions, broadly defined, may serve as sites for democratic struggle, hope, or something in between.


We encourage submissions that delve into the multifaceted dimensions of uncertainty, revealing how complex human beings acquiesce, ignore, resist, or challenge their political worlds. Ethnographers, practitioners, students, and scholars are therefore invited to illuminate how university campuses, K-12 schools, and community spaces become dynamic arenas for the negotiation of democratic values, where societal uncertainties are woven into the daily experiences of students, educators, and administrators.
Central to this call is the recognition that uncertainty necessitates adaptability. We are particularly interested in contributions that shed light on how both members of communities, or ethnographers themselves, navigate and pivot to respond to these politicized conditions. Whether it be through innovative methodological approaches, the exploration of unconventional educational settings, or the examination of grassroots initiatives, we seek papers that showcase the agility and resilience of ethnographers in capturing the dynamic interplay between democracy and education in times of flux.
Ethnography stands as a cornerstone in pursuit of both intellectual questions and justice in the world, offering a nuanced understanding and attending to the diversity of human experiences. Since 1980, the Ethnography in Education Research Forum at the University of Pennsylvania has stood as a platform for scholars, students, and educators to converge, share insights, and contribute to the advancement of our field. Convenors of the Forum have embraced the notion that ethnography is not merely a research method; it is a profound way of unraveling complexities and engaging with the world. As stewards of this legacy, we will continue to promote the Forum as a powerful training ground for dedicated and ethically grounded ethnographers and qualitative researchers.
As such, this call for papers goes out to all of those who aim to foster a rich dialogue on schools as (potentially) democratic spaces in uncertain times, challenging researchers to rethink and redefine the boundaries of their ethnographic practice to capture the essence of democratic education in the face of uncertainty. We are now accepting papers via our submission portal through June 1, 2024, for the conference, which will be held at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, February 7–8, 2025.

Previous Conference Themes

2025: Narratives of Struggle and Hope: Ethnography, Education, and Democracy at a Crossroads

2021: Ethnography in Education: Ethnography & Racial Justice

Ethnographic research has created interdisciplinary pathways to think expansively about how culture is understood, entwined with related concepts, and revised to weigh critical questions of race, racism, and inequality. Ethnographic scholarship has examined the everyday lives, hardships, and forms of resistance within historically marginalized communities and has provided nuanced analyses that delineate the intersections of these issues with problems of educational access and social (in)equity. The 2020 protests and uprisings, most notably Black Lives Matter, remind us — as a field and as members of society — that the problems of systemic racism are longstanding, persistent, and woven into the fabric of education. They also urge us to move forward boldly, directing and refining our scholarship to advance the uncoupling of structural barriers for students, their families, and communities — and to bring about new educational dispositions.

2020: Partnerships for Change

2019: Methodologies, Equity, & Ethics 

2018: Whose Knowledge Counts? Research and Practice in Critical Times

2017: Ethnography in Action


Forum Plenary Speakers

2025 Forum Plenary Speakers

To be announced.

2021 Forum Plenary Speakers

Dr. Prudence L. Carter
Dean, Graduate School of Education
University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Manuel Espinoza
Associate Professor of Education
University of Colorado Denver
School of Education & Human Development

Dr. Eve Ewing
Assistant Professor
University of Chicago
School of Social Service Administration

Dr. Carla Shedd
Associate Professor of Sociology & Urban Education
City University of New York Graduate Center

Dr. Vaughn V. M. Watson
Assistant Professor of Education
Michigan State University, College of Education

Announcements & News

"Violent Schools" Talk with Dr. Ranita Ray

We are privileged to host distinguished speaker Ranita Ray for a talk titled “Violent Schools: Addressing the Barriers to Racial, Gender, and Class Justice” on February 13, at 4 p.m. Professor Ray is a sociologist and ethnographer of education, race, gender, and class. She is the author of the award-winning book The Making of a Teenage Service Class: Poverty and Mobility in an American City (University of California Press, 2018). This talk promises to be an enlightening dialogue, delving not only into the nature of violence in schools, but also the potential transformative power of ethnographic research to delve deeply into these settings. Learn More

Update Regarding Ethnography in Education Research Forum

Please note that we have decided to move to a biennial meeting (2025, 2027, etc.) to give the ethnography team at Penn more time to prepare and give our participants and presenters more time for their research to mature. We remain as dedicated as ever to sustaining the legacy of the Forum as the lead conference in the field of ethnography and education as well as an intellectual space that nurtures younger scholars and students. Our next Forum will be in spring 2025. Please see here for the official announcement and further information, and follow us on X @EthnoForumGSE. #EthnoForum

Erickson and Hornberger Outstanding Book Award

The Outstanding Ethnography in Education Book Award has been established to acknowledge and honor a recent, book-length, academic publication, published in the past three years, that draws on ethnographic inquiry into education, broadly defined.

The Outstanding Book Award, Submission Guide
The Outstanding Book Award, Online Entry Form (Coming Soon)
Questions may be directed to Dr. Alex Posecznick (

Past winners:

2021: Dr. Erica Turner, Suddenly Diverse
2020: Dr. Eve Ewing, Ghosts in the Schoolyard
2019: Dr. Gabrielle Oliveira, Motherhood across Borders


Forum Leadership & Staff

Dr. Roberto Gonzales
Convenor of the Ethnography in Education Research Forum
Richard Perry University Professor of Sociology and Education

Dr. Alex Posecznick
Associate Director of the Ethnography in Education Research Forum
Book Award Committee Chair
Adjunct Associate Professor of Education; Program Manager of Education, Culture, and Society

Paula Rogers
Administrative Support for the Ethnography in Education Research Forum
Program Assistant, Education, Culture, and Society


Graduate Assistants, 2023-24

  • Lucia Mao, Master's Student in Education, Culture, and Society
  • Zora Viel, Master's Student in Education, Culture, and Society

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

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.

Proposal Evaluation Criteria

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

Contact Us

Center for Urban Ethnography

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