Key Events


Friday, February 24

Ethnography Forum

In its 38th year, the Ethnography Forum continues to offer scholars, educators, activists, and practitioners from a range of fields opportunities to share work in a supportive venue. Our theme, Ethnography in Action, highlights the importance of research being a catalyzing factor for social change. We have a group of fantastic scholars who will help us think critically about social change in our current political moment.  

View Friday Sessions

Invited Session 2/24, 10:15 - 11:30, Room 203

Unpacking the Relationship Between Urban Ethnography and Activism: Views from the Field

Featuring: Krystal Strong1, Encarna Rodriguez Rodriguez3, Edwin Mayorga4, Sonia Rosen5, Amy Brown6, Julia McWilliams1, Elaine Simon2, Kathy Hall1

Given the Forum’s focus this year the “work” of ethnography, this panel joins together a group of scholar-activists to discuss the relationship between political activism and urban ethnography. How does activism inform the ethnographic process? How do these scholars conceptualize their work’s contribution to activism? What challenges do they see as facing urban ethnographers in the current political moment? We will interrogate these questions as well as situate them in the scholarship and activism of our invited guests.

1: GSE, University of Pennsylvania 2: Urban Studies, University of Pennsylvania 3: St. Joseph's University 4: Swarthmore College 5: Arcadia University  6: Penn Critical Writing Program


Invited Session 2/24, 11:45 - 1:30

Multimodal Education: Teaching & Organizing in an Alternative Facts Paradigm

Featuring: Nora Gross3, John L. Jackson2, Louis Massiah4, Lalitha Vasudevan1

We are mired in an everyday battle to protect basic human rights while sifting through fake news, alternative facts, and attacks on intellectual engagement, including from the highest office in the land. As educators in our various educational contexts this current political moment advances a new set of challenges and opportunities. In this session we hear from scholars, activists, and practitioners on how they employ film and other multimodal productions in their everyday work. In particular we ask them to reflect on what we need to shift in terms of pedagogies, our notion of publics, and the use of film and media for social change, in light of the political climate. Those in attendance will also have time to workshop their ideas and get feedback directly from the panel. 

1: Teachers College, Columbia University; 2: School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania 3: Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania ; 4: Scribe Video Center


Friday Evening Plenary
6:45pm - 8:00pm, Houston Hall of Flags

Mapping Inequality and Charting a Way Forward: Constructing Ethnographies of Urban Schooling with Latinx Youth

Featuring: Jason G. Irizarry, University of Connecticut

Countless studies have sought to generate remedies to inequalities present in urban schooling. The overwhelming majority of these studies have been done on young people rather than with them. This presentation draws from multiple years of ethnographic research with Latinx high school students in two urban districts. It documents how ethnography served as more than a methodological tool, fostering the development of critical consciousness and empowering Latinx students to exert agency over their educational trajectories.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Practitioner Inquiry Day

This year we celebrate thirty years of Practitioner Inquiry Day. We are humbled to be joined by scholars from all over the country whose research follows in this great tradition. The sessions will offer insights into current work and also give participants an opportunity to look back the legacy and contributions made by important activist educational research.

View Saturday Sessions

Saturday Morning Plenary
8:30 - 9:45am, Houston Hall of Flags

Learning and Leading Dangerously: Collaborating Around Risky Questions

Featuring: Diane Wood, Towson University and Jennifer Mullenax, Baltimore Public Schools

The field of education, currently dominated by closed notions of expertise, accountability, “best practices,” and “scaling up,” increasingly elevates marketplace values, rhetoric, and results over democratic purposes and human well-being.  The plenary session explores the promise of practitioner inquiry as disruptive force and mode of resistance and as liberator for counter narratives.  The speakers trace the role of inquiry as they recount their own professional stories as well as the work they’ve done together.  They end their presentation in dialogue, asking each other challenging questions about the professional dangers inherent to taking an inquiry stance and then turning to the audience for their questions, experiences and comments.

Communities of Inquiry
1:30 - 3:00pm, Houston Hall of Flags

Practitioner Inquiry and Educational Equality/Inequality: The Next Generation

Featuring: Susan Lytle1, Marilyn Cochran-Smith2, Marìa Ghiso3, Beth Myers4, Shaun Savage5, Patty Cruice6, Melissa Kapadia-Bodi1

This session will consider the role and significance of practitioner inquiry communities as newly reconceptualized and reinvented by a “next generation” of scholar practitioners. The participants in this session are differently-positioned in terms of professional location, areas of expertise, institutional affiliation, gender, race/ethnicity, language background, and geography. Informed by a range of perspectives and life experiences, the presenters have each taken on deep and rich local work in inquiry communities that bring together practitioners, university-based faculty and staff, families, students, and community members located at a range of universities, centers, schools, and human rights organizations. Brief presentations will be followed by a town hall meeting format in which conference participants will have the opportunity to discuss the distinguishing features of this work and other communities of inquiry for challenging inequality.

1: University of Pennsylvania, ; 2: Boston College, ; 3: Teachers College, ; 4: Syracuse University, ; 5: Boston College, ; 6: School District of Philadelphia


3:00 - 6:00pm, GSE 203

The Successful Failure of Educational Research: Re-Imagining Paradigms and Practice

Featuring: Ray McDermott3, Hervé Varenne2, Lalitha Vasudevan2, Kathy Hall1, Jessica Garber2, Joseph Riina-Ferrie2, Rachael Dorothy Stephens1, Michelle Zhang

In Successful Failure (1998), Varenne and McDermott suggest that dominant analytical paradigms lead educational researchers to unintentionally reinforce the very inequities they seek to challenge. They argue that an alternative analytical paradigm is imperative to produce systemic analyses of inequality that do not “blame the victim” and preclude structural change. In this interactive session, we will outline this alternative paradigm (an analytical shift away from individuals and their “failures” to the contexts in which “failure” is produced), provide examples of its implications for educational practice (research and pedagogy), and invite participants to consider what this means for their own work.

1: GSE, University of Pennsylvania, United States of America; 2: Teachers College, Columbia University, United States of America; 3: GSE, Stanford University, United States of America


Saturday Evening Plenary
6:30 - 8:00pm, Houston Hall of Flags

Ethnography in Action: Exploring an Activist Stance in Practitioner Research and Educational Scholarship

Featuring: Abdul-Qadir Islam1, Mary Yee1, Susan Lytle1, Vivian Gadsden1, Joanne Larson2, Gerald Campano1

In the current highly politicized moment, with rollbacks to civil and human rights and many communities being targeted because of their religious, national, gendered, dis/abled, and racialized identities, the field of education is a site of contestation and resistance. This panel of renowned scholars will discuss how they have explored or embraced an activist stance in their work, ranging from community-based participatory action research, school-based practitioner research to educational policy development,critical analyses of research methodologies, and quantitative metrics. We will invite the audience to consider how an activist stance might shape their own research, teaching, and writing. What opportunities exist in your frequented spaces that allow for moments to challenge and reform existing policies and practices? Together, where do we go from here?

1: University of Pennsylvania, United States of America; 2: University of Rochester, United States of America; 3: Boston College, United States of America