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In the mid-1980s, the federal government designated the community in which this study was conducted as a relocation site for Southeast Asian refugees. The local school district received more than 300 students in grades k-8 from Cambodia and Laos. The students had limited formal schooling, had lived in refugee camps for 2-5 years, and less than 5% spoke any English. The district director asked me to work with the teachers and a consultant to develop a program to teach academic subjects to the students while they learned English. Together we designed an ethnographic study to document the program implementation process, understand the ways the program was implemented in individual classrooms, and identify effective instructional practices to work with refugee students who had little or no English or formal schooling. This PhD case details the process and methods of conducting an ethnographic study in a school district, including entry into the field, earning the trust of the participants, and the importance of long-term on-site participant observation. It examines the role of assumptions I made as an ethnographer and the need to make explicit those assumptions and understand their impact on the research design and data collection.


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SAGE Research Methods Cases

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Campbell, A. (2017). Once the door is closed: An ethnographic description of one content-based english language program as four teachers implemented it. SAGE Research Methods Cases.