Accidental Ethnography (AccE): A Method for Practitioner-based Education Research

What is AccE? Pronounced “Ax-y,” it is a novel way to think about research, but one that is founded on many principals of existing models of inquiry.  As action researchers know, deep learning happens when “doing the work.” However, many practitioners-cum-new researchers in graduate school are rarely supported in sharing hard-earned lessons with the wider scholarly audience—usually because practitioners do not collect data in the typical pre-planned way common in academic research. We see this as a missed opportunity for contributing to scholarly knowledge, best practices, and cautionary tales in applied fields. So, we have further developed a methodology based in “accidental ethnography” and action research methods, which we call AccE.

AccE provides a method for practitioners to collect, reflect upon and systematically analyze extant (past) data from the practitioners’ organization, which allows for researchers to contribute high quality and important findings to scholarly discourses from their past work.  It’s different from secondary analysis which typically uses static data points, and different from auto-ethnography as it’s not grounded in self-reflection as its primary orientation. To provide an example of the AccE process we present here a brief case-study of the Mountain Valley Project (MVP), a grassroots, community-based education organization that works with first-generation, secondary school students from Indigenous communities in Peru.

We think that novice and advanced Action Researchers will find this method useful in sharing important findings from the organizations they work with. We firmly believe that such openness to new methods and approaches can increase rare opportunities to hear directly from fields of practice.  Thus, we invite you to read the article, help develop AccE further, or create your own case study using the AccE method.

Blog post by Joseph Levitan

We invite you to learn more about this experience by reading our article HERE. Free 30-day access is available for this article beginning 6 August, 2017.

After you’ve had a chance to read this piece, please share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences with our community in the comments below so we can continue this discussion!