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An Ethnographic Approach to Assessment and Intervention by Ripich

and Spinelli
70's went from artic > L. disorders, 80s > pragmatic and discourse
Ethnography - method of study of events and persons that enable us to
ascertain the underlying rules that operate for the participants.
Traditional assessment and intervention has been developed around
deductive reasoning, premise that measurable variables can be
manipulated and that regular and universal laws can be developed based
on the relationships between the variables across all situations. i.e. a
standardized test of L. abilities will demonstrate the child's level of
linguistic competance. Scientific method. Reflects adult view of
education, children are passive, "products" of the ed. system. Interested
in measuring how often a child performs a task correctly.
Growing consensus that something as complex as communication or
teaching and learning cannot be studied using only deductive methods.
Ethnographic - examines the quality of interactions as well as the
quantity of events. Use inductive reasoning; impose and manipulate
persons and events as little as possible. Child centered, constructionist
view. Interested in the manner in which chn. arrive at the correct task
performance. Only by experiencing can we become sensitive to certain
elements in a context.
Wilson's 2 hypotheses that underlie the rationale of ethnographic

1. naturalistic ecological hypothesis - need to study events in their

natural settings b/c of context influences.
2. qualitative difference hypothesis - need to study behavior within the
framework of the ongoing process rather than to focus on the end
How gain access? Both physical and psychological - challenges
established classroom patterns. Once in, need to access the child's
perspective in the classroom. Children are wary of being studied. Last
obstacle is his/her own internal biases and preconceptions. Believe that
each classroom is a culture unto itself - ask: what rules would I need to
succeed in this particular context?

Step 1 - Identify the Child - Teacher questionnaire can serve as a referral

Step 2 - Describe the breakdown - interviews are a way to get info. -
speculate, describe persons and events
Step 3 - Dev. a Summary of the Problem
Step 4 - Observe Interaction in the Classroom a) of the process (i.e.
selection of "captains" during recess) b) of the participant c) audio-
Step 5 - Summarize Observations (of patterns of discourse and
perspectives of children and teachers) and identify patterns of
communication breakdown
Step 6 - Validate Observations - use multiple viewpoints (more people
examining the database, use teacher interviews, review videotapes with
kids, with teachers etc.) in a variety of ways. Could be a way to
minimize interpretation bias to increase accuracy of observations.

Ethnographic assessment –
1. database is not constructed in lab instead arises from the "real
2. Its methodology is rigorous and systematic, results are verifiable
3. its techniques are in keeping with a generous view of the scientific