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Transforming the Familiar: An Ethnographic Approach to General Education Reform Judy Tizon and Susan McWilliams, University of Southern Maine.

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Presentation on theme: "Transforming the Familiar: An Ethnographic Approach to General Education Reform Judy Tizon and Susan McWilliams, University of Southern Maine."— Presentation transcript:

1 Transforming the Familiar: An Ethnographic Approach to General Education Reform Judy Tizon and Susan McWilliams, University of Southern Maine

2 The Ethnographic Perspective: Holistic, relativistic, contextualized Insider-outsider perspective: analysis involving suspension of judgment and views through multiple lenses

3 Key Terms: Culture: explicit and implicit values, attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions. Structure: observable roles, status, positions, organizational units, formally recognized and named. Cultural Brokers: actors with the capacity to navigate cultural and structural divides. Rational Wrongs: understandable but inaccurate perceptions.

4 Applying the Ethnographic Perspective: A case of change at the University of Southern Maine Change goal : curricular transformation, inputs to outcomes Cultural resistance : Explicit: bean counting; punitive action for resource restriction; undermines real learning; externally imposed by non-academics; more uncompensated work; the current curriculum works just fine Implicit: threats to self, livelihood, and status (fear of spoiled identity, revelation of lack of expertise and unfamiliarity)

5 Applying the Ethnographic Perspective: A case of change at the University of Southern Maine Cultural Brokers : key faculty and staff with cross-cultural and cross-structural experiences and capacities Border-crossing faculty from the professional schools collaborating with liberal arts faculty Border-crossing staff member/instructor from Student and University Life

6 Applying the Ethnographic Perspective: A case of change at the University of Southern Maine Structural Transformation Existing committee New committee limited charge expanded charge less inclusive more inclusive Same structural position

7 Cultural Change : Vision, Goals, and Outcomes for General Education at USM (visit our website at for details)www.usm.maine.edu/gened/ Applying the Ethnographic Perspective: A case of change at the University of Southern Maine

8 Application Exercise: (see hand-out) List the change goal: Identify the cultural resistance: Explicit/stated (translate) Implicit/unstated Identify the cultural brokers who can assist with bridging cultural divides: Identify Institutional structures officially designated to serve the goal: Structure:Assets: Liabilities: Identify alternative structures or transformed versions of the above structures which might better serve the goal:

9 Lessons from the Ethnographic Perspective: Seemingly modest structural and cultural changes at the beginning can lay the foundation for much more radical and fundamental change. The differences between reality, appearance and perception must be taken into account. Relativistic understanding reduces harmful stereotyping. Inclusion and transparency are critical to the success of any change effort.

10 For more Information: send to: or Or visit our website: The End


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