Over the past week, I have traveled to Washington, D.C. on three separate trips; once to attend a PTA meeting for parents of a D.C. public charter school, once to interview one of those parents, and once to observe a school event. On trips like these, I take field notes on moments and interactions that catch my attention. During my metro and bus transit home, I reflect on what this data might reveal about, for instance, negotiations of social roles among school community members, conceptualizations of commonly used or important terms, and logistical aspects of being a part of the school community. These activities are largely what comprise the data collection phase of a case study I am conducting with my research partner Beverly Auman on parent affiliation and involvement with Washington, D.C. public charter schools.
I have been interested in education since before I came to George Mason and began studying anthropology. As I delved deeper into my major coursework, I realized that 1) there is more than one way to study education; and 2) what I want to pursue long-term is applied anthropology, or using anthropological theories and methods to generate solutions to practical problems. My partner Beverly and I recognized our common interest in anthropology and education, and we came into contact with our faculty mentor, Dr. Jenice L. View. Working alongside Dr. View, Beverly and I designed a research study and proposed our project to several different schools. We now work with one school that expressed interest in a research partnership.
This project is essentially an interdisciplinary and mixed-methods study. We are collecting and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data, using survey, interview, and site observation techniques. Analyzing our data will involve qualitative data coding as well as statistical analyses, and the final products will be a comprehensive research report as well as a presentation of results for the school. Our overarching goal is that many different people – parents, students, faculty, staff, and administrators – will have the opportunity to be included in and benefit from this project.