Background: The Story of a Journey to Research

Abstract This chapter of the book presents the background of a longitudinal ethnographic research that was carried out in an American private university: the research aims, research field, research participants, and the infrastructures and resources that were available to the researcher.

Introduction—What, Why and Where?

The United States-Israel Educational Foundation1 proposes that teachers in Israel participate in the Distinguished Fulbright Award in Teaching Program2 operated by the United States Department of State. The program’s intension is to enable educators from different countries to study in depth the enigmas of the American education system, to forge partnerships with colleagues—American educators, to carry out academic research about the American education system, to live and study at American institutes of higher education and to get to know American culture.

In 2009, the Israeli Ministry of Education proposed me as a candidate to receive this award. As part of candidacy, I had to complete a number of tasks: to be tested and prove my ability in English (TOEFL); to complete forms and provide documents and certificates confirming my experience, education and professional activities; complete questionnaires with regard to my professional beliefs; to provide details of the research that I would want to carry out as part of the program; gather professional recommendations from supervisors and colleagues, and be interviewed by a large acceptance committee. Evaluation processes and final decisions with regard to successful candidates are carried out by the Foundation’s management in the U.S. After a few months of examinations, I was notified that I would receive an award. Twelve other recipients from six countries joined the program: two from Finland, two from India, three from Singapore, one from South Africa, two from Argentina and two others from Israel. The group included three

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© The Author(s) 2017

L. Shagrir, Journey to Ethnographic Research, SpringerBriefs in Education, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47112-9_1

men and ten women of different ages, each with experience in education, some as teachers teaching at elementary or high schools and some as lecturers teaching in higher education institutions.

The program was hosted by the Peabody College of Education and Human Development[1] at Vanderbilt University,[2] a private research university in Nashville, Tennessee. The College of Education offered students programs for first, second and third degrees in Education and two teacher education programs, one in the Department of Teaching and Learning and the other in the Department of Special Education. Study programs are constructed in different formats: most courses consist of meetings for four hours per week, which enables an annual course to be completed in one semester. A few meet for two hours weekly and some courses meet intensively over a couple of concentrated days on weekends.

To enable participants to carry out their required research, the institution made everything available to assist them such as: easy schedule, variety of resources and infrastructures, budgets and research allocations and more.

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