Who’s Looking At Who, Looking At Who?

Stemming from my recent doctoral study of participant ethnographic methodology in higher education, I am pleased to confirm publication of a chapter in Theory and Method in Higher Education Research.

Many thanks to the editors Malcolm Tight and Jeroen Huisman for their invaluable feedback.


This chapter considers the values and challenges of a highly embedded participant ethnographic methodology that has evolved over the last four years in the course of two formal ethnographic studies in higher education. The method has been developed by a practitioner-researcher in tandem with the learning design of a new programme. As such, the roots of the method lie very much within the paradigms of heuristics and action research but lend themselves equally well to more formal, extended ethnographic work. The nature of this method raises several interesting, messy and difficult issues that are further explored. The first is the nature of practitioner research and the purpose of participant ethnography in this context. What does it mean for the teacher to concurrently and contemporaneously inhabit the role of researcher? This leads neatly into an exploration of the attendant ethical considerations. Issues of power and positionality must be tackled, and the ability of the researcher to engage in fully reflexive practice and research is key to unpacking this. Who or what is being observed, and from what perspective? Whose experience is really being interrogated – that of the teacher or the student? Finally, as this method has evolved from, and shares much in common with, action research, consideration will be given to the nexus of action research, observation and formal ethnography – both in terms of the participation and contributions of the teacher-researcher to the process and the students, who in effect become auto-action researchers, investigating themselves as learners and their experiences with their peers.


Hauke, E. (2021), “Who’s Looking at Who, Looking at Who?”, Huisman, J. and Tight, M. (Ed.) Theory and Method in Higher Education Research (Theory and Method in Higher Education Research, Vol. 7), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 75-92. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2056-375220210000007005

Accessing the full paper

You can download a copy here.

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