An interactional ethnographic exploration of in-time and over time mentor-student interactions in invention education

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Audra Skukauskaite
Susan Bridges
Michelle Sullivan


Dialogue is central to the collaborative processes of inquiry-based approaches. In this methodological article on Interactional Ethnography (IE), we outline the guiding principles of IE as a logic of inquiry for studying the talk and actions of learners and their mentors in inquiry-based learning. Through a telling case of facilitation processes in high school invention education (IvE), we illustrate the major steps and analytic processes that an IE research team undertakes to collect, archive, and analyze records of classroom learning. We share how the IE team enters this ethnographic space and undertakes video-enabled micro-ethnographic discourse analyses of in-time and over time events to identify key learning processes and to develop warranted interpretations. Specifically, we exemplify how the ethnographer conducts nuanced analyses of learning discourse in-the-moment and over time. In the context of invention education, we share how an IE study enables the researchers to trace the developing cycle of inquiry and make visible the processes that support design thinking in invention education. We close with further methodological considerations for IE researchers and consider how an IE study supports theory building in inquiry-based learning.

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Special Issue: Research Methodologies for studying PBL