Autoethnography and Ethnography in English Language Teaching

  • Phiona StanleyEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


With a view to suggesting ways forward in qualitative ELT research, this chapter surveys two related fields of literature in order to question the taken-for-granted. The first field reviewed is ethnography and here the focus on its intellectual history and what is argued to be its potential for an ongoing “haunting” by a colonizing epistemology (way of knowing), ontology (way of being), and axiology (values system). To counter this threat, four interrelated strategies are suggested for how ethnographic research might be improved in ELT. These are, firstly, a rejection of putatively objective cultural models; secondly, problematizing the written conventions of ethnographic texts; thirdly, greater awareness of researcher positionality; and fourthly, taking a more robust ethical stance in which the purposes and beneficiaries of our research are foregrounded. The chapter then turns to autoethnography, which is the second field of literature reviewed. The genre is shown to be booming in both the research methods literature broadly and also, to a lesser extent, in ELT research specifically. But it is argued that the approaches taken to autoethnography in ELT are somewhat different from those taken in other disciplines, and it is posited that ELT autoethnographers may be ignoring one or more of the key tenets of autoethnography. While ELT autoethnographers seem au fait with the evocative nature of storytelling and the situatedness of autoethnography in the wider, academic literature, it is argued that an explicit commitment to social justice may be lacking. This chapter concludes by suggesting that, as ELT comprises many non-Western and non-hegemonic voices, it is necessary for the discipline to work toward decolonizing ethnographic scholarship in ways that allow for the needs and interest of “the researched” to be served rather than (mainly) the needs of the researcher.


Ethnography Autoethnography Epistemology Ontology Culture Paradigm 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Business SchoolNapier UniversityEdinburghUK

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