The Enthnographic Interview

The Enthnographic Interview

Tool Objectives:

  1. To become familiar with the fundamental principles of ethnographic inquiry and to identify basic elements in the ethnographic interview.
  2. To practice skills related to developing rapport with an informant and selecting appropriate questions.
  3. To reflect upon the role of ethnographic writing in the cultural learning process.

Tool Description:

Education abroad is about helping students change structures, learn new ways of thinking, and become more complex, interculturally competent individuals. Ethnographic inquiry offers the field of education abroad a learning paradigm through which to engage students in serious cultural and intercultural learning. Because ethnography is at its most basic a culture learning approach, it can be integrated within all forms of education abroad programming, regardless of program type, location or duration.

It is not an assumption of this tool that students can and should become apprentice ethnographers engaged in carrying out fieldwork. Rather, ethnography at its most fundamental level of inquiry can be reframed to guide students toward becoming autonomous cultural learners and explorers, who can describe, understand, analyze, appreciate, and enjoy intercultural differences.

Tool Procedures:

  1. Introduction. Provide students with a brief introduction of ethnography as a tradition in qualitative research. Define and discuss the role of informants. Make a list of potential informants that students can realistically interview while abroad.
  1. Interview Practice. In groups of three, have students practice conducting ethnographic interviewing (interviewer, interviewee, observer). Debrief the practice session by asking students what questions worked, what didn’t work and why. Assist students with using descriptive and structural questions. Advise students on the ethical principles involved in conducting qualitative research.
  1. Assignment. The assignment has been designed to allow students to choose among three options. Discuss the options, while remaining open to other suggestions from students. If students are not fluent in the language or dialect of the host country, allow them to conduct their interviews in English. Facilitate a discussion about the importance of language in ethnographic research, noting the limitations language barriers pose on data collection.
  1. In-country Support.  Students will need support and guidance throughout the international travel component. If time allows, invite students to meet with you privately before conducting their interviews to discuss their preparations, choice of informant and topic. Students may also need assistance upon return with organizing and presenting their findings.
  1. Optional.  If class time allows upon return, have each student make a brief presentation of their interview findings and what they’ve learned from this process.

Tool Evaluation:

This assignment could be worth up to 30% of the course grade. Students should be assessed on their success with conducting the ethnographic interview and on the organization, presentation and depth of their written analyses. There should be no minimum page length for the assignment.

Tool Time Requirement:

One class session (pre-departure)

Tool Author(s):

Adapted by A. Ogden & S. Roulon, 2009 from Field Projects in Anthropology: A Student Handbook, 1992.

Tool Handouts [.doc or .docx]:
The Ethnographic Interview Handout

Mark Beirn


An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development


Stephen Appiah-Padi​


Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

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Rosa Almoguera


Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.