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Maria Luísa Quaresma and Cristóbal Villalobos

Elites can be understood as a group of people in possession of the highest levels of economic, social, cultural, and political capital. For this reason, these groups are considered key actors in understanding social inequality, the configuration of social structures, and the distribution of power within societies. In the field of education, elites tend to concentrate in a small, select group of schools and universities, forming a social context that is key to understanding processes of (social) mobility and the reproduction of social positions. The indisputable relevance of education in both the formation and consecration of elites make it almost impossible not to focus in the educational system when one is called to problematize the power of elites. Through a literature review surveying the available literature within the field as well as examples of previous research, principle epistemological, conceptual, and empirical frameworks necessary to address interviews with elites in the educational sphere can be observed. The chapter review three critical dimensions of the interview process: (a) design, analyzing aspects such as the potentialities and limitations of the different types of interviews, the issue of validity and, the question about the distance between interviewer and interviewee (b) contact and consent to participate, studding the identification, contact and pre-meeting stage and (c) the interview process, analyzing aspects such as the place of the interview, the cultural aspects involved in any interview, the objective and purpose of the interview, the knowledge and skills that the interviewer must display, and the dispute over the power and status that is displayed in this type of interaction. Researchers who study education and/or elite social classes and who want to deepen their understanding of a group of people might refer to this qualitative research process of studying elites in the educational field.


There are several different ways of understanding ethnography. On one extreme there are studies that use certain “ethnographic techniques” for practice observation, and on the other, there is the assumption that it is a complex theoretical-methodological framework that implies an ideological, political, and sociocultural approach, in order to describe the perspective of the participants. A third perspective seeks to broaden the understanding of the complex construction of scientific knowledge in the classroom. Surveys can unearth a clear tension between the etic and emic approaches, each one related to the theoretical-methodological allegiances of their researchers which can be modified somewhat through their findings. A future inquiry into the complex and heterogeneous contexts of Latin American classrooms can suggest a way to bridge macro with micro contexts of different socioeconomic and cultural and political conditions. Other growing topics that could be developed more thoroughly in the future are, for example, the multimodality of communication processes within the classroom, and studies on scientific education from an intercultural perspective, particularly considering the debt we have with the 50 million indigenous people in our region in taking into account their cultural perspectives and contributions to knowledge.