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Classification and framing of interviews in ethnographic


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Online Publication Date: 01 June 2007
To cite this Article: Walford, Geoffrey , (2007) 'Classification and framing of
interviews in ethnographic interviewing', Ethnography and Education, 2:2, 145 - 157
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Ethnography and Education


Vol. 2, No. 2, June 2007, pp. 145157

Classification and framing of interviews


in ethnographic interviewing
Geoffrey Walford*
University of Oxford, UK

Based on interviews with prominent ethnographers, this paper describes some of the diversity of
forms of interview that are conducted by ethnographers in the field. It is suggested that there is
utility in using the concepts of classification and framing to describe some of the differences in the
nature and process of carrying out ethnographic interviews.

Introduction
For most ethnographers, participant observation is at the centre of the process of
generating data. But, the vast majority of ethnographies also involve interviews.
Indeed, there is frequently, what I would regard as, an over-reliance on what happens
to be said in interviews to provide the evidence for much of the argument in articles
and books about the research, and against which ethnographers test developing ideas
and theories.
There are many books on the process of interviewing, how interviews should be
recorded, and how they might be transcribed. But, the process of interviewing has
aspects that are viewed as very personal and idiosyncratic in nature, and our
knowledge of the detail of what is carried out in each interview, and how the record is
used, is limited.
This article is part of a study of how ethnography is actually conducted. The total
number of ethnographers interviewed is small*just seven in all*but they have been
selected because they have all conducted significant ethnographic studies, and have a
variety of different disciplinary backgrounds. They have been questioned about the
practices they engaged in while researching and writing one of their recently
published ethnographies within the field of education broadly defined. Some have
provided samples of their interview transcripts, and all have described how they
conducted the interviews, and how they selected particular sections of the transcripts
for use in the analysis and writing. Of necessity, the ethnographers and their
ethnographies, will be named (Walford, 2005).
/

*Department of Education, University of Oxford, 15 Norham Gardens, Oxford OX2 6PY, UK.
Email: geoffrey.walford@edstud.ox.ac.uk
ISSN 1745-7823 (print)/ISSN 1745-7831 (online)/07/020145-13
# 2007 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/17457820701350491

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G. Walford

It is hoped that, although small scale, the research might have some influence,
simply because the sample has been chosen specifically to include those who are seen
as significant ethnographers. To understand more about how these people make use
of interviews within their wider ethnographic practices can be expected to enhance
future ethnographic studies.
The ethnographers
The ethnographers were chosen because I value their work highly and because they
represent some degree of spread of academic backgrounds, research styles and
educational interests. They are also mainly people whom I already knew, and had
a previous academic relationship with. They are, in alphabetical order: Paul
Connolly, Sara Delamont, Elisabeth Hsu, Bob Jeffrey, Bradley Levinson, Jan Nespor
and Lois Weis.
Paul Connolly has mainly worked with early years children, and has focussed on
issues of race and gender (Connolly, 1998, 2004). His books have been particularly
important for the way they have highlighted these issues for children of an age
where it is often thought they have little relevance. Sara Delamont has conducted
many ethnographic classroom and school studies (e.g. Delamont, 1983, 1984), and
has written about fieldwork methods (Delamont, 2002). In my interview with her,
I focussed on her current research, which is about teaching in a capoeira
classroom*a form of dance and martial art originating in Brazil which is played,
danced and fought to the music of the stringed berimbau (Delamont, 2005;
Stephens & Delamont, 2006). Elisabeth Hsu is a medical anthropologist. The
major study that I interviewed her about (Hsu, 1999) examines the processes by
which knowledge of Chinese medicine is transmitted in three different Chinese
contexts*becoming a disciple of a qigong healer who taught by imitation and
repetition only, attending seminars by a senior Chinese doctor who encouraged
study of arcane medical classics, and attending courses at a college where
standardised knowledge of Chinese medicine was inculcated. Bob Jeffrey has
worked on various projects concerned with creative teaching and learning
in primary schools, and the lives of primary school teachers (e.g. Wood & Jeffrey,
1996, 2003; Woods et al., 1997; Jeffrey & Woods, 1998). In my interview with him,
I focussed mainly on his work on the effects of inspection on primary schools and
on creative teaching. Bradley Levinson is an educational anthropologist who has
published articles and edited several books on ethnography (e.g. Levinson
et al., 1996). His major work has been of a provincial Mexican junior high school
(Levinson, 2001) where, over a 10-year period, he examined the schools emphasis
on equality, solidarity, and group unity, and the ways in which this dissuaded
the formation of polarised peer groups, and affected the pupils lives. In my
interview with Jan Nespor, I focussed on his work reported in Tangled up in school
(Nespor, 1997), which was the result of a two-year study of an urban elementary
school. It is particularly interesting because its focus is less on classrooms,
/

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and more on the webs of social relations that embed the school in the
neighbourhoods, cities, states and regions. Lois Weis has conducted a series of
ethnographic studies on Black and disadvantaged youth in the USA (Weis, 1985,
1995). Her most recent major publication (Weis, 2004) is an interview-based
follow-up of the young people involved in her 1995 ethnographic study of the
White working class. She has also written extensively on research methodology (e.g.
Weis & Fine, 2004).
Understanding ethnography through interviews?
In many ways, the nature of this project is decidedly odd. One of the central beliefs of
ethnography is that multiple methods should be used in any investigation and, in
particular, that interviews are unlikely to be productive by themselves. I have written
at length about interviews elsewhere (Walford, 2001). The interview is, by all
accounts, an unusual affair in that the socially accepted rules of conversation and
reciprocity between people are suspended. One person takes the lead and asks a
series of questions of the other. The other has agreed that this is to be a special form
of conversation, and is prepared for his or her views to be continuously questioned
without the usual ability to be able to return the question. The topics to be covered
are largely under the control of the interviewer, and the interviewee is expected to
have opinions or information on each of the questions asked. Moreover, what the
interviewee says is taken to have lasting importance*it is recorded for future
analysis. This is not a transitory conversation, but one that is invested with
significance.
We know that interviewers and interviewees co-construct the interview, and that
the replies to questions are produced for that particular occasion and circumstance.
Interviewees will select their words with care, and will moderate what they have to
say to the particular circumstances. If we put to one side the epistemological question
of whether or not there is any ultimate reality to be communicated, the interviewee
may have incomplete knowledge and faulty memory. They will always have subjective
perceptions that will be related to their own past experiences and current conditions.
At best, interviewees will only give what they are prepared to reveal about their
subjective perceptions of events and opinions. These perceptions and opinions will
change over time, and according to circumstance. They may be at some considerable
distance from any reality as others might see it.
Douglas (1976) describes four problems*misinformation, evasion, lies and
fronts*and indicates ways of trying to avoid their effects. He follows this with a
detailed exposition of the problems of taken-for-granted meanings, problematic
meanings, and self-deception. In this study of ethnographers, I would certainly not
expect any outright deception, although there may be some evasion in discussing
particular aspects of the research process. But outright deception is only part of the
problem. Convery (1999, p. 139) raises many questions about the nature of the life
stories that have been collected by various researchers. By presenting a form of his
/

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own life history as a teacher, he exposes the variety of narrative strategies that he has
used to present an individuality that is morally consistent. He states: in offering to
reveal the truth of my experiences, I unconsciously took the opportunity to
reconstruct a desirable, or preferred identity. It can be argued that identity is
created rather than revealed through narrative.
In a similar way, we might expect these ethnographers to construct accounts that
try to present a reasonably rational image of their research practices. How then is it
possible to justify using retrospective interviews to investigate how these ethnographers conduct ethnography? Surely the only reasonable method is to observe,
interview and collect our own artefacts alongside the subject ethnographer as he or
she goes about the task? Perhaps this would be ideal but also, perhaps, an overinvestment of time and energy. While I have certainly not observed the processes by
which these seven people go about doing ethnography, the fact that I have read their
published ethnographies and read some of the other more methodological work of
these same authors, means that there is a strong element of mixed-methods in the
work. I am not simply using the results of interviews where I have no other sources of
data*there is actually a wealth of written data that provides a different form of
evidence about the methods used.
It is worth clarifying that the focus of this article*ethnographic interviews*covers
all forms of conversation where the interviewer is involved, is able to influence the
direction of the conversation, and where there is the possibility of generating data.
Ethically, this means that all persons involved in these conversations will (usually at
some previous point) have given consent for the generated data to be used in the
research under agreed conditions of use.
In the presentation of all the extracts from interviews, my concern has been with
clarity of communication. I have edited for meaning. In particular, I have edited out
some hesitations and combined several responses*often without giving an indication that this has been done.
/

Classification and framing


The main suggestion that I wish to make with this article is that there is something to
be gained by thinking about the nature and process of ethnographic interviews in
terms of Bernsteins classification and framing. These two concepts were first
introduced in a much-quoted article (Bernstein, 1971), where they relate to the form
and structure of the curriculum and the transmission of educational knowledge. Two
educational knowledge codes are discussed, differing according to the underlying
principles that shape curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation. A curriculum of a
collection type is characterised by strongly bounded knowledge areas with little
linkage between them. The learner is required to collect a group of favoured contents
in order to satisfy some criteria of evaluation. On the other hand, an integrated
curriculum emphasises the interdependence of various areas of knowledge and
attempts to transcend traditional boundaries. Bernstein argues that any structure for

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the transmission of knowledge will symbolically reproduce the distribution of power


in society, and introduces the concept of classification to clarify this relationship.
Where classification is strong, contents are well insulated from each other by strong
boundaries. Where classification is weak, there is reduced insulation between contents,
for the boundaries between contents are weak or blurred. Classification thus refers to the
degree of boundary maintenance between contents. (Bernstein, 1971, p. 49) (original
emphasis)

The concept of frame is also introduced to refer to the strength of the boundary
between what may be transmitted and what may not be transmitted in the pedagogic
relationship. It indicates the degree of control teacher and pupil possess over the
selection, organisation, pacing and timing of knowledge transmitted and received in
the pedagogical relationship.
The strength of framing thus refers to the range of options available to the teacher
and taught in the control of what is transmitted and received. Thus,
From the perspective of this analysis, the basic structure of the message system
curriculum is given by variations in the strength of classification, and the basic structure
of the message system pedagogy is given by variations in the strengths of frames.
(Bernstein, 1971, p. 50)

Bernsteins work has not been without its critics, and there has been a particular
focus on the lack of clarity and the ambiguity of concepts employed, both at the
theoretical and operational levels. While some of this criticism may be justified, it
must be recognised that Bernstein himself saw this part of his work as a search for
the basic concepts themselves (Bernstein, 1975). The concepts developed over the
years, such that by 1990, for example, Bernstein had distinguished between the rules
of social order and those of discursive order, both of which can vary, and framing had
become concerned with how meanings are to be put together, the forms by which
they are made public, and the nature of the social relationships that go with it
(Bernstein, 2000, p. 12). Framing regulates relations within a context, it refers to
relations between transmitters and acquirers, where acquirers acquire the principles
of legitimate communication.
Bernsteins work has been applied to very many different empirical situations, and
many researchers have found the general framework useful in attempting to clarify a
range of educational problems. Some early examples include Walker (1983) who
used Bernsteins concepts of classification and framing within a historical analysis of
different social regimes in colleges of education over a century, while Aggleton and
Whitty (1985) applied Bernsteins concepts to a study of the subcultural practices of
a group of new middle-class students in an English college of further education.
Examples of broader and more flexible usage include the study by Rodger (1985) of a
large public enquiry and the account by Walford (1981) of problems within
postgraduate research and of the curriculum in major private boarding schools
(Walford, 1986). More recent use of the developed ideas can be seen in the
collections by Atkinson et al. (1995), Morais et al. (2001), Muller et al. (2004), and

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in Bernsteins own more recent work (Bernstein, 2000). I hope to show that there is
further utility in these concepts in the context of ethnographic interviewing.
In applying the concepts of classification and framing to interviewing, they need a
little stretching, but knowledge is still being transmitted from one person to another
in a specific situation. The main difference is that, in this case, knowledge is actually
being sought by the interviewer (unlike the situation in schools where students rarely
actually seek the knowledge that they are being offered!). The power within the
relationship is thus rather different in that, while the interviewer generally has greater
power to classify and frame the situation, the interviewee has the ultimate sanction of
withholding information.
Classification
Classification is concerned with separation. In a similar way to there being a
collection or integrated code in terms of the curriculum, we can think of there being a
collection or integrated code with regard to the method and nature of generating data
in ethnography. There is a range of different ways in which interviews are conducted
such that, while some are kept deliberately separate from other activities, others
hardly appear to be interviews at all. Various ethnographers may, at different times,
strongly classify interviews as separate or not from other activities.
Take, for example, Bradley Levinsons work with Mexican children. In discussing
his practice of observation early in the fieldwork:
B: So a lot of it was really just roaming out and observing early on especially before I
got to know . . . but actually the kids didnt let me do too much of that because a lot of
them very early on took an interest in me or a liking to me and theyd see me walking
round and theyd go, tsh tsh, come over here and theyd call me over and theyd want to
ask me who I was and what I was doing or theyd want to ask me, what did I think about
what Id just observed in class [oh yes] or they just wanted to kind of incorporate me into
their friendship dynamics in ways I could bring a kind of prestige to some of these
groups by association
[. . .]
B: And then after a few months into the fieldwork, the main year of fieldwork, when I
really got to know particular students well, when I chose my focal students, then a lot of
it became actually chatting with them so it became a little more participant and less
observation. I would go and sit and hang out with them and a lot of times I would still
not, I wouldnt necessarily be conversing with them. Id be kind of sitting, but then just
as often I would go and do one, it became a kind of impromptu group interview. By the
third or fourth month I was actually taking my tape recorder out and deciding that I was
going to go round and ask different friendship groups particular questions and try to
generate discussion amongst them.

Here, we see an example of a form of interview that is hardly distinguished as such.


There is weak classification between this activity and other activities; observation, in
the form of listening, shades into interview. This is far from unusual. Sara
Delamonts discussion of what she did in her capoeira research reveals similar
weakly classified interviews.

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S: For instance there is one woman who is basically a dancer who is fascinated by
capoeira and she actually borrows books off me and, but shes equally likely to ask me if
Ive got a book about Alexander the Great or a book about the whirling dervishes,
because shes always making up dance programmes with all sorts of cultural [. . .] and
she talks to me about human movement theory and that sort of thing. But I think for
her, because shes not in higher education I think actually Im her free library. I mean
shes delightful [G: yeah, yeah] I like her, but I think she talks to me about things like
that because she knows that if she says to me you dont happen to have a book about
witchcraft beliefs in . . . and if so can I borrow it um or do you know anything about
Santeria in Cuba and do you happen to have a book about Santeria drumming I could
borrow.
G: and what are you doing with these conversations?
S: Ill write them in the field notes [G: right really] and then I write them up in
the . . . so what Ill do in the field notes is I might um I might have little bits down the
side where Ill put um Ill put something like paired practice [.] But I might write down
the side, um India odd one out, brings me her earrings to put in my handbag, asks me if
I know anything about whirling dervishes but I wouldnt, Id put India earrings
dervishes [G: right] at the time [G: ok] or Y I carry sticking plaster for instance so I
have quite a lot of conversations when people are bleeding because they come to me,
because none of these places have proper first aid boxes so I carry big roll of sticking
plaster and a pair of scissors so if they open blisters and things they know. So people will
come to me and say can I have some plaster and theyll say ooh you know I cant do
the rabo de arroia [pronounced hab-da-hiya translation of stingrays tail*/a kick] Ive
got blisters on my feet from trying and Ill say well never mind in six months time itll
be easy for you, you know when x was learning he found that move difficult but look at
him now and Ill say that kind of thing [G: right] um, always encouraging.

Here, not only is information being generated through everyday conversation, it is


also a two-way process with Sara being asked questions as well has her asking them.
Similarly, there are occasions when Bob Jeffrey asks question in a context of other
activities. In discussing his work with primary school children he stated:
I record what they are doing, I record the way they are doing it, I record their
interactions with each, their interactions with teachers. I ask them questions about
[pause] the importance of what theyre doing, the meaningfulness of what theyre doing
[G: right] their feelings about what theyre doing [G: ok], and then afterwards theyd say
youre forever asking questions [G: laughs; youre like a kid]; yeah for gods sake stop
asking questions, and then we, we might get into a discussion, I sometimes challenge
them.

Yet all these ethnographers also conducted interviews that were much more tightly
classified as a separate and different occasion. In the same capoeira research, Sara
Delamont almost defines an interview by where it is conducted. I have left some of
the indications of hesitation in this transcript, as they indicate some of the thinking
through of the question of place that happened during the interview.
S: Oh I do all the interviews here [in her office at the university]
G: Right, why do you do that?
S: Oh, because its an appropriate space [G: ok] and I feel very strongly about that I do
all the interviews here
G: Tell me about what an appropriate space is

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G. Walford
S: Well where else would I do them? [G: yeah I agree thats obviously a problem] um I
think there are three reasons why I do them here. Partly because I think its, I could do
them at the house and that would be fine and that isnt a problem. Im not frightened of
having these young men or the women, I wouldnt be frightened of having them in the
house or anything like*/we could sit and do interviews on my dining room table or
something [G: yes]. But Ive gone in for doing it here because I think that signals to
people that it is part of a university job [G: yes] and when Ben gossips afterwards, I
mean Ben will come in and say*/the first time he came in here it was kind of hell you
know what a lot of book. But as far as, I said, if Im interviewing formally about
capoeira he comes here and I would expect. I think its three things. I think one is its to
prove that I really am a person in a university because how can they know? [G: no, quite,
no I agree] and secondly I think its because for me it marks it as work [G: yeah] and
thirdly I think, I think I feel its sort of more appropriate umY I wouldnt, I mean if
somebody said come to my flat and interview me there Id say no, I think Id say Id
rather you came to me if you dont mind. Maybe I would go but . . . When I did the
interview part of the St Lukes study I actually interviewed them all off school premises
[G: did you?] in my flat [G: did you?] as a sort of, yeah, I sort of interviewed them off
premises in their ordinary clothes and I organised for them to come, they came in sort of
friendship groups and sat around and drank coffee and I hooked them out of the
friendship group and took them to another room and interviewed them [G: right, right
interesting] um and I just thought that was right then.

Bradley Levinson illustrates the use of both loosely classified and highly classified
interviews in his study of Mexican children, and indicates that, in this case, the latter
were not as productive as he had hoped.
B: The interviews ranged from following up on a particular event that I had witnessed
in their classroom [G: oh really?] so it would be, you know, sometimes there were these
key incidents you might say in the fieldwork when there was a big argument that had run
between a whole class and a teacher and they were very illuminating of certain, we
anthropologists always love these juicy moments of confrontation because of the sort of
the fissures that they reveal. So I would try to get perspectives of different groups of
students on it, if I noticed what seemed to be some kind of tension in the group, social
tension between different friendship cliques within the group Id want to go round and
get their different perspective on it so it wasnt really any sort of intrinsic part of what Id
call my research design initially. My research design was sort of doing focal student
interviews, choosing my focal students and doing a series of so-called talking diary
interviews with them, ideally at least three over the course of the school year. I would say
as an aside that I think I stayed too wedded to that design even when it became clear to
me relatively early on that wasnt going to be terrible fruitful especially because some of
the students were not very good interviewees, they were just too immature especially the
boys they were just too immature or too uncomfortable in a one-on-one situation to
really articulate things very well.

Then there are occasions in data generation where a different situation is


established, yet it is not clear that all of the participants see it as an interview. It
has both similarities with and differences from other practices, and, thus, has an
intermediate position with regard to classification. Bob Jeffrey illustrates this with his
practice of group interviews for younger children.

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B: Ive done a number of different types but basically if you want to know what I find
works at the moment [G: yep] I think group interviews with children are best, I know
theres argument about this because the group influences each other, and theres a good
lot of particular interactive discourse that may sometimes get in the way of what
interviewers apparently want so they prefer to interview people on their own. I dont do
that any more, because I think actually what we get from group interviews is
interchange, argument, discussion, about the things that Im interested in and about
their lives and the contradictions and the tensions and the dilemmas and the problems
and so on. And you can end up with some wonderful group arguments and, as I said,
discussions, conversations.

It is worth considering what this might mean in terms of the collection or


integrated code. Where information is generated through a collection code, it is
characterised by strongly bounded knowledge elicitation methods and situations with
little linkage between them. Interviews are strictly separated from other forms of data
generation. On the other hand, an integrated method of generating data emphasises
the interdependence of various forms of knowledge transmission and attempts to
transcend traditional boundaries.
Finally, it is worth recognising that ethnographers sometimes use weaker
classification as an access strategy designed to encourage people to take part. Rather
than use the word interview, we might use chat or conversation, and downplay
the difference between this activity and any other in a classroom. In discussing how
children were selected, for example, Bob Jeffrey stated:
B: I tend to ask the teacher, the teacher generally selects them initially. Once theyve
got used to it, they say oh right who wants to talk to Bob? and I might particularly ask
someone, Id say Id really a quick chat with you if possible, if you could join the group
[G: right]. I tend to ask the teacher for those that are, that have got something to say, in
fact, they often dont take much notice and you get all sorts and so er, thats not a
problem. They are formal interviews, conversations, theyre conversations obviously,
but I go into a separate room and tape record it and so on.

Framing
In Bernsteins usage, the concept of frame refers to the strength of the boundary
between what may be transmitted and what may not be transmitted in the pedagogic
relationship. It indicates the degree of control teacher and pupil possess over the
selection, organisation, pacing and timing of knowledge transmitted and received in
the pedagogical relationship. By analogy, in interviewing, framing refers to the
degree of control that the interviewer and interviewee possess over the selection,
organisation, pacing and timing of the knowledge transmitted within the interview
situation. One important difference between Bernsteins conceptions and this
application to interviewing is that, ultimately, the interviewee has the power to
refuse to transfer knowledge.
Clearly, there is considerable variability in the framing of interviews. At one end
of the spectrum, within ethnographic interviewing, might be Lois Weis when

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G. Walford

conducting her re-interviews more than a decade later of the young people who were
part of the Working class without work project (Weis, 1995, 2004). She explained her
way of working at this point as:
L: When I re-interviewed the Class Reunion kids, I had a page of questions. It was
more that a page, two pages of questions. And I actually showed them the questions I
had intended in order to get their consent. I said these are the questions that we will be
talking around, do you have any objection, heres the tape recorder button if you ever
feel you want to turn it off and so that is my way of also letting them know we were
going to do and getting their permission to tape.
G: So in some ways it was more of a tactic to gain access [L: yes] than what you would
necessarily follow. Obviously you would follow in general those questions, but . . .
L: Its both. I did follow the questions. Sometimes the questions worked a little less
well, but I knew what I was doing then. They were issues I really wanted to cover and
they were issues I wanted to cover because I knew they were important by all the work I
had done and from books that I had read.

Here, Lois Weis is trying to use the interviews to cover particular aspects that fit with
her empirical and theoretical concerns, and is using a list of questions to ensure
strong framing of the situation. The following extract from our interview shows both
that strong framing has to be fought for, and that at the end of these same interviews,
Lois allowed a section that was much more weakly framed when she passed back to
them the transcripts of their previous childhood interviews.
G: Ok you gradually work your way through the questions and, as Im doing,
presumably you darted around a bit?
L: Absolutely, I always dart, yeah. And I feed off what they say. I mean, like you, you
know you get pretty good at this after a while and I feed off what they say. So I move
with them.
G: How do you end the interview?
L: The Class reunion ones were really fun because I gave them a typed version of their
transcript from when they were sixteen and they flipped, they just freaked out.
G: You gave that after youd interviewed them did you?
L: Yes I gave it to them afterwards. And then we talked about it a little bit, it was more
a sort of my closing.
G: With the tape recorder still on?
L: Yes. It elicited a little less than I thought it would, with the tape recorder on because
I think they didnt think about it.

In contrast, the interviews conducted by Paul Connolly with his primary school
children were much more weakly framed.
P: I asked a child to nominate two others and I found that a group of three was
probably the optimal number for me for that age [G: ok]. With four you started to
create dynamics where you could have two against two [G: yeah] and with just two, you
know, if one wasnt speaking much it became quite stunted. Three for most of the time
actually worked pretty well. So youve got a friendship group of three, basically sat
down, and thered be opening questions that I had*/just about what were you doing
today in the playground or Id have more general questions about what are you going to
do tonight when you get home, or what do you like to do at home, what do you like to

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play, what do you watch on TV. Just to get the discussion going [G: yeah]. And then
really it would take on a logic of its own. So for the most part I really just let the
children talk in whatever ways they wanted to. And I had that luxury of being a PhD
student where I could spend three days a week for a year in the school so I could take
my time [G: sure] and just allow them to discuss whatever they wanted to. And
invariably, you know, its an inner city school in a multi-racial area, and race came into
their discussions very quickly.

Here, the circumstances were designed such that the children could take a large
degree of control over the framing of the situation. It was deemed appropriate
because the research centered on the understandings that these children gave to race
and ethnicity. Allowing them considerable power to frame the situation meant that
they could exhibit their own worldviews.
Sometimes, of course, the interviewer is not actually able to impose the degree of
framing desired. Jan Nespor describes an occasion where he was invited to interview
a group of people in the school committee and the framing was fought over:
J: I actually served on, like there was a site based school committee there, site based
management committee, that I was a member of for a couple of years and I know one of
the members of that group from the church was on it. Some way or another I hooked up
with them and I went over and interviewed about ten of them simultaneously. Which
really wasnt my idea but that was like, I said Can I come and interview you about what
youre doing after school and what the school was like in the past? and she says, Oh yes
wed love, well bring a whole bunch of people who were there. You know, they kind of
introduced themselves, and youd try to take notes so you can reconstruct who said what
because everybody sounds the same on the tape. [. . .] And of course with ten people that
very quickly became them talking to each other more than me asking questions . . .

Or there might be particular people who are reluctant to go along with the framing
that the interviewer might desire. Jan Nespor recounted one such woman:
J: She was very involved in opposition to the school and she would never sit down and
be interviewed. She was one of those people who would grab you in the parking lot and
tell you everything that had happened to her and talk for twenty or thirty minutes but
just didnt want to have it on tape. And Id say can I write about that? I mean I didnt
actually because I could never remember. It was like, you know, itd be the end of the
day and youre tired, and this person just downloads you know tries to download all of
this complex stuff and of course by the time I get to the typewriter I cant remember half
of it.

Conclusions
In this paper I hope to have shown that Bernsteins categories of classification and
framing can be applied to the variety of interview situations within ethnography. As
with the original formulation of educational knowledge codes, there is a tendency for
high classification to be associated with high framing and low classification to be
associated with low framing, but two distinct dimensions can be identified.

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G. Walford

This identification of two dimensions is, I hope, both interesting and useful. It may
make us think more carefully about the nature of the interview situations that we
co-construct, and give us a new language with which to discuss these issues.
But, the more challenging implication of using the framework of classification and
framing is that, in Bernsteins original formulation, the educational success of
children of differing classes (and, one might add, genders and ethnicities) will be
related to the classification and framing to be found in teaching situations. Where
framing is strong [. . .] social class may play a crucial role [. . .] it often means that the
images, voices and practices the school reflects make it difficult for children of
marginalized classes to recognize themselves in the school (Bernstein, 2000, p. 14).
One would expect there to be similar relationships between class and other elements
of marginalisation in the interview process. One advantage of the use of classification
and framing as a way of thinking about interviewing is that it may make researchers
examine the possible differential validities and reliabilities that various approaches
may have with interviewees of different social classes, genders an ethnicities. It is an
empirical question as to which type of interviewing technique is likely to generate the
most valid data, and this requires a separate research investigation, but it is inevitable
that this relationship between validity and method will be mediated by class, race
and gender.
Acknowledgements
I am very grateful to the seven ethnographers who willingly gave time not only to be
interviewed, but also to read and correct a transcript of the interview. Thanks are also
due to Nick Hopwood who skilfully transcribed the interviews.

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