Course Title: Youth Ethnography: Secret Life of Us

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Youth Ethnography: Secret Life of Us

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


365H Global, Urban and Social Studies


Sem 2 2008,
Sem 1 2009,
Sem 1 2010,
Sem 1 2011,
Sem 2 2012

Course Coordinator: Dr Sharon Andrews

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 8239

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 37.2

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities


Course Description

This course is a core course in the second year of the Youth Work Program. It will
also will be available to non-youth work students.

The course is designed for students to develop their social research skills in accessing
information about how young people experience different aspects of their lives,
how social experiences shape their self-identities, their actions and interpretations of
particular events or experience.

The foundational premise of the course is that most social scientific research about
young people fails to either identify the value of bringing young people’s experience
into the research frame or to directly elicit young people’s perspectives or lived experience.
This is part of the larger problem that young people have little opportunity to have a say
about the various identities assigned to them or the various claims advanced about them by
experts, professionals, the media or adults generally.

The course draws on the ethical principle that those being talked about have a right to be
included in discussions that directly affect them, and are entitled to have a say about the
identities assigned to them. It is also based on the idea that the involvement of those
identified as a problem or as ‘the objects’ of professional practice can themselves
provide an important reality check on the observations of outsiders and their tendency to
usurp the voices of others by claiming to speak on their behalf (Bourdieu 1992). Finally
this course is informed by a recognition of the practical value in listening to
insider’s accounts of ‘the problem or ‘issue’ being examined. This is likely to improve
professional practice because it helps ensure ‘the matter’ is represented in ways that
draw on the experiences of those ‘being helped’, and in this way may have some
chance of benefiting ‘clients’.

The course introduces students firstly to key features of the traditions of and various
methods of ethnography which include the search for context, inter-subjectivity, and
the ethical issues posed by ‘subjects’ speaking for themselves.

The philosophical and social science traditions that ethnography draws on are identified.

Learning activities are designed
to assist students to identify how these different approaches often produce disparities
between those believe we can know about youth/social problems through objective
scientific discoveries, and those (ie., critical interpretivists) who say such accounts reveal
more the perspectives and interests of those doing the discover than they do about
those being investigated.

The critical interpretivist heritage of ethnography is
recognized and explained while indicating how different it is to more empiricist or
foundationalist traditions. The ethical and safety issues associated with this approach
to social research with young people are also detailed. Students will use case studies to
apply their knowledge and skills in accessing and understanding insiders’ accounts of the
individual and collectives lives of young people in regard to a variety of current issues
like ‘school to work transition’, unemployment, crime, homelessness etc.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

By the end of this course students will:
1. Have a working knowledge and the skills needed to carrying out research
designed to access information about how young people experience their
lives, how experiences inform their self identities, actions and interpretations.
2. Appreciate the ethical value of ethnography, particularly its capacity to
illicit young people’s perspectives or account of their lived experience,
to provide opportunities for young people to have a say about the various identities
assigned to them as well as the claims advanced about them by experts, professionals,
media workers and adults generally.
3. Appreciate how consideration of young people’s perspectives can inform youth
work practice and act as a reality check in respect to observations made by ‘outsiders’.
4. be able to understand the social science and philosophical traditions that
ethnography draws on, and have the capacity to articulate how that is different from
more empiricist or foundationalist approaches.
5. have a working understanding of the method used in ethnography
6. be able to articulate the ethical and safety issues associated with ethnography
and young people
7. be able to apply these skills and knowledge to specific areas such as homelessness,
crime, substance abuse etc

The course will produce outcomes identified in the generic graduate capabilities 1, 2, 3, and 4. It also provides learning activities designed to realize youth work specific graduate capabilities 1, 2, 3 and 4.

See Above.

Overview of Learning Activities

The kind of learning activities students will experience in this course include use of information and communications technology to research various sources, such as the Internet, printed media, historical, social science accounts, novels, autobiographies, government and other official reports.
Learning activities will also include formal lectures, workshops incorporating group work, active problem based learning, interviews, comparative and textual analysis, and field work.

Overview of Learning Resources

Students will need to access to prescribed and recommended texts and electronic information technology (computers, data bases).

Overview of Assessment

Assessment tasks are directly linked to the stated objectives and capabilities development such as critical analysis, ethical reflexivity and an ability to draw on relevant theoretical insights and research findings. Assessment tasks will include class based assessment, and what type of assessment students can expect in the course include written reports/essays, folios, oral reports, and annotated visual reports.