Ethnography Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students are going to learn about the goals, methods, and ethics of ethnography. They will apply this by conducting a brief ethnographic study of their own school.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define the goals and objectives of ethnography
  • Discuss the methods and ethics of ethnographic study
  • Conduct a basic cultural study using ethnographic methods, objectives, and frames of analysis


  • Original discussion: 45-60 minutes
  • Full assignment: One week

Curriculum Standards


Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.


Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.


Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


  • Copies of the quiz


  • Ask students to define culture.
    • What does this term mean to you?
    • What are the elements of a culture? How do we study culture, and the things that it comprises?
  • Begin video lesson What is Ethnography? - Studying Cultural Phenomena. Pause lesson at 2:34 and discuss.
    • What is ethnography? What is the goal of ethnography?
    • What sorts of things do you think ethnographers look for? What sorts of things are they observing?
    • What do you think the challenges of ethnography are? What obstacles, issues or practical concerns do ethnographers have to consider when planning their research?
  • Resume video lesson. Pause at 5:59 and discuss.
    • How do ethnographies work? How is data collected? Does this information give you any more ideas about the sorts of things that ethnographers look for when defining and understanding a culture?
    • What is the relationship between the ethnographer and the culture they are studying? How does the ethnographer build trust with the subjects? Is it more beneficial for the ethnographer to try and join that culture, or to remain an objective observer? Why?
  • Resume and complete video. Discuss this information.
    • What are the moral concerns of ethnography? How does this change in covert versus overt studies? What are the values of each, and when is each appropriate?
    • Can ethnographers present a danger to the societies they are studying? Why or why not? How can we reduce this risk?
    • What sorts of topics are appropriate to study via ethnography? Why are these good subjects for ethnographic research?
  • You may test student understanding with the quiz.

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