I adopt a broad view of the term languaging as any practice involving language. In the Ethnographic monitoring: languaging in Gambian schools project, the concept is meant to encompass how language is used from the teachers’ and learners’ perspectives. Focus is therefore on any language spoken in schools: varieties of English, varieties of Gambian languages, and language varieties exogenous to The Gambia.
In simple terms, linguistic ethnography is ‘an interpretive approach which studies the local and immediate actions of actors from their point of view and considers how these interactions are embedded in wider social contexts and structures’ (Copland and Creese 2015: 13). Ethnographic monitoring: languaging in Gambian schools aims to do precisely this, namely gain some insights into the actions, beliefs and knowledges of school teachers and their students regarding what they do or consider should be done with language in education settings. By developing a better understanding of what the lived experiences of multilingualism in schools of teachers and students are, it will therefore become easier to engage with the wider discourses in which such experiences are embedded, particularly those pertaining to language-in-education and teacher training regarding teaching in linguistically diverse contexts such as The Gambia.
Ethnographic monitoring (see Hymes 1980; 1981 for initial discussions of the term) is a particular kind of ethnographic mode of enquiry into education that is characterised by collaboration and cooperation. Two essential criteria are:
- researchers’ long-term commitment to and active participation in the field
- a close consultation with all social actors involved in the research
The premise of this method was that social change through education research absolutely requires the above to be possible:
“Yet, “the ethnography of Malinowski and most other classic ethnography – mere ethnography – does not address such questions as ‘How can we make this canoe better?’ ” (Erickson 1979:186). It is precisely by being involved in a process of ethnographic monitoring, or in other words by becoming more participating than observing, that this can become a reality”. (Van Der and Blommaert 2011: 321)
Ethnographic monitoring in the project allows me to give more equal weight to the voices of my research participants—mostly teachers and students —and my voice as the researcher.