THE ROLE OF ETHNOGRAPHIC INTERVIEWING IN CLIMATE CHANGE EVALUATION RESEARCH: INVESTIGATING INTENDED AND UNINTENDED PROGRAM EFFECTS
Drawing on evaluation work involving a federally-funded climate change grant at the University of California, Riverside, I will discuss how to design an ethnographic interview protocol in an effort to share “best practices” with other climate change evaluators. Particular attention will be given to applying ethnographic approaches to various program types, even those differing from the one discussed. I will share some of the concrete findings from my work on this grant, to serve as examples of the kinds of data evaluators can collect when employing an ethnographic approach to interviewing.
UC Riverside’s climate change grant is multi-faceted, however the component studied ethnographically was a science fair mentoring program. About twenty K-12 students from high poverty, ethnically diverse schools who expressed an interest in participating in science fair were paired up with graduate student mentors to simultaneously research climate change and design authentic science fair projects to compete at various levels. Since one of the stated goals of the grant is to “stimulate…students to consider climate science as a career track through experiential education activities” I was particularly interested in how student experiences with the project might differ from school science which has historically “pushed out” ethnically diverse students like those in many of Riverside’s schools. I also sought to understand student perceptions of the project design and implementation and how these perceptions might influence their thinking about science as a career. Further, I aimed to explore how mentor pedagogical philosophies might impact student experiences with the projects, since the scholarly literature supports the idea that teaching practices are linked to student success and interest in science.