Stakeholder Participation in a Primary School in Ethiopia

June 7, 2017

In this issue of our case studies in ATLAS.ti series, we interview Dr. Rafael Mitchell, educational research consultant from Bristol, UK.  Dr. Mitchell gives us an overview of an ethnographic study examining the agendas, participation and influence of stakeholders on an urban government primary school in Tigray, Ethiopia.

Thank you for talking with us today.  Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am an education researcher and consultant with a special interest in the purposes and processes of schooling in developing countries. Over the last 15 years I have worked in education in the UK, India, China, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, and written on educational leadership, teacher learning, community participation and school improvement in peer-reviewed journals.

My recent PhD research at the University of Leicester was an ethnographic case study of the agendas, participation and influence of management, teachers, students and parents at an urban government primary school in Tigray, Ethiopia. I work at Enable-Ed – a small not-for-profit UK-based consultancy which specialises in evaluation and research for education initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.

Tell us about the project in which you have used ATLAS.ti.

I used ATLAS.ti to support inductive analysis of case data from my ethnographic study of the agendas, participation and influence of stakeholders an urban government primary school in Tigray, Ethiopia. This PhD research involved 6 months of fieldwork over and 8-month period in 2014. The case data included 500,000 words of typed fieldnotes and over 2000 photographs. I divided this data into 4 main types: participant accounts, observational data, ‘talk in action’, and institutional texts. To enable a fine-grained analysis within and between the different datasets, I deconstructed the 4 types of data into separate documents, and entered these into ATLAS.ti. This process resulted in 385 ‘primary documents’ (PDs) for coding in ATLAS.ti, which included:

Ninety-eighty documents containing participant account data: one for each teacher, manager and student whose accounts featured in the case data.

  • One hundred-eleven PDs relating to lesson and examination observations: one for each event.
  • Forty-five PDs relating to meetings in school. Minutes, audio translations and observational data for meetings were gathered in a single ‘PD family’, which was subdivided for different types of meeting (e.g. staff, PSTA, Management Committee, etc.).
  • Twenty-four PDs for observational data ‘by the week’: the FNs were divided into weekly segments, to enable a more contextualised analysis of data, and facilitate analysis of activities in school which were not lessons or meetings.
  • Fifty nine PDs containing photographs of institutional texts, and 38 from activities in school.

The way I organized data into primary documents for ATLAS.ti had implications for the subsequent analysis, and my decisions were based on a number of factors. For example, I decided to include separate files for the participant accounts of each individual, but not separate files for each interview or discussion with each individual – as this would have added months to the data processing phase.

Additionally, I decided to include only 100 out of more than 2000 photographs amongst the documents, because I found it slow to code images using ATLAS.ti, and the inclusion of large numbers of photographs made the project file unwieldy. For this reason, I viewed photographs using generic software, and added (and coded), only selected and representative images to the project file.

Details of how I used ATLAS.ti to support the development of codes and themes is reported in the thesis (Mitchell 2017, 100-101). Mitchell, Rafael. 2017. “An ethnographic case study of the agendas, participation and influence of stakeholders at an urban government primary school in Tigray, Ethiopia.” PhD thesis, University of Leicester.

Would you like to add anything?

Yes. I found ATLAS.ti easy to use within a few weeks, with excellent online tutorials from Ricardo Contreras. Compared to other data analysis software I tried, ATLAS.ti was less cumbersome and more intuitive.

Contact the author

You may contact Dr. Mitchell at His profile can be found here:

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