The ethnographic study presented herein is an attempt in identifying ways in which Latino parents in different communities
(a community based organization, an after church group, a community organizing group, and a school group) who have undergone
training by a university researcher learn how to use ethnographic research techniques and methods that help them understand
schools, how to use data, and how they can become empowered by conducting their own research. Using focus groups with parents,
audiotapes of each meeting, and informal interviews with parents, the training and research was undertaken during 1999 to
2002 and was reinitiated during 2005 in communities with high concentrations of Latinos in the greater metropolitan area of
While the study shows that each parent group responded differently to the training of ethnographic
methods, and some demanded a greater focus on issues that were critical for them, much was learned about this intervention
and about the perspectives of Latino parents that yields theoretical and methodological considerations. While the intervention
proved to be useful, it is clear that it needs to be accompanied by literacy support, and university linked programs to communities.
Among the methodological considerations gained from this study are several: 1) ethnographic research needs to be demystified
for consumption by community groups, 2) the academic language of ethnography needs to be concretized, using Paulo Freire’s
notion into metaphors and examples derived from every day life, 3) ethnographic research needs to be goal and action oriented,
whereby participants can relate the immediacy of their needs to useful outcomes, and 4) ethnographic research linking university
researchers to community members, through organizations and agencies, initiates needed dialogue, research opportunities, and
political strategy-building. The theoretical considerations derived from this study show that parental involvement particularly
for Latino parents, needs to be contextually reframed at different stages of incorporation, and adaptation to U. S. society.
Latino parents become differentially involved in schools based on their levels of education, access and use of first and second
languages, social and cultural capital knowledge, generational and country of origin and host family patterns and political
consciousness. Ethnographic research can actually gain from the participatory roles and sense of empowerment that these Latino
parents’ perspectives shed.