Problematizing School Discipline and Struggling for Verstehen

  • John J. BrentEmail author


This chapter reflects on an ethnographic case study examining the institutional culture underpinning school discipline and punishment. More specifically, it offers personal experiences related to the interpretive process of gaining verstehen—an empathetic understanding that is fundamental to ethnographic and qualitative work. In doing so, it highlights that the process of appreciating lived experiences, emotive frameworks, and individual motivations may be much more dynamic and complex than often written about in texts, publications, and peer-reviewed articles. This chapter also discusses how the relationship between the researcher and research topic can impact processes of understanding. Lastly, it concludes by outlining the significance of ethnographic methods and empathy for criminological research, policy implications, and opportunities for change.


Ethnography Verstehen School discipline Punishment Education 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Justice Studies, College of Justice and SafetyEastern Kentucky UniversityRichmondUSA

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