Approaching methodology creatively: problematizing elite schools' 'best practice' through a film about perfection and imperfection

Johannah Clare Fahey, Howard James Prosser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Elite schools around the world aspire to produce perfect students and yet there are always obstacles to this perfection being achieved. In this paper, we suggest that this process of perfectionism and obstruction can best be understood using a methodology that looks to the creative arts, rather than the usual social science orthodoxies. Our focus in this paper is therefore not on methodology as a technique, but rather methodology as a resource for thought. Using Lars Von Trier's film The Five Obstructions as a point of departure, we suggest that the quest for perfect students, or indeed perfect humans, is one that ignores the inherent obstacles that block pathways to perceived perfection. Our research draws on ethnographic fieldwork from six elite secondary schools in Argentina, Australia, Barbados, England, Hong Kong, and South Africa. We posit a creative methodology permits a coming to terms with the abstractions required when analyzing and interpreting large amounts of data from a multi-sited ethnographic study. This approach makes it feasible to draw some conclusions about a common characteristic ? perfectionism ? among elite schools around the globe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033 - 1048
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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