I have needed to do extra reading, namely Research Methods in Education by Cohen, Manion & Morrison (2011) on participatory action research and devising questionnaires. The latter because my methodology changed and my originally planned Reflecting Data session changed format from paper-based to an online survey. Although the BU Ethics panel approved this decision, I need to think about why the decision became apparent mid-way through my pilot.
Adapting Methods Accordingly
Additional clarity of Session 2 findings proved necessary precisely because I made the choice to allow participants to produce data in any way they saw fit. On analyses, around 50% of the data collected proved unusable as it failed to answer my question with sufficient coherency (even with participant reflection), raising questions of over stretching participants or perhaps not being sufficiently clear on the research objective. The 50% that proved unusable opted for narrative/ text-based or 3D models to provide their explanation and within that data some participants raised the issue that they found it difficult to define. Consequently, participant confusion on actually defining the term contributes to the justification of the project even though participants failed to coherently identify any key transferable skills for the purposes of the key research question.
Problems of Duality of Role – The Researcher-Teacher
Thinking back over all three planned sessions, maybe too many questions were asked of participants in the build up to the making data session. The pre-research session was designed to open up participant ideas on other possible avenues for primary research. Participants know what a questionnaire, interview and focus group are but they had never thought about creating or selecting images or film quotes even as research, had not thought about using Play-Doh or Lego to express ideas metaphorically. I guess Session 1 was more about me trying to transfer some of my interest for thinking about research methods differently onto my students. I confused the student/ participant role here I think.
Interestingly, when I asked (in Session 3) if participants would use the same method (if they were to participate in similar research) again, the majority (over 80%) said they would elect to use the same method… but at the cost of additional researcher confusion, further questions and a newly designed online survey.
I wanted the process to be democratic and autonomous. I wanted to avoid forced methods. As their teacher, I did not want their experience of the research process itself to be laborious, a chore. I wanted participants to enjoy it and they did (well 90% stated that they did) but I will never really know if they have stated that because I am their teacher.
Also, recently, I have returned to John Law’s After Method (2004) as he acknowledges key issues on methodological (un)certainty of social science data. His book instills a confidence in me to see this project through and to bear in mind all the grey areas involved in human behaviour/ inquiry of this kind.
My mantra for this journey, inspired by his work is as follows:
Remaining open to change, embracing the messiness of human inquiry, going with the tide and seeking connections in the natural order.