The accidental Guerrilla researcher …

Rambling insights from trying to write up my research project—stumbling into Guerrilla research

Of being a sheep with style

The accidental Guerrilla research project—I think

We were tasked to conduct an action research project, exploring the impact or effect or benefits or outputs a new teaching strategy or method has on our students. This was the rough task provided within the framework of the PG Cert course. Another task set by senior management is to prove the impact the Learning Development Centre within which I work has on the overall performance and achievement of the students. Now a small project like mine cannot possibly establish the overall impact, a task, which in itself seems very unlikely to be fulfilled, due to the complexity of learning experiences. At most we can establish correlations and patterns that may (or may not) indicate our impact. The actuality of impact lies all within perception: our colleagues’ and students’ perception of their interaction and engagement with our pedagogies and us. Therein sits, in my opinion, our impact, the one we can at least to some degree measure and explore.

Now I aimed initially to explore the impact the first year integrated module has on the students. Alas, I cannot force my students to participate, most permitted me to use the activities and their products from the various sessions, but no one wanted to participate in interviews or group discussions. So according to the methods proposed for action research (i.e. focus groups, interviews, evaluation forms etc.) I had a meager amount of data, and to make the project worthwhile needed to explore more pathways. When I came across Guerrilla Research Methods, which are mostly ad hoc, imply participants’ co-creation of knowledge.

Guerrilla research approach, works under the remit of action research, the aim is change and improvement. Co-creation of knowledge as a key-focus aligns closely with the activities I undertook with my students throughout the sessions. Such as the students developing evaluation questions for the standard course evaluation, creating and feedbacking on balloon academy participants, exploring the meaning of fortune cookies, trying to analyse white plastic cups, and write reflective essays or blogs about their experiences. The data can be triangulated with standard evaluation forms and interviews from my colleagues who experienced the students’ feedback in their roles as module leaders. Guerrilla methods may not be rigorous and definitely cannot replace a comprehensive and thorough research project. However, they draw from the fluid nature of educational space and its participants. As researcher I place myself within the realm of participant who co-created knowledge about her own pedagogy in collaboration with the students and their formal as well as informal feedback. Guerrilla research methods contain ethnographic elements and so this project was not only focussing on my first year UG and first year PGT students but it also became a journey of becoming.

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