In a move inspired by the Mass Observation programme established in the 1930s, university teachers are being asked to keep a diary of their teaching on the 15th day of each month over the course of the next year, starting next week.
Sally Fincher, professor of computing education at the University of Kent and leader of the Share project, chose the novel way of collecting data after visiting the Mass Observation archives in Brighton.
“I’ve become increasingly aware of the limitations of traditional methods of gathering research data, such as questionnaires and semi-structured interviews which put the researcher into the frame,” she said.
The Mass Observation project, set up in 1937, used different methods. It aimed to record the lives of ordinary people in Britain via a panel of volunteer observers, creating what the founders described as “an anthropology of ourselves”.
Via “day surveys”, members of the public were asked to send in accounts of a day in their lives in the form of a diary.