Research methods – the gingerbread man

The gingerbread man method uses the image of a gingerbread man as a reference for the research discussion and looks at four key elements in the participant. The method considers the participant’s knowledge, skills, values and experience. Similar to the triangle method, the gingerbread man can give the researcher a helpful framework for a research conversation with a participant.

As an example, a music subject leader in a primary school exploring how teaching assistants support pupils in music lessons starts by asking a teaching assistant, ‘What do you know about classical music?’ The researcher may then move straight to the experience of the participant and ask, ‘Have you ever heard a live classical performance?’ The skills of the teaching assistant are then explored through the question, ‘Can you play an instrument?’ or further to this, ‘Have you ever played a brass instrument?’ The final element of the gingerbread man will then ask the participant about their values and could be represented by the question, ‘What music do you love to listen to and why?’ The data gathered from the gingerbread man method helps the researcher to gain an understanding of the underpinning musical knowledge, skills, values and experience of teaching assistants in their school and can then be compared with how this impacts on the effectiveness of the support given to pupils in music lessons.

The gingerbread man image can be used to write key words or phrases from the respondents. Each gingerbread man can then be analysed for similarities and differences between the respondents, building a broader picture of evidence for your analysis of data.

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