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Understanding research with children and young people
Understanding research with children and young people

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2 Understanding children’s views

One researcher who has specialised in carrying out research with very young children is Alison Clark. Together with Peter Moss, she developed the ‘Mosaic approach.’ The principles of this approach are to use a variety of methods in order to build up an understanding of young children’s views, not just to rely solely on questionnaires and interviews. As you remember from the video you watched at the start of this Session, it is essential to find methods appropriate to the age-range of the children and young people with whom you are carrying out your research. So, in the case of very young children, this could include a range of visual methods; photographs and drawings, for example, are a good way to encourage such young children to participate in discussions about things that affect their lives. Here, you can see how a simple outline picture was used for a young child to share their experience of pain.

Body outline by a child mapping six pain experiences (A3 sized body outline)

From Carter et al: Engaging with children in designing pain research: how to do it and is it worth the effort?

There are so many different media that researchers can use nowadays; play, art, pictures, photos: the key is to select the method that is appropriate. You may not be planning to carry out research with such young children. However, this approach is so focussed on listening to and attuning with the children, that when used with any age-range it can lead to successful results. Remember that the children and young people are experts in their own lives. Therefore, it is essential to find the best way of giving them the opportunity to express that expertise.

Click on the link below to find a document which gives an example of how the Mosaic approach was applied for one project. There is an activity to follow, so as you read, consider the key elements of the Mosaic approach, and how this approach is not limited to carrying out research with young children. Remember to open the link in a new tab or window so you can refer back to the activity when reading.

What is the Mosaic approach? [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Activity 3

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes.


The Mosaic approach means just watching the children carefully and then interviewing them.


The Mosaic approach employs a variety of different methods, including photos and film.


The first study using this approach showed that the children’s eating facilities were important to them.


The Mosaic approach showed that professional assumptions were sometimes wrong.


Architects had thought that only primary colours were appropriate for a nursery.

The correct answers are b, d and e.