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

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What is the Mosaic approach?

The Mosaic approach uses a range of participatory visual methods, alongside observation and interviewing, to build up new understandings of young children’s views and experiences of early childhood environments. Children under 5 are invited to take a researcher on ‘tours’ of their nursery, taking photographs and providing a ‘running commentary’ on their routine activities. They are asked to indicate who they typically meet and where they meet them, which rooms they have access to or not, and so on.

The children are placed in charge of the tour and how it is recorded: by photograph, audio recording or drawings. Combining the results from this and the other research tools in the Mosaic approach can lead to a process of discovery at an individual, institutional and professional level. There can be tangible and immediate benefits for individual children involved, in terms of understandings gained about children’s interests and concerns within a particular space.

At an institutional level, the first study using this approach discovered the importance of the children’s private spaces within the nursery, as well as the need to involve the children in planning the use of external play areas. In a subsequent study that focused on the design and review of learning environments (Clark 2010), the Mosaic approach revealed data that challenged professional assumptions about young children’s capabilities and perceptions. One example arose over the understanding that primary colours were appropriate for a nursery, and related to assumptions about young children’s limited awareness of subtleties of tone. Children’s comments about the differences in tone between the colour of a piece of furniture shown in a photograph they had taken and the actual object challenged this assumption which had long been held by architects.

Sandy Fraser, Rosie Flewitt and Martyn Hammersley.