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Becoming an ethical researcher
Becoming an ethical researcher

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3.1 Children’s participation

Do you consider children to be experts on their own experiences and lives? If so, how can they safely participate in research to share insight on their world views? Perhaps you have come across quotations or drawings from children in reports, or in studies where children have been conducting their own research. The level of participation of children may vary from tokenism to leadership and empowerment.

According to a human rights perspective, children are capable of offering opinions and decision-making and should be encouraged to so do. This philosophy recognises children’s essential agency and respects their right to participate and contribute a voice but, according to differences in sociocultural norms, may be difficult to fully realise.

Hart (1992) categorised different levels of children and young people’s involvement in projects as a ladder. Think about your experience or views on participation according to this classification:

Described image
Figure 6 Hart’s ladder of participation

Activity 5 Enabling participation

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes

Think about how you might apply Hart’s ladder of participation to a setting you have read about or know.

Post to the course forum [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , giving examples about children’s participation with which you are familiar and identifying which rung they would fit into on the ladder. Explain where the setting is for your example, without giving names.

You might want to include why you think your example was not higher on the ladder. What are the barriers and why? Think about the way contexts enable or constrain your example.

You might also want to include any thoughts you have on the model itself and whether you agree with the descriptions of each rung in the order they are presented.

Look at the responses of others to see a range of examples enabling children’s participation.