4 Listening to the very young: the Mosaic approach.
So far in this session, you have heard the views of secondary-aged school children who conducted research themselves, and you have just been considering the fundamental rights of all children to be heard and to participate. In this section, you are going to look at very young children whose views can easily be overlooked when they are deemed not to have anything of value to contribute.
The Mosaic approach, developed by Alison Clark and Peter Moss for use with young children in early years settings, brings together a wide range of methods and tools, which can be used in combination to gain an understanding of children’s views and experiences of their environments. It recognises that some tools will be more suitable to use with individual children than others but assumes that all children’s views and experiences are valuable. Examples of tools used within this approach include observation, interviews and child-led tours of their environment. Taking pictures and creating maps often involve children in a lot of talking and these activities are as much about a ‘vehicle for listening’ as they are about an end result. Children are in charge of the tours and are also in charge of reviewing the images they capture, deciding which ones to display and share with others. The advantages of this approach include building children’s skills and confidence, as well as giving adults insight into children’s perspectives, while the challenges include interpreting and representing the varied data gathered.
In the next video you are going to see a Headteacher talking about her own experience of research with very young children through a project she has called the Listening Project. Teachers in this project took a novel approach to ‘tuning in’ really effectively to nursery school children so that what they had to say was carefully listened to and heard.
The project was based at the Robert Owen Centre at the Rachel McMillan nursery school in London, where a whole Inset (staff training) day introduced the idea of children’s participation and looked at the work of Alison Clark and Peter Moss. This video clip highlights the need to develop specific skills to listen to very young children. The Rachel McMillan nursery went on to build on the principles of the project and to develop the importance of not just listening to children but of attuning to them. You will look further at the concept of ‘attuning’ in Session 2.
For now, look at this short extract, but before you watch the clip, take a few minutes to consider how we listen to each other. The Headteacher refers to ‘the many ways that people can communicate that aren’t necessarily speaking;’ what do you think she means by this? Note down your thoughts now, then watch the video and try the activities which follow it.
Transcript: Video 3
Rachel Hogarth Smith
The Listening Project – that was the start point for a lot of the practitioners’ development, because there was a focus on the very many ways human beings can communicate with one another that aren’t just about speaking. We took the definition of listening to be actually everything you notice about another person, and rather than just directly hearing what they’re saying.
Oh, look at that paper in the sky.
Rachel Hogarth Smith
It created a working atmosphere where practitioners were really reflecting on what they saw the children doing, but reflecting on how they responded to that, as well. And that’s what the staff used as their own action plans for the work that they were focusing on that year. And we have taken that model for all of our school development plans ever since.
Looking back, we’ve got a much deeper understanding than we had when we were sort of first started with the Listening Project. And I would have said that we had a deep understanding then. But actually, that’s just grown. And we’ve unpicked it further and to try to sort of take it to a deeper level to understand what it is we’re doing with children when they’re here.
How is listening described?
Rachel Hogarth-Smith refers to ‘everything you notice about another person,’ rather than just directly hearing what they’re saying.
What effect did this project have on the ‘working atmosphere’ in the school?
The staff reflected on their own practice, how they responded to what they saw the children doing. Their own action plans focussed on the project.
Can you think of any barriers to listening to children and young people, and very young children in particular?