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

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Understanding research with children and young people

4 What is child-led research?

Research led by children and young people is the process of enquiry into an issue of relevance to their lives. Doing social research means finding out about people and society in order to solve problems, or to design services or products that cater for various needs of people.

Activity 6

Timing: Allow approximately 40 minutes.

There are many reasons that children and young people might decide to have a go at doing their own social research; here are three:

1: Wanting to change something.

Discussion

It could be, for example, that children want more say about local policy and decide to do some research which involves asking their peers for their opinions in order to create a strong argument that they can then take to policy-makers. Remember that the UNCRC, which you studied in Session 1, acknowledges the right for children and young people to be heard and to participate in society. Adults have an adult perspective; children and young people are experts on their own lives, so it is important that they are supported to make their own opinions and viewpoints heard.

2: Wanting to find out more about a topic.

Discussion

Few people would deny that curiosity and inquisitiveness are good characteristics to encourage in children and young people of all ages. Asking questions and finding out new things are important for learning and for understanding the world. Finding out what other children in your school think about maths lessons, or what other young people understand about money, for example, can be fascinating.

3: Wanting to learn what it is like to do social research.

Discussion

Most children and young people have experience of project work at school (i.e. they find out about things that are already known) but few of them will have had an opportunity to find out what it is like to be a social researcher. Doing social research means finding out about people and society in order to solve problems, or to design services or products that cater for various needs of people. The experience of doing social research and being a social researcher can be enlightening and can help children and young people to understand what research is and what researchers do. The insights they gain might help them make career decisions, or they might be able to apply what they learn to their school lessons, for example.

In the next video you are going to see how some children at a special school carried out their own research. As you watch the video make notes on the following: What were the reasons for their research? Did they want to change something, or find out more about something? Then, once you have watched the video, try the activity that follows.

Download this video clip.Video player: 235247_front_end_bords.mp4
Skip transcript

Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

KIERON SHEEHY
This is part of a research project that we’ve got going, where we’re trying to push the boundaries of children’s research. So the groups of children we’ve are starting to work now are children who typically wouldn’t be trained in research skills, and wouldn’t certainly take on independent projects based on their own interests.
ILDA OURIQUE
Our main aim I think, is to get them to become more independent in their learning, their communication skills.
KIERON SHEEHY
That’s the approach we doing, it hasn’t been done before. And it’s new for children’s research center.
ILDA OURIQUE
The children did need facilitation, they weren’t able to do independently. But I think the fact that they got together, they were able to communicate with each other, decide on questions, decide on topics. So even if that’s all they learned from the project, that is good.
KIERON SHEEHY
So it’s based on giving children research skills, which has benefits in giving children I suppose a voice. And so empowering them to influence decisions in their schools, and in local communities. We know that’s happened for children in primary and secondary schools, but it’s not happened for children with special education needs.
ILDA OURIQUE
They enjoyed communicating, they enjoyed the sessions. And they were very, very communicative and responsive. It’s something that can be done very easily. Obviously, the level of facilitation and guidance will differ depending on the needs of the children.
KIERON SHEEHY
The way in which children interact with one another, how we speak to one another in groups, has a profound effect on their social and cognitive development. And that research again, is only really been done with children in primary schools or secondary schools, no one’s taken that to this group of children. Because their assumption is that they’re not up to it.
ILDA OURIQUE
For this project they’re doing interviews and questionnaires. They worked out the questions beforehand and hopefully getting what they want today. One group are very dissatisfied with the school meals.
SPEAKER 1
I’ve being researching about different kinds of food to like people want.
SPEAKER 2
Maybe chicken tikka.
SPEAKER 1
But we just put loads of questionnaires out.
SPEAKER 2
Loads of yeses and a couple of noes. It’s very interesting.
SPEAKER 1
Like to see more people enjoy meals more.
SPEAKER 2
Gave it to the dinner hall, and then the dinner lady can decide what the children want for dinner.
ILDA OURIQUE
Another group felt that the reason why some students lose concentration and don’t work so hard in class is because the chairs are very uncomfortable. So they would like more comfortable chairs. So they having their research and they’re finding out whether other people feel the same.
KIERON SHEEHY
Children spend most of their school lives here, sat on a particular type of chair.
SPEAKER 3
They’re uncomfortable.
ILDA OURIQUE
What’s the question that your asking people?
SPEAKER 3
Would you like a different chair to sit on?
KIERON SHEEHY
It’s something that we take for granted, but the children want to look at it. So I can feel that’s quite interesting.
ILDA OURIQUE
I think one group, the group that’s actually doing the interviews, they-- although we do have quite a lot of sport in our school, I think being a special needs school there’s not much scope for them to play against other schools.
KIERON SHEEHY
They’re actually researching that to see if there’s a will amongst the rest of the pupils and the staff too, to engage more with other schools in the area to play sport. Which is kind of a very interesting thing, which I don’t think would have come from just asking adults and parents what they wanted from the schools. It’s a research question that’s come from a children’s own interests.
SPEAKER 4
We’re doing a interview with the head teacher.
SPEAKER 5
Ask the teachers and kids.
SPEAKER 6
Do you like sports or not?
SPEAKER 7
We’ve been doing about football, dodge ball, tennis, and golf.
SPEAKER 4
To do school sports with other schools. And then you get to make new friends, meet new people, meet new teachers.
ILDA OURIQUE
So lots of discussion, and working together, and listen to people’s opinions, not shutting anybody down. All those skills were things that we took a practice a lot.
KIERON SHEEHY
The next step really is to get some detail feedback on the approaches we’ve running. We’ve also got a researcher Chae Young, working in the classrooms recording and noting particular aspects of what’s going on. We’re going to use that to develop the project, that we may have to tweak some of the sessions, some of the content. It’s my belief that we can certainly get the children to work in different ways. They can do things that currently they’re not really getting access to, and they’re almost denied access to the sort of skills, which I think are important skill for them to have.
ILDA OURIQUE
They seem to be enjoying the program. So Yeah, they’re quite happy to come to class. So hopefully that’s good feedback. It was really worthwhile. Just the communication, the working together, the social skills, I think that it’s just that if that’s all they get out of this project, it’s good enough. It’s really great.
SPEAKER 7
It’s fun.
SPEAKER 5
Good.
End transcript
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Drag the words and phrases into the appropriate box:

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. The seating, the meals, the sports facilities.

  2. The possibility of inter-school sports competitions.

  3. Communication skills and confidence

  • a.What they gained from doing their research.

  • b.What they wanted to find out about.

  • c.What they wanted to change.

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = c
  • 2 = b
  • 3 = a

Discussion

As you watched the video, you will have noticed that the adults interviewed commented that the issues raised by the pupils were not issues they had considered themselves. Yet the benefits of the research are clear: by improving the school meals the young people are likely to eat better; by changing the chairs to more comfortable ones their concentration is likely to improve; by developing better social skills they are likely to communicate with each other and with the teachers better. Each of these aspects has the potential to enrich these young people’s school experience, but as was remarked in the video, the focus came from them. The issues were not identified by teachers, simply because the teachers do not have the same perspective. This highlights the importance of children and young peoples’ participation, as experts in their own lives, in research that affects their lives.

The next example is a powerpoint presentation by Shannon Davidson who is 10 years old. You will see how she went about conducting her research, and her findings are presented in some detail.

Look through her presentation and consider her motivations for doing her research. Did she want to change something? Did she want to find out more? Did she want to solve a problem?

Open the link below in a new tab or browser so you can refer to the document while considering the questions below.

What children think about having a thyroid disorder: a small scale study. By Shannon Davidson [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

What was Shannon’s motivation for carrying out her research?

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What did she find out?

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What insights have you gained from reading Shannon’s research project?

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Now think about children or young people you know who would benefit from carrying out a project similar to Shannon’s. How would you answer the next two questions? (You will be looking at these aspects of planning and preparing in more detail in Session 3).

What support could you offer them?

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Who could you approach for help and guidance?

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