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Researching with Children: Ethical Tensions, Methodological Issues, and Innovative Techniques

A mindmap of two articles: Researching with Children: Ethical Tensions by Dockett and Perry Research with Children: Methodological Issues and Innovative Techniques by Fargas-Malet, McSherry, Larkin and Robinson
by

Lisa Tom

on 7 March 2011

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Transcript of Researching with Children: Ethical Tensions, Methodological Issues, and Innovative Techniques

Projects Australia Iceland Children's Participation/Engagement at Different Levels Consultation Adult-directed initatives elicit children's perspectives Participation Opportunities available for children to be actively involved in the development supervision and evaluation of projects Self-Initiation Children are empowered to take action, and not merely respond to adult-defined agenda Range of Methodologies Aim: use strategies that actively engage children, gives them choice of how they participate
informal conversations with children
keeping journals
drawings about transition to school
reflections
photo and video tours
ESL CONNECTION: Strategies that rely on non-verbal communication can encourage involvement from children with limited language skills Ethical Tensions Issues of Consent Legally: we need parent consent, but this does not negate gaining children's agreement to participate Assent: agreement from those who are not able to enter into a legal consent time needs to be given to children; establish relationship based on trust and respect ongoing children need to be informed of the study Who is Represented in Research? children can't be treated as a homogenous group choosing to include some children's perspectives means diversity is neither recognized nor respected research occurs during private time, results in children, who refuse to participate Interpreting Data Adult interpretation of children's contribution: understanding of context and interpretive framework adopted by researchers Generation of data
intercultural collaboration between researcher and children (they both shape the generation of outcomes) Authentic representation of children's perspectives occurs when children are actively involved in the analysis and interpretation of the data they generate The Impact of Children's Participation Children's Spaces in Research No clear indication of whether participation leads to any changes in policy or practice ("consultation fatigue") Concerns:
children's participation can lead to increased levels of surveillance and control by adults Create greater distance between ourselves and the children instead of trying to enter their world; children's rights and privacy more important physical locations have an impact on research just as social situations surrounding research reflect specific relationships 'children's spaces' describes both physical location and social and cultural practices that underpin interactions, including research interactions We need to understand how our research spaces, and spaces for children's lives are co-constructed by actions of key adults 'New Social Studies of Childhood' and Children's Rights Discourse (Rights of the Child, 1989, the Children's Act, 2004) emergence of new participatory research methodologies Information leaflets, tapes, letters and oral presentations used to explain to children, parents/carers, and other gatekeepers such as social workers or teachers; recent innovation: DVD to introduce research study to children Leaflets written in simple language, the use of diagrams, speech bubbles or pictures, and large print are strongly recommended; break the information into short sections with subheadings or question and answer format Problems/difficulties in the school setting:
Students feeling obligated to participate once staff have given consent
Limitations of timetables, difficulties in finding spare rooms, risk of children interpreting participation as "school work"; perceiving researcher in teacher role, wanting to give "right" answers Problems/difficulties in the home setting:
Time consuming and costly
Finding quiet and private space is problematic due to child protection issues
Parents or carers' presence might influence children's response Methodological and Ethical Considerations Data Collection: Q's and Activities To establish rapport:
ask about things child already knows or is unthreatening
period of 'free narrative'
when research involves sensitive issues, it is advisable to present less difficult questions first; researcher should be alert to child responses Use non-verbal behaviours (e.g. keeping eye contact, sounds like 'mm' or 'really', and head nods) and verbal prompts (such as 'tell me more about that').
Avoid exclamations Avoid using closed questions (follow-up with questions), use open or wh-questions when possible Ask pertinent questions to the child
Asking too few or too many questions may be inappropriate
Give children more control over the focus and agenda; give them time, use breaks Confidentiality and Child Protection Issues Parent curiosity may put stress on child and researcher; children might reveal they are seriously harmed or ill-treated, or it might identify a medical condition or learning difficulty which parents could take action about Children should be informed of limitations of confidentiality (in cases where they are abused or in danger) Data Collection: Debriefing and Rewards
Best to give rewards afterwards so it doesn't play a part in the research Children's Photography
can be used in interviews with child
functions as prompts, gives q's focus
Disadvantages:
participant may use camera in inappropriate ways
children might be tempted to take photographs of what they would like to keep as a picture afterwards
pictures child regrets taking Drawings
good ice breaker
act as prompts, triggers for remembering, help children organize their own narratives
enables children to gain more control over interview; they can draw as much or little as they want
useful and quick way to gain info in a short period of time
Drawbacks
not fun for all children, may not suit all children
in classroom, peers may copy drawings; illustrate socially constructed rather than individual ideas
child may draw what they find easy to portray, or draw to please adults
uncertainty about how to analyze the data Participatory Techniques
enables participants to create inclusive accounts using their own words and frameworks of understanding via a range of exercises such as mapping, timelines, cartoons, matrices, and pie charts
grouping and ranking exercises
Q methodology utilises ranking exercises; researchers not limited to 'written' textual statements, free to use pictures, cpu generated imagery, symbols, 'plasticine' sculptures, or foods; adaptable to different modes of delivery--face-to-face interview, postal sorts, and using cpu/web-based software Stimulus material or prompts
written prompts such as sentence completion, wishes, word choice prompts, or unfinished stories to complete
picture prompts
feelings faces or feelings cards used to facilitate communication when asking about sensitive issues Diaries and other Life Narrative Techniques
life story books, memory books, diaries, or life maps
'storygames' used when children's own stories may be deeply traumatic; involves children creating story where each child is invited to give a line in the story and the story goes from one child to another until finished; include photographs, drawings, words, and documents; 'task-based' tool that allow children to express their own views over broad topics, giving them a certain degree of control Observation
regarded as suited for researching young children
involves 'watching, listening, reflecting and also engaging with the children in conversation' Questionnaires
Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) provides chance to incorporate videos and audio stimuli
Quick to administer, collects large amounts of standard data and reach large samples
Disadvantages:
Return rates are low; they require a certain level of literacy
Not all children find it easy to communicate well in writing
Answers may be biased--social desirability, context effects, and acquiescence bias Personal Reflection:
The two articles really opened my eyes to the sensitivity around issues in conducting researching with children. It is no wonder there is not a lot of research out there; there are so many factors/ethical tensions and guidelines/protocol that a researcher has to follow. The question of whether or not this research with children ultimately has an impact on practices, was really interesting to me. I wonder about the representation or interpretation of the data collected from children, and how much of it authentically reflects a child's perspective. How much of it is an accurate representation of children's responses? Are all ethnicities and perspectives represented?
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