The Benefits to Children of being a Co-Researcher: Evidence from a PhD Thesis.
MetadataShow full item record
This project arose as a detailed part of a longitudinal study on the changing attitude to science of children from years 5 to 9 (age 10 – 14) in the UK. At the start of the project the pupils had experienced 2 years of data collection at timed intervals that was fully supported by the school. In this way these potential co-researchers were already familiar with the idea of research being conducted within their school. The project enabled them to participate at a collaborative level (Hanley, Bradburn et al. 2004) throughout, with elements of full participation as defined as the supporting level by (Wilcox 1994) in their own research. The research took the form of a small scale, participant observer case study working with a final group of 8 children as co-researchers. The research question therefore was: “How does working as a co-researcher affect children’s attitudes to their own learning in science, their confidence and skills.” I worked as a social constructionist within an interpretivist framework. Radnor suggests that ‘all social research is a form of participant observation because we cannot study social life without being part of it.’ p49 (Radnor 2001) and this view is supported widely (Wenger 1998; Scott and Usher 2000; Brewer and Hunter 2006) The nature of participation in any social setting has its impact on both the participator and the community within which they participate (Wenger 1998). In the case of my research, my involvement with the co-researchers is multi layered; leading the interventions, supporting their own research, mentoring and facilitating and over-viewing their progress. It would be impossible to assess the project without assessing the effect of my part in it. Working with Children in research has undergone considerable evolution over recent years, in this project I define them as experts in their own world (Grover 2004). Working in this way children should have more say in what should be researched and how that research should be conducted. The literature generally categorises positive outcomes of children working as researchers into two main areas : Benefits to the research process in terms of accessing children’s expertise their insights into what might be the most meaningful studies and their contribution to disseminating the outcomes in powerful ways. (Edwards 2004, McLaughlin 2006) Benefits to the children in terms of accessing their rights to have their say and be heard, gaining confidence and esteem, developing relationships with peers, adults and schools, developing particular generic personal and specific skills, and attaining perspective and reflection on their lives, learning and the value of research. (Alderson 2001; Griesel, Swart-Kruger et al. 2004). I was also mindful of potential negative impacts, particularly on the children and these will be discussed in more detail in the paper. However, the general findings included that Co-researchers attitude to science became more positive about science overall over the course of the project in comparison to other groups where attitudes were declining. This could be linked to ideas about the impact of significant others as described in a Norwegian study (Sjaastad 2013). The co-researchers also exhibited enhanced: ontological understanding; reflection on their own learning; confidence in expressing and arguing for their own ideas and confidence in their own skills in analysing data. From my reading of literature from around the world this study will contribute to our understandings around this area. This a case study in that there are clear boundaries to the project both in terms of the timescale of initiation, interventions, co-researcher research, write up and dissemination and also in terms of the children’s engagement in the project as distinct from their school and social life. 'Though social actors within these boundaries also have experience outside them, the boundaries are well enough understood to constitute the object of enquiry as a 'case'. p87 .(Scott and Usher 2000) Additionally, the multi method approach to data collection is designed to capture the experience from the viewpoint of the co-researchers in the main part with triangulation from other actors in the immediate social setting. The use of a range of such qualitative methods as primary data collection techniques is also characteristic of a case study approach. (Scott and Usher 2000; Cohen, Manion et al. 2007) Brewer and Hunter (Brewer and Hunter 2006) advocate a multi method approach to social research which they call a fifth research style. In this way, Brewer and Hunter argue the differing strengths of individual methods overlap and compensate for individual weaknesses. ‘employing different types of methods helps to guard against and to correct for inherent methodological biases, p37 (Brewer and Hunter 2006). This study differs from the personal approach Brewer and Hunter describe in that it does not derive from a positivist stance but combines case study with participatory research. Additionally, the study employs grounded theory which Glaser and Strauss (Glaser and Strauss 2009) describe as ‘discovery of theory from data’ using comparative analysis as a key strategy . I am also influenced by Charmaz’s perspective that 'neither data nor theories are discovered. Rather, we are part of the world we study and the data we collect. We construct our grounded theories through our past and present involvements and interactions with people, perspectives, and research practices.' p10 (Charmaz 2006). The simultaneous analysis and data collection, the use of coding to develop themes from the data itself and the development of theory during analysis are hallmarks of the grounded theory approach p5 (Charmaz 2006). Alderson, P. (2001). "Research by children." International Journal of Social Research Methodology 4(2): 139-153. Edwards, A. (2004). Education. Doing Research with Children and Young People. S. Fraser, V. Lewis, S. Ding, M. Kellett and C. Robinson. London, Sage: 255-269. Griesel, D., J. Swart-Kruger, et al. (2004). Children in South Africa can make a difference: An Assessment of 'Growing Up in Cities' in Johannesburg. The Reality of Research with Children and Young People. V. Lewis, M. Kellett, C. Robinson, S. Fraser and S. Ding. London, Sage: 277-301. Grover, S. (2004). "Why Won't They Listen to Us? On Giving Power and Poice to Children Participating in Social Research." Childhood 11(1): 81-93. Hassan, G. (2008). "Attitudes toward science among australian tertiary and secondary school students." Research in Science & Technological Education 26(2): 129 - 147. Sjaastad, J. (2013). "Measuring the Ways Significant Persons Influence Attitudes Towards Science and Mathematics." International Journal of Science Education 35(2): 192 - 212. van Aalderen-Smeets, S. and J. W. van der Moden (2013). "Measuring Primary Teachers' Attitidues Toward Teaching Science: Development of the Dimensions of Attitude Toward Science (DAS) Instrument." International Journal of Science Education 35(4): 577 - 600.
Place of Publication
The following license files are associated with this item: