why don’t we listen to children when we research?

It’s the Easter/Anzac Day long weekend in Australia and I am taking a couple of extra days off to make it a long, long weekend! Also it’s a chance to get back on track with my research which has stalled a little of late.  Too many distractions in my new city of Melbourne, and I was also using the “I’ll wait until my ethics approval comes through” excuse to procrastinate!

So it’s back to the books and back to some writing.  Today I have been looking at the issue of including children as active participants in research.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was developed in 1989.  Included in this Convention is the right of children to:

  • participate in decision-making processes that may be relevant in their lives and to influence decisions taken in their regard—within the family, the school or the community.
  • The principle affirms that children are full-fledged persons who have the right to express their views in all matters affecting them and requires that those views be heard and given due weight in accordance with the child’s age and maturity.
  • It recognizes the potential of children to enrich decision-making processes, to share perspectives and to participate as citizens and actors of change.
  • The practical meaning of children’s right to participation must be considered in each and every matter concerning children

There’s a really nice summary of the Convention at http://www.unicef.org/crc/files/Rights_overview.pdf

For children with a disability, there is very little research that includes their views on their lives.  Yes, there are methodological and ethical challenges when including children in research, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. I’ve been reading some interesting articles on overcoming these challenges. In particular, I have been looking at ways of engaging children in research. Several authors suggest using an activity as a pre-cursor to the more ‘formal’ part of the data collection. Asking children to photograph or draw is one method. I am going to ask the children I am researching to take me on a ‘tour’ of their school as a means of getting them to begin talking to me about their mobility and use of the long cane. I’m also going to ask them to write me a story about their cane which will be brailled and made into a tactile book. Semi-structured interviews will form the major component of my data collection but by incorporating these other methods of ‘listening’ to children, I will gain a richer source of information, and greater insight into how the use of the long cane has impacted on these children’s lives to date.

A resource I’ve found very useful is the ARACY website. ARACY is the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth. They have a fabulous publication on involving children and young people in research which can be downloaded from their website.


2 thoughts on “why don’t we listen to children when we research?

  1. Jill Leonard

    Hey Bron, I like the notion of ‘asking the student’. It is one premise that Case Conferences for secondary students with ID are meant to be based on here. Have to say though that I’ve only participated in one (Kal- about 7 years ago) and, although my memory is a tad rusty, I recall people tended to talk around the student, forgetting to include her.

    1. bronscott Post author

      Hi JIll – yes, I was thinking about that issue too yesterday. I have been to so many case conferences where the student isn’t even present (and sometimes neither are the parents!)


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