Children as researchers: exploring issues and barriers in English primary schools.
The Open University.
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This thesis identifies and explores the issues and barriers that appear to influence children's and adults' experiences of children's engagement in self-directed empirical research in five English primary schools associated with the Children's Research Centre at The Open University. As far as is known, this is the first in-depth study of children as independent researchers in the context of English primary schools. A flexible, multimethod research design was adopted. Predominantly qualitative data was generated through focus groups held with, and questionnaires distributed to, the young researchers and their peers and through individual unstructured interviews with adults. The qualitative data generated through these methods was analysed in the style of Grounded Theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967; Strauss and Corbin, 1998). Quantitative data was subject to exploratory data analysis. This complemented and informed the qualitative analyses. The central categories which emerged from the data and, in particular, the identification of important issues by the children, have together informed the staged construction of a new model. This model illustrates the factors and processes that had an impact on both the children's experiences of research training and the research process and outcomes. The model demonstrates that these are inextricably interrelated. It is hoped that consideration of the issues and barriers identified will provide a basis for the further implementation and evaluation of young researcher initiatives in schools. The findings of the study have been drawn on to make recommendations for policy, practice and future research, particularly in those areas which are identified as significant by, and to, the children involved. It is also hoped that this study will address a gap in our knowledge and understanding of children as researchers and inform critical debate concerning children's voice and participation, adult-child power relationships and children's rights in English primary schools and more widely.
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