Children's experiences of education

Kellett, Mary (2010). Children's experiences of education. In: Littleton, Karen; Kleine Staarman, Judith and Wood, Clare eds. International Handbook of Psychology in Education. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 465–498.


I begin this chapter with an historical overview of the status of the child in education, charting how this has changed over time. From this platform, I turn to the status of the child within educational research and how our efforts to understand children’s educational experiences have evolved. The heart of the chapter is devoted to an illumination of these educational experiences through what we know from both adult-led and child-led research and how this impacts on classroom practice and educational theory. The latter part of the chapter addresses some of the difficulties and dilemmas posed by the empowerment of children as researchers. This necessarily explores concepts of voice, participation and power issues. I make a case that we cannot access the reality of children’s experiences until we can give them a voice that transcends the unequal power relations of school contexts. One way of addressing this is to empower them as researchers so that they can identify and explore issues that are of interest or concern to them. Children frequently choose to investigate aspects of their school experience and this generates a valuable body of knowledge. I do not wish to suggest that children’s own research should supplant or supersede adult research but rather that it complements existing bodies of knowledge. There are many adult studies which genuinely seek children’s perspectives and address voice, power and context issues in their methodologies. Such studies openly acknowledge the challenges and difficulties of adults interviewing children (Westcott and Littleton, 2000). Examples of adult research that privilege child perspectives through appropriate methodological design are drawn on alongside illustrative examples of children’s own original research studies. The chapter concludes with a look at possible future directions for children as researchers in the classroom

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