Children as Researchers: A Case Study of an Initiative in One Primary School

Jones, Philip Charles (2016). Children as Researchers: A Case Study of an Initiative in One Primary School. EdD thesis The Open University.



This study describes a research project undertaken in an English primary school with Year 5 children where, over two years, children were trained as researchers and then undertook their own research projects looking into a variety of issues they identified within school. Its practitioner-led nature allows for an examination of the diverse positions I undertook whilst conducting the research: headteacher, teacher, doctoral researcher, co-researcher and supervisor of the children’s research. The research is based upon an interpretivist framework and can be located within the literatures of ‘participation’ and ‘pupil voice’ and, more specifically, ‘children as researchers’.

Case study methods are used to both examine and assess the impact and value of the initiative. Through the written recording of observations, structured and unstructured questioning and on-going encounters between me and children, the developing capacity of children as researchers, including their limitations, is described and analysed along with the potential wider benefits. The long-term nature of this study offers a contrast with many similar, short-term, projects allowing data to be collected over time to support the emergent nature of ideas as the study progressed.

With a central research question of ‘What happens when children are encouraged to be researchers?’, this case study examines and analyses the children’s responses to the data collection methods used, the data collected, and the presentation of their findings, in order to highlight the conditions required for a successful project; whilst also identifying difficulties. In this respect it offers an insight for other practitioners looking to recreate similar situations. It further highlights the conflicts faced by an insider researcher, the roles and relationships between me and children and between children, both within the research group and with their respondents. The implications are analysed in relation to Foucault’s notion of power, being situated within a complex web of relations, rather than as simply oppositional forces.

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