In What Way Can Children's Drawings Together With A Personal Construct Discussion Help To Illuminate Our Understanding Of Their Views Of Their Educational Experiences?

Maxwell, T. S. C. (2001). In What Way Can Children's Drawings Together With A Personal Construct Discussion Help To Illuminate Our Understanding Of Their Views Of Their Educational Experiences? EdD thesis The Open University.



This study is an exploration into the views that primary school pupils have of their educational experiences. It is considered that pupils have a right to be asked about their experiences, to be listened to and to have their views acknowledged and acted upon.

The preliminary study in year 1 involved asking twelve groups of six mixed ability and randomly selected ten year old pupils to produce two drawings of themselves in happy and unhappy situations in school. The drawings were thematically analysed into content orientated categories. On reflection it was considered necessary to develop this method of collecting pupil views within a personal construct conversation. This development contributed to validating the interpretation of the drawings and also facilitated a learning conversation with the pupil.

In year 2/3 of the study an opportunity sample of thirteen junior aged pupils on the special needs register in a different school were individually invited to produce a series of drawings and to take part in two conversations about their experiences in school. The drawings were thematically analysed both individually and as a group for their content. A personal construct psychology approach was used during the conversations to elicit the constructs and views of the pupils which were then thematically analysed for both manifest and latent content. A series of discussions were also held with the school additional / special needs coordinator regarding each pupil and the group as a whole. This enabled the voice of the pupil to be validated and ‘taken back’ to be heard within the school system.

The findings indicate that the social activities in school were of far greater importance for the pupils than their academic or formal learning experiences. Peer relationships were paramount and these tended to define the positive or negative experiences the pupil had of school in general. The pupils were able to show they have a range of problem solving strategies for resolving peer group difficulties. These included pro actively inviting peers to join in activities in an inclusive way, to mediating in negative interactions and reactively seeking help from a range of other peers and adults in school. Home and family situations were occasionally drawn and discussed whilst teachers and the formal learning experiences were rarely drawn or referred to in the conversations.

Implications are that pupils of this age do have a view, want to express it and benefit from the opportunity and climate which encourages this expression. The pupils also need to know that their views will be listened to and acted upon. This could inform school staff of the importance that pupils attach to peer relationships and the range of conflict resolution strategies they have. The pupils could benefit from opportunities to develop their expressive vocabulary and ‘emotional literacy' in order to better understanding their feelings and improve their ability to describe experiences. This can raise a whole school understanding of the importance of listening to children in general and to unrepresented and often unheard groups of pupils.

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