Children's Physical Activity (PA) Experiences - Let's Hear Their Voices!

Rose, Lauren (2023). Children's Physical Activity (PA) Experiences - Let's Hear Their Voices! Postgraduate Research Poster Competition, The Open University.


How can it be ensured that the physical activity children have access to supports their mental and physical development as they transition from primary to secondary school?

The importance of hearing children’s voices in matters that impact them is now widely recognised. The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that children have the right to give their opinion on all decisions that affect them and their views should be heard with consideration to their respective age and maturity (UNICEF, n.d.). More frequently researchers are using methods which allow children to express their own perspective, leading to more authentic findings (Coyne and Carter, 2018). Children are now viewed as competent individuals who are best placed to inform adults about their experiences and perspectives on all aspects of their lives (Coyne and Carter, 2018).

A strengths-based perspective (Hammond, 2010) is taken in this study, meaning the participants are considered competent, socially active and capable of expressing views on their own lives. It is important to think about appropriate methods to allow children to articulate their views and a range of creative, participatory methods allow children the choice to offer their perspective in the manner that best suits them. Children are not a homogeneous group and have varying competencies, likes and dislikes. Clark and Moss (2005) developed the Mosaic Approach which involves the collection of data through multiple methods ensuring that the participants are given an opportunity to use their strengths to express their thoughts and opinions.

A participatory approach does not just allow the participants to voice their views, it involves research with, rather than on the participants, leading to the co-construction of knowledge and a shared understanding of the meanings identified (Wilkinson and Wilkinson, 2018). For the participants to feel comfortable expressing themselves and co-constructing knowledge with the researcher it is important to spend time building rapport, trust, and encouraging dialogue (Coyne and Carter, 2018).

The purpose of this project is to conduct an inquiry into children’s physical activity experiences as they transition into secondary school. It explores the perspectives of child participants through a range of participatory methods, enabling the collection of descriptive qualitative data representing their subjective physical activity experiences.


For this project I’ve taken a broadly interpretivist stance, drawing on ethnographic and sociological principles in an inductive, qualitative case study. This project involves two phases. In study 1, group workshops were conducted with twenty-two year 6 children at the end of their last term in primary school. In study 2, the same children will participate in additional creative, participatory workshops in which their experiences of physical activity since moving to secondary school will be explored.

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