ERG SES G 04, History, Immigration and Education
Being a responsible educational researcher requires constant decision-making and discretionary judgement of the actions and methods applied in the research process. In case of a qualitative research, one of the fundamental principles is to ensure that the data collected during interviews genuinely reflects participants’ voices. This is particularly challenging while researching with immigrant children.
Postmodern perspective argues that children should be considered as knowledgeable and powerful members of society (Bruner, 1996). Moreover, children are to be seen as social actors and thus, active participants in the research process, capable of providing information and perspectives on their own lives (Christensen & James, 2000, O’Kane, 2000). In research with immigrant children, the issue of understanding and ability to speak the language of interview plays an important role in the process of planning and conducting the study and often involves working with either interpreters or researchers who speak particular language. However, such a cross-language research may be considered more as a secondary data analysis (Temple, Edwards & Alexander, 2006). Berman and Tyyskä (2011) argue also that there are several limitations to working with interpreters or researchers who speak a particular minority language, including negotiation of power, lack of professional background in research and more cultural distance between interpreters and participants than assumed. They suggest that interpreters should be considered as research partners in all phases of the research and their position and role determined before the research begins. Only in this way, ethical knowledge can be produced in a cross-cultural setting (Kitchen, 2013). Instead of using an interpreter, which is not only challenging (Berman & Tyyskä, 2011) but, as in case of Iceland, costly and limited, other methods may be considered. These include story-crafting, that can be used with participants who do not feel confident in any language planned for interviews. In order to open up and tell their own stories in an informal way, participants are, as an example, asked to develop (individually or in pairs) a story of an imaginary person of similar traits. Later, the researcher discusses the stories with participants and gives them a chance to explain them and go in more details (Lulle & Assmuth, 2013). This strategy is considered supportive in language development and helpful in strengthening participant’s self-respect and sense of inclusion (Karlsson 2005). Another possibility is to explore various artefacts, including projects, drawings and diaries together with participants of the research to elicit narrative accounts of their experiences (Lichtman, 2010). In case of young participants, both of these methods support the argument that listening to children is “a pedagogy and a way of researching life, a culture and an ethic, a continuous process and a relationship” (Clark, Kjorholt & Moss, 2005, p. 13).
The purpose of the paper is to explore the strategies used by a beginning researcher while preparing for and conducting interviews and challenges that she experiences throughout the process. The paper will attempt to answer the question of how to capture voices of children of immigrant background through educational research The aim is to locate and discuss issues that may arise during interviewing immigrant children and to find practical solutions that may help in capturing participants’ voices.
The idea for the paper emerged as a result of authors’ participation in a Nordic research Learning spaces for inclusion and social justice (2013-2015), that aimed at mapping, describing and analyzing successful stories of immigrant students in Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
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