14 SES 09 A, Methodologies for Out-of-School Learning, Parenthood & Family Motivational Climate
There is growing interest in research that focuses on the thinking and learning that children (especially at primary school age) engage in outside of school, and this way that this does and does not align with the thinking and learning that they are expected to engage with in schools. The focus on primary school age children is partially due to concern, especially in the UK, the US, and parts of Europe, regarding the schoolification of children's out-of-school lives. There are associated concerns that schools are over-emphasising testing and formal learning and not meeting children's needs for play and socialisation.
Out-of-school learning can take many forms. In this paper, we distinguish between formal contexts with structured opportunities for learning, such as museum education or after-school clubs, and informal contexts (often within the family) where spontaneous or unplanned learning opportunities are the focal point. Our focus is on the latter. There are many potential lines of inquiry within research on learning in informal, out-of-school contexts. Issues around motivation, compulsion, relationships, and the roles and responsibilities of “learner” and “teacher” become more complex and less well-defined. There are fewer assumptions or constants surrounding these research foci in informal contexts than in school contexts. This means that considering how research on out-of-school learning sits within a mainly school-focused methodological paradigm raises important questions.
In line with Bell et al. (2013), we see out-of-school learning as an important location for the researching educational equity. This is because of the diversity of out-of-school learning experiences that children experience, and the way in which these experiences do or not (often depending on the children’s demographics) align with the expectations of teachers and school leaders.
As a body of work, research on out-of-school learning is not as well developed as research on classroom learning, and there are some interesting methodological questions that we would like to take some time to discuss. For this paper, we want to focus on the way in which out-of-school learning research often intersects with schools (and with researchers’ relationships with schools), and how can imply some compromise in methodological approaches. We will have three key groups of questions:
- Recruitment: What do we gain and lose by recruiting participants via schools? What alternative sampling and recruitment practices might benefit research on out-of-school learning?
- Data collection: Children's out-of-school learning is relatively well-hidden when compared with the learning that takes place in classrooms. Is there always a compromise between quality of data collection and intrusion into family life when carrying out this research? How can we involve families as co-researchers?
- Ethics: What form does critique take when studying children's out-of-school and family learning? Who and/or what is research on out-of-school learning in service of? What are the ethics of carrying out research that is implicitly critical of school practices?
Responses to these questions inevitably interact with one another. We will use the Everyday Maths Project (Jay, Rose & Simmons, in press) as an example of a situation where recruitment of parents and families via schools constrained ways in which we were able to access some families, and limited the degree to which we were able to subvert or question schools’ parental engagement and homework policies. We will also discuss ways in which other projects have addressed some of these questions, and will explore the need for further methodological discussion as this field continues to grow.
Bell, P., Bricker, L., Reeve, S., Zimmerman, H. T., & Tzou, C. (2013). Discovering and supporting successful learning pathways of youth in and out of school: Accounting for the development of everyday expertise across settings. In LOST Opportunities (pp. 119-140). Springer Netherlands. Jay, T., Rose, J., & Simmons, B. (in press). Finding ‘mathematics’: parents questioning school-centred approaches to involvement in children’s mathematics learning. School Community Journal.
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