25 SES 03, Children in Research - Methodological Issues
In the presentation a critical discussion will be offered relating to the use of a photo elicitation method with children and young people, their parents and teachers. The work under discussion is part of an ongoing project (the Research in Special Education (RISE) project) that has been designed to make an in-depth investigation of the variety of perspectives regarding children’s rights and the concepts of inclusion and exclusion (UNESCO, 2015). The aim of this work is to cast a light on different understandings of how UK policy changes regarding inclusive educational practices are experienced.
Following on from the right to inclusive education being enshrined in article 24 of the UN Convention of the rights of persons with disabilities (UN, 2006) in 2014 the UK operationalised two key policies (Children and Families Act, 2014; DfE, SEND Code of Practice 2014) that strongly influence how principles of inclusion, social justice, diversity and equitability are enacted within the UK education system. However, recent research has highlighted the difficulty of developing inclusive practices (Lauchlan and Greig, 2015; Norwich, 2013). Such concerns over the complexities and daily challenges which practitioners face in enabling educational inclusion are not restricted to the UK and research around the globe has drawn attention to issues with teacher effectiveness and teacher welfare, calling for targeted professional development and a rethinking of what constitutes inclusive practices (Allan, 2010; Cowie and Khoo, 2017; Smyth et al. 2014; Whitburn 2016). These calls are acknowledged as positive ways forward, however, one of the difficulties of enacting equitable educational practices is the fundamental problem of interpreting inclusion in a way that can be recognised and is familiar to the diverse individuals who enact or experience it. Indeed, the concept of inclusion can be defined as contested, with Adderley et al. (2015:108) arguing that inclusion is fluid and changing, occurring at “the interface between teacher and pupil, pupils and peers, and pupil and school environment”. The concern for the RISE project team is that control and power appears to be invested in Government officials who can define inclusion in rigid and boundaried terms and accordingly design education policies that risk emasculating those who are the subjects of such practices (Whitburn 2016).
Rather than approaching educational inclusion as a tangible thing, the RISE project sought to highlight the tensions and contradictions involved in formulating understandings of inclusion. The intention was to counter dominant routes of power by encouraging a sense of involvement and membership and foregrounding the often-unheard views and experiences of children and young people, their teachers and parents (Slee, 2011). It was hoped that prioritising the perceptions of those at the ‘coal face’ of educational inclusion, could begin to untangle how inclusion and exclusion as “abstract and contested concepts become embedded in the relational, temporal and spatial dimensions of teaching and learning” (Prosser and Loxley, 2007:58).
The presentation will outline the context and background of the study, the methodological choices made and the methods used, before sharing some of the data to explore three aspects that arose which are deemed to have a particularly significant ethical dimension. The conclusion to the presentation will suggest that while photo-elicitation with children is not without its challenges, it provides a route for accessing and sharing multiple and varied voices, some of which are often deprived of a platform.
The children and young people studying in eight primary, secondary and special schools in the North West of England were given single-use cameras (with 24 shots) to take away. They were asked to take photographs during their everyday activities, inside and outside the classroom that they felt represented inclusion or exclusion and comment on their selections. The children were instructed to take a couple of photographs and then pass the camera to a classmate, so the process was controlled by the children themselves, with the intention of making involvement enjoyable and demonstrate the trust of the researchers and teachers. The photographs produced were then cartoonised to protect the identities of the photographers and those pictured, and subsequently shared with other children and young people, teachers and parents in a variety of contexts to prompt discussion. The aim of this visual methodology was to develop a participatory process for data collection that could actively engage children and young people and be pedagogically ethical and inclusive. Visual methodologies (Prosser and Loxley, 2007) can elicit personal views and provide a route for casting a light on different types of data, such as the emotional responses of individuals to situations. As Harper (2002:13) indicates; visual methods “evoke a different kind of information” and “connect an individual to experiences and eras even if the images do not reflect the research subject’s actual lives”. These methodologies provide an opportunity for self-expression, assisting individuals in telling their stories with pictures. It is also one way to access life experiences and educate researchers with regard to participants’ wisdom (Sensoy, 2011). Photo-elicitation methods where children produce photographs and annotate them can be particularly beneficial when working in areas of inclusion and social justice, as these methods may suit those for whom linguistic communication is more complicated because of their age, a physical disability or language difficulties or those who have an affinity with visual learning (Cowie and Khoo, 2017). Although this approach might be “deemed high risk” (Pope et al., 2010:304) the RISE team trusted those involved and wanted to give them the freedom to express their experiences. Indeed, it was felt that this approach could offer different insights, by engaging with children as active and capable participants.
There are three key areas of focus that have emerged which will be explored with explicit reference to the research data: • Issues of using photo-elicitation with children. The presentation will consider how many of the comments made about the photographs were contradictory, challenging and thought provoking. This demonstrates children and young people’s ability to go beyond the expectations of teachers and researchers, by reworking anticipated viewpoints and transgressing dominant discourses of inclusion (Whitburn, 2016). • Respecting the differing ‘voices’ of research participants. In reflecting upon the variety of responses received this study provides a route for accessing differing opinions, attests to the effectiveness of using photographs to attend to pupil voice and foregrounds ‘insider’ or marginalised opinions. Moss et al. (2007:47) describe visual narrative methodologies as liberatory and empowering; as a way for pupils to offer an ‘”authentic voice” regarding their concerns and experiences and certainly, the intention behind accessing multiple views was to illuminate narratives that might challenge mainstream stories. • Analysing inclusion. Since the aim was to research how children understand inclusion, it was felt that children should be involved in the analysis stage, accordingly, the photographers and then others were invited to discuss a substantive, culturally significant theme (inclusion) in relation to the cartoonised images. This provides a route for those involved to critique the culture or ethos of education and can engage researchers and policy makers in hearing different points of view that can guide educational improvements (Adderley et al, 2015; Todd, 2012). Thus, photographs can be studied as sites within which there are struggles over meaning. These struggles can be understood as bound up in relations of power, but as also including the potential for individual viewings (and for research) to provide a ‘provocation to think and practice differently’.
Adderley, R.J., Hope, M.A., Hughes, G.C., Jones, L., Messiou, K. and Shaw, P.A., 2015. Exploring inclusive practices in primary schools: focusing on children’s voices. European journal of special needs education, 30(1), pp.106-121. Allan, J. 2010. Questions of inclusion in Scotland and Europe. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 25(2) pp.199-208. Children and Families Act. 2014. (Chapter 3) HMSO, London. Cowie, B. and Khoo, E. 2017. Accountability through access, authenticity and advocacy when researching with young children, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 21:3, 234-247. Department for Education (DfE) 2014. Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice: for 0 to 25 years, London, DfE. Harper, D. 2002. Talking about pictures: a case for photo-elicitation. Visual Studies, 17 (1) pp. 13-26. Lauchlan, F., and Greig, S. 2015. Educational inclusion in England: origins, perspectives and current directions. Support for Learning. 30(1) pp. 69-82. Moss, J., J. Deppeler, L. Astley and K. Pattison. 2007. Student researchers in the middle: using visual images to make sense of inclusive education. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 7 (1), pp. 46-54. Norwich, B. 2013. Addressing Tensions and Dilemmas in Inclusive Education: Living with Uncertainty, Abingdon, Routledge. Pope, C., De Luca, R. and Tolich, M. 2010. How an exchange of perspectives led to tentative ethical guidelines for visual ethnography, International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 33 (3) pp. 301-315. Prosser, J. and Loxley, A. 2007. ‘Enhancing the contribution of visual methods to inclusive education’ in Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 7 (1) pp. 55-68. Sensoy, O. 2011. Picturing oppression: seventh graders’ photo essays on racism, classism, and sexism. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 24 (3), pp. 323-342. Slee, R. 2011 The Irregular School: Exclusion, Schooling and Inclusive Education, London, Routledge. Smyth F, Shevlin M, Ferreira M, et al. 2014. Inclusive education in progress: policy evolution in four European countries. European Journal Of Special Needs Education. November 2014;29 (4) pp.433-445. Todd, L., 2012. Critical dialogue, critical methodology: bridging the research gap to young people's participation in evaluating children's services. Children's Geographies, 10 (2), pp.187-200. United Nations (UN). 2006. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. UNESCO. 2015. The Right to Education for Persons with Disabilities. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Whitburn, B. 2016. Voice, post-structural representation and the subjectivity of ‘included’ students, International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 39 (2) pp. 117-130.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
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Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
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