25 SES 03, Children in Research - Methodological Issues
Several times a day, children travel from their home to school and return, either walking, biking, by bus or by car. This journey is an important moment in the child’s daily routines, since it can be a source of enjoyment, freedom without adult supervision and a place where children’s social and environmental interactions take place (Moody, Hirschi, Steiner & Jaffé, 2015; Murray, 2007; Rigby, 2007; Ross, 2007). Families and schools are highly influential in structuring childhood just as much as children influence their families and the schools they attend. Much attention has focused, in recent years, on the interdependence of these spheres and the agency of children is commonly recognised, both scientifically and legally. However, less is known about how children transit from one sphere to another and how this gap in-between these different spaces also shapes childhood, children’s rights, as well as families and schools.
Embedded in the fields of Childhood, Children Rights Studies, and Education our research project “Exploring the way to and from school with children: an interdisciplinary approach of children’s experiences of the third place” supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (n° request CR11I1_166050) aims to study children’s experiences, conceptions and perceptions of their way to and from school without parents supervision, to better understand the interconnexions and the transversality that come into play when ones cracks open the binary between the child’s two main educational spheres. In this project, the way to and from school is explored through the concept of “third-place” developed by Oldenburg in 1999, as a space between two meaningful spheres in individual’s lives. This “third-place” generates social links, reinforces community cohesion and empowers individuals to co-create their reality. The way to and from school conceived as a “third-place” is a means to investigate a multidimensional experience that all children go through, and through which they have the opportunity to act as social actors and bearers of rights in their own right. Without adult supervision, this interstitial place becomes an in-between space for children to interact with their social and physical environment interactions, integrating them into the everyday life of their communities, strengthening their personal and community identities. This empowerment process highlights how the rights of children are at play in different spaces and affected by the encounter between various system of norms, codes, etc.
This project is based on an inter- and transdisciplinary and participative approach with the involvement of children as experts in the research process. It is conceived as a research with and for children, not only on children. Various disciplinary perspectives and standpoints from educational sciences, anthropology, sociology, childhood and children’s right studies are adopted. The main question addressed in this contribution focuses on the possibility for children to co-create their reality and express their rights in this interstitial place. The specifics questions are: “How do children invest the possibility of acting and thinking independently and make free decisions? How do they express their creativity? Others dimensions, such as interaction, identity or group construction and membership are also explored to better understand the multidimensional character of the notion of “third-place” for children.
This contribution aims to present the interdisciplinary theoretical framework of our research project and how the concept of third-place plays an integrating and transdisciplinary role to combine different disciplinary contributions around this complex issue. It also aims to expose the mixed and participative methodological device that is built on this basis, as an illustration of the theoretical issues presented at first and while highlighting the ethical aspects raised by such a device. Finally, the first results from the indirect and participative observations will be presented.
Our primary objective is to reflect the point of view of children, as the main actors of the way to and from school, in accordance with recent developments in the field of Childhood and Children's rights studies and the right of the child to express his views freely on all matters affecting him (UNCRC, art. 12 and 13). Although children can be considered as research subjects comparable to adults (Bell, 2008; Morrow, 2008), their skills and other specific characteristics must be fully taken into account throughout the research process. Ethical issues, related to the key principles of beneficence, informed consent, privacy, confidentiality as well as recognition, are to be raised and adhered to at all stages of research. Based on an inter- and transdisciplinary approach (Darbellay, Sedooka, Paulsen, 2016) this project is built as a research with children, using a mixed and participatory methodological framework. Data collection takes place in three Swiss Alpine cantons: Graubünden, Ticino and Valais. In each canton, 3 schools are chosen, and from these, ten children between 8 and 12 years old will be selected to generate a 72-90 pupils sample. The methodological device comprises the four following steps. First a description of the cases, including the collection and analysis of school regulations and charts, and a questionnaire to the school director. Secondly, parents of children taking part in this research will receive a questionnaire. Then, children will be asked to draw of their way to and from school and their narratives will be analysed. Individual mobile interviews - walking and talking on a given journey and asking planned rather open questions as well as situations questions (Porter, Hampshire, Abane, Munthali, Robson, Mashiri & Maponya, 2010) - with each child will be carried out to explore the experiential dimension of the way from to school. Finally, the children will be required to classify different pictures about the way from and to school in a diamond activity (Clark, Laing Tiplady and Woolner, 2013). This research with children will also materialise through the forming of a group of children (10-12 years old) external to our sample in order to assist in refining the methodological tools and the questions when the early data comes in (data generating). The group will also be implicated in analysing the data. Tools will be co-produced by and for the children to help them organise the data, and comparisons will then be made.
Based on an inter- and transdisciplinary approach, this project proposes three interlinked goals integrating various disciplinary views as well as those of the relevant stakeholders. Its first ambition is to build a theoretical and interdisciplinary model of children's explorations of their direct environment on the basis of an empirical study on children's daily journey to and from school. Its second goal is to actively involve children in the research process (data collection and data analysis), in order to provide an empirically based and ethical contribution to the flourishing literature on research with children as well as that on transdisciplinary participatory research. Its third impact-oriented aim is to provide the civil society with a series of recommendations theoretically and empirically grounded in order to allow families, communities and schools to reflect on and envision child-friendly journeys to school for and with children.
Bell, N. (2008). Ethics in child research: rights, reason and responsibilities, Children's Geographies, 6(1), 7-20. Clark, J., Laing, K., Tiplady, L. & Woolner, P. (2013). Making connections : theory and practice of using visual methods to aid participation in research. Research Centre for Learning and Teaching, Newcastle University. Darbellay, F., Sedooka, A., Paulsen, T. (2016). La recherche interdisciplinaire sous la loupe. Paroles de chercheurs. Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien : Peter Lang. Moody, Z., Hirschi, C. Steiner, E. & Jaffé, Ph.D. (2015). Le chemin de l'école : enquête dans une commune valaisanne. Résonances, 7, 12-14. Morrow, V. (2008). Ethical Dilemmas in Research with Children and Young People about their Social Environments. Children's Geographies 6(1), 49−61. Murray, L. (2007, Nov.). The Journey to school: research findings. University of Brighton. Oldenburg, R. (1999). The great good place: Cafés, coffee shops, community centers, beauty parlors, general stores, bars, hangouts, and how they get you through the day (2nd Ed.). New York: Paragon House. Porter, G., Hampshire, K., Abane, A., Munthali, A., Robson, E., Mashiri, M. & Maponya, G. (2010). Where dogs, ghosts and lions roam: learning from mobile ethnographies on the journey from school. Children's Geographies, 8(2), 91-105. Rigby, K. (2007). Bullying in Schools and What to Do about It: Revised and Updated. Victoria (Au.): ACER Press. Ross, J. (2007). 'My Journey to School ...': Foregrounding the Meaning of School Journeys and Children's Engagements and Interactions in their Everyday Localities. Children's Geographies, 5(4), 373-391.
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