Eliciting the voices of children from birth to eight

Carol Robinson

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    Ethical issues associated with listening to children in research and practice environments are commonly addressed within the ethical guidelines of several organisations across various nations worldwide, for example, ERIC, the Ethical Research Including Children guidelines (http://childethics.com). However, there is an overall lack of guidance or guiding principles relating to facilitating, listening to, and interpreting the voices of very young children. This workshop will explore issues relating to this complex, challenging and under-researched area. It arises from discussions that took place during a recent international seminar series hosted by the University of Strathclyde: Look Who’s Talking (http://www.strath.ac.uk/whystrathclyde/news/givingchildrenavoiceintheirownlearning ) in January and June 2017. Participants included the authors as well as the following experts in the field -Dr Claire Cassidy and Dr Lorna Arnott (both University of Strathclyde), Professor Dana Mitra (Penn State University), Gerard McKernan (Glasgow Early Learning Centre), Professor Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson (University of Gothenburg), Dr John I’Anson (University of Stirling), Julia Flutter (University of Cambridge), Professor Lasse Lipponen (University of Helsinki), Dr Mallika Kanyal (Anglia Ruskin University), Dr Mhairi Beaton (University of Aberdeen) Professor Pia Christensen (University of Leeds), and Professor Sue Dockett (Charles Sturt University). During the associated events, academics and practitioners, with expertise in early years and primary education and research, discussed ways in which - and for what purposes - the voices of children from birth to eight years are elicited in research and practice settings. Nested within these discussions was the issue of partnership and how power and dialogue are understood between researchers and practitioners, between professionals from education, health, the law and social work and most critically between children and adults.The objective of this workshop is to build on the seminar outcomes in such a way to codify the original groups’ understandings with a wider audience, as well as to further develop thinking. We will use ethical and pedagogical dilemmas, solicited from practitioners for the seminar series, exemplifying the practice of eliciting voice in the early years (0-8 years), as starting points. This will mirror the approach to enquiry around transition suggested by Dockett and Perry (2014), where examples of practice are used to promote discussion of the issues. By introducing provocations from early years practice (educational and research), we aim to promote reflections and discussions focusing specifically on the ethical and pedagogical dilemmas associated with eliciting the voices of young children within this age group. In light of these vignettes, we will facilitate an open discussion around the implications for research and practice represented in relation to the following questions:•What are the overarching ethical considerations of eliciting voice and what are the specific practices associated when working with children aged 8 and under?•Can children aged 8 and under have an informed voice? If so, in what areas (and in what areas can they not have an informed voice) and how is this decision made?•What guidelines can we provide to support the practice of eliciting voice with young children?Consideration will also be given to how the perspectives of children who are not able/choose not to access spoken language, are elicited and to whether (and if so how) the ethical and pedagogical issues that arise in educational practice and research differs according to different circumstances.Methodology As part of the first seminar in January, and using Dockett and Perry’s (2014) work as inspiration, a decision was made by the group to develop a resource of practitioner narratives that draw out different dilemmas and challenges associated with eliciting voice in the early years. All seminar participants will send a call out in early 2017 to their local networks including students, practitioners and researchers working with young children. The prompt will be for examples of practice that demonstrate the successes, dilemmas and challenges of eliciting, listening to and engaging with young children’s voice from the age of birth to eight years.The submitted narratives will be the focus of activity in the June seminar. Here participants will explore the emerging themes and gaps (in regards the current literature and policy) represented. The three vignettes presented in this workshop will be chosen to exemplify this synthesis process to represent different aspects that the group has decided are significant in helping to decide on the distinctiveness (if it exists) of voice in the early years and key dilemmas represented by this youngest age group. Each will crystallize key themes encountered in educational and research practices when focusing on eliciting the voices of young children from birth to eight years.Workshop participants will be invited to engage in discussion about issues raised within the vignettes, with a view to moving towards identifying commonalities, principles, and gaps in current thinking and understandings about ethical issues associated with the research and practices focusing on eliciting the voices of very young children. The outcomes emerging from the discussions will then link to a follow-on session to be led by Network 25 (Children’s Rights) that will explore some of the theoretical implications associated with reframing understanding about, and approaches to, what constitutes ethically sound education and research practices with young children.Conclusion Input from this session will inform a follow-up workshop led by Network 25: Research on Children’s Rights in Education. Drawing on the issues raised during discussions prompted by the presentation of the vignettes, the follow-up workshop will seek to promote further discussion and stimulate critical thinking about the limitations associated with the theories, commonly accepted by European audiences, relating to the sociology of childhood. As part of this discussion, the follow-up session will consider, in particular, the temporality and spatial specificity of voice, and acknowledge ambivalences around this.References:Dockett, S. & Perry, B. (2014). Continuity of Learning: A resource to support effective transition to school and school age care. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Department of Education.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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