Researching Children's Experiences

Melissa Freeman and Sandra Mathison

Paperback
Paperback
November 3, 2008
ISBN 9781593859954
Price: $36.00 $30.60
196 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
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This accessible book presents approaches to planning, carrying out, and analyzing research projects with children and youth from a social constructivist perspective. Rich, contextualized examples illustrate how to elicit and understand the lived experiences of diverse young people. Data-collection methods discussed in depth include drawing, photography, the Internet, games, interviewing, focus groups, journaling, and observation. Also covered are strategies for fostering the active contributions of children in the research process; navigating consent and ethical issues; enlisting the support of parents, school personnel, and other gatekeepers; and interpreting data. Throughout, the authors emphasize the need to attend to the social setting in which research with children is done. End-of-chapter questions and exercises encourage readers to reflect on taken-for-granted conceptions of children and childhood and to try out the book’s ideas in their own research projects.

“Recommended reading for all potential or current researchers interested in conducting studies involving children and adolescents....I would promote the reading of this text for undergraduate and graduate students who are planning to pursue a career in child research....The questions could be used within a classroom setting or for a curious and engaged social science investigator.”

Metapsychology Online Reviews


“Over the past decade, there has been increased interest in giving children a voice in decisions that affect their lives. Listening to children is the first step to enacting their rights. Espousing a social constructivist orientation, the authors present a variety of data collection methods that facilitate hearing children's ideas and perspectives. This practical guide will enhance researchers' ability to engage in collaborative research relationships with children. Highly recommended!”

—Charles E. Schaefer, PhD, RPT-S, Department of Psychology (Emeritus), Fairleigh Dickinson University


“Clinical practitioners looking for guidance in formulating and carrying out research that is child centered and child friendly will welcome this book, which is rooted in the authors’ social constructionist philosophy. All the necessary steps in conducting research are concisely detailed, from obtaining institutional review board approval to data analysis. The book is unique in its emphases on the child’s perspective and on ethical issues, and in its incorporation of diverse ways of eliciting children’s experiences. Researching Children’s Experiences makes young people part of the process and gives them an active voice in portraying their world.”

—Nancy Boyd Webb, DSW, LICSW, RPT-S, Distinguished Professor Emerita, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service


“I didn’t expect that this well-written, exciting book would be so immediately relevant to my own research with children. Freeman and Mathison offer a very rich and pragmatic examination of children’s roles as research participants. They carefully describe research practices that acknowledge children’s competence and permit them to make informed, uncoerced choices about research participation. The anecdotes drawn from the authors' research are illuminating and will make it easy for readers to recognize their own experiences in the discussions. This book will be particularly useful for the graduate students in my research seminar. It will prompt them to thoughtfully reflect on their interactions with children and to design empirical studies that are sensitive to children’s perspectives and that capture children’s understanding. Highly recommended.”

—Beth Doll, PhD, Professor and Director, School Psychology Program, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


“Working with children in a research project is different from working with adults. This book peels back the layers to help the reader understand what the differences are and how to respond to children in highly ethical ways. The authors make the research process very transparent by contextualizing the steps needed to plan, carry out, and analyze a research project. They do an excellent job of connecting theory with the practice of qualitative research. Readers are put right into the action through the use of reflection and description. The authors examine their own experience from many different angles, weaving together the emotional and practical aspects of doing research.”

—Sara McCormick Davis, EdD, Early Childhood Education Program, University of Arkansas, Fort Smith


“What I like about this book is the use of lots of specific examples of fieldwork, both from the authors and from other researchers. The end-of-chapter discussion questions are fabulous.”

—Beth Graue, PhD, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison


“This book offers a refreshingly critical approach to research with children and youth that is certainly warranted. Some of the content is very thought provoking and challenges the traditional research paradigm.”

—Abigail M. Jewkes, PhD, Department of Teacher Education, Saginaw Valley State University

Table of Contents

1. Conceptions of Children and Childhood

Historical Perspectives of Childhood

Theories of Socialization

New Studies of Childhood

2. Negotiating Access for Research with Children

The Regulation of Research in the Social Sciences

Navigating Institutional Review Boards

3. Recruiting Child Participants

Strategies for Obtaining Parental Permission

Getting Kids to Participate after You Are “In”

Confidentiality

4. Defining Researcher Roles in Research with Children

The Effect of Institutions on Researcher Roles

Presentation of Self as Researcher

5. Ethical Challenges in Social Constructionist Research with Children

Voluntary Participation

Communicating Responsibly

Reciprocity

6. Interviewing

Interviewing as a Relationship

Developing Interview Questions and Protocols

Strategies for Eliciting Verbal Responses

Individual Interviews

Group Interviews and Focus Groups

7. Art and Photography

Visual Forms of Expression and Representation

Communicating through Participant Drawings

Communicating through Photographs

Communicating through Maps

Planning for Visual Activities

Planning for Analysis of Visual Data

8. Journaling and Other Written Responses

Communicating through Writing

Written Accounts as Data

Artifacts

Technology and Writing

9. Analyzing Data

Internal and External Narratives of Meaning

Analysis of Context, Contexts of Analysis

Analyzing Visual Data

Analysis Goes On and On

10. Children as Researchers

The Power of Children’s Voices

Why Partner with Young People?

The Possibility of True Partnerships


About the Authors

Melissa Freeman is Assistant Professor of Qualitative Research Methodologies in the College of Education at the University of Georgia. Her research focuses on critical, constructivist, and relational approaches to educational research and evaluation; the role of dialogue in the construction of meaning and understanding; and the use of alternative elicitation strategies in interviewing and focus groups. She has worked with parents and young people in a variety of educational and youth services settings. Dr. Freeman's most recent research focuses on parents’ and students’ perceptions of accountability and testing in public schools.

Sandra Mathison is Professor of Education at the University of British Columbia. Her research is in educational evaluation, and her work has focused especially on the potential and limits of evaluation to support democratic ideals and promote justice. She has conducted national large-scale and local evaluations of K-12, postsecondary, and informal educational programs and curricula. Dr. Mathison's most recent research focuses on the effects of state-mandated testing on teaching and learning, especially the impact on the work life of teachers and the educational experiences of students. She is editor of the Encyclopedia of Evaluation, coeditor (with E. Wayne Ross) of Defending Public Schools: The Nature and Limits of Standards-Based Reform and Assessment and Battleground: Schools, and Editor-in-Chief of the journal New Directions for Evaluation.

Audience

Researchers and graduate students in education, counseling, developmental and educational psychology, social work, sociology, and other disciplines that may involve researching children's experiences.

Course Use

Serves as a core or supplementary text in graduate-level courses such as Developmental Research, Child Research Methods, Early Childhood Education Research, and Sociology of Childhood, as well as other qualitative research courses that focus on, or include a component on, working with children.