Enabling young children’s participation in decision making

Sarah Laing

Sarah Laing

All managers in day care of children services are required to have or be working towards the Childhood Practice Award.  As part of her qualification, Sarah Laing, a recent childhood practice graduate from Dundee University undertook a research project which she would like to share with us.

Enabling Young Children’s Participation in Decision Making is a professional project: a research study representing the final piece of work for the BA Childhood Practice degree.  The paper is an account of an investigative inquiry which lasted ten months, which I designed and implemented.  The research took place in the nursery class of a Scottish primary school.  I worked co-operatively with colleagues, who acted as my co-researchers.  The nursery children played a central role in the investigation as research participants and were fully involved throughout.

A child demonstrates high levels of involvement (deep-level learning) as he concentrates on his plan.

The investigation focused on supporting and developing children’s participation in decision making.  This subject area was chosen because of a need to involve children more meaningfully and to a greater extent in nursery planning.  A shared desire amongst the nursery staff was identified: a commitment to develop practice championing children’s voices, thereby providing them their right to be heard in matters that affect them.

I undertook a literature review to develop an understanding of participation, finding that effective cases require practitioners to consider a variety of issues.  The most relevant components of participation were found to be: the role of the practitioner; outcomes for children and participatory methods.  Research questions guided the inquiry and data collection methods gathered evidence during the implementation stage, providing answers.

The map with children’s initial ideas for resource planning (words scribed and images placed).

The implementation stage of the research centred on the testing of two participatory methods which sought to embrace children’s contribution and decision making: enabling them a voice in early years planning.  The participatory methods were heavily influenced by world renowned practice; though I developed and adapted them to suit the purpose of the inquiry.  The first method followed HighScope’s plan-do-review process (Hohmann and Weikart, 2002), with a focus on children attending regular small group sessions facilitated by practitioners.  Within the small group context children used drawing as a medium for planning and reviewing their play.   The second method was based on the Mosaic approach (Clark and Moss, 2011) and their mapping method.  Children created a large map using photos of nursery areas, taken by the children whilst touring their environment.  The map was used as a visual tool to support children to plan-do-review their intentions for play.  Original inspiration for the two participatory methods came from an earlier investigation in a different nursery setting which I carried out  in 2006.  That inquiry looked at enhancing children’s play experiences through developing a plan-do-review process.  The introduction of a specially designed sheet upon which children drew their intentions for play, led to discussions whereby the same children reviewed those intentions.  In order to develop children’s planning of play, the children and I created a large map of the nursery environment.  The finished map was used by the children to plan further play ideas.

Three data collection methods gathered evidence in order to answer the research questions.  A professional journal was used for practitioners’ observations, a focus group allowed for deeper discussion amongst the research team and interviews between the children and I made sure their voices remained prominent in the research.

The paper records the ways in which the research resulted in improvements to pedagogy, outcomes for children and participatory practice, all of which supported children to have a voice in decision making.  Practitioners were determined to achieve genuine participation for children and best practice in this respect.  Implications for practice included development of a positive perspective – viewing children as strong, capable individuals; practitioner’s sensitive interactions based on a pedagogical understanding of effective listening and participatory methods which supported children’s individualistic forms of self-expression.  I conclude the project by affirming the nursery team’s intent, to continue to develop their understanding of the process of genuine participation for children over the coming year.

Read Sarah’s full project and appendices.

2 Responses to “Enabling young children’s participation in decision making”

  1. Shona Quinn

    May 19. 2015

    Sarah this is inspiring work and you seemed to have been well support by your team. Well done.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Andrea Dickie

    Jun 02. 2015

    Well Done Sarah.

    Reply to this comment

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