Young people continue to tell us that they don’t feel listened to. Some say that their views are not asked for. Others say that even when they are asked for their views they are ignored. However, there are also increasing examples of young people doing research. There are more opportunities for young people to take part in research activities. More opportunities to suggest research activities. These are ways of making your views known.
You do not need to be highly skilled to get involved in doing research. The most important things to get started are:
By contributing to research young people can contribute to matters which affect their lives and the lives of other children and young people. This might be things which govern what you can and cannot do at school/college, at work or in leisure time activities. It might be about broader issues which affect your whole family, your community or more broadly still.
It is difficult for young people to understand the world from an adult’s point of view. It is also difficult for adults to understand the world from a young person’s point of view. Young people have unique and important knowledge and understanding to share with adults. They also have the skills to contribute to research. Young people can make research better by taking part in research and sharing their view of the world.
Projects which involve children and young people in the way research is designed and conducted can produce findings that surprise adults. When children and young people plan and undertake their own research projects, or work with adults to design research projects, children’s own views and understandings of the subject of investigation are embedded in research processes. The results can mean that adults have better understandings of children and young people’s experiences (Bucknall 2010) and also better understandings of the communities in which children live.
There are many examples of children and young people showing high degrees of competence as co-researchers, carrying out research projects chosen by adults (French et al 2019) and also of research projects successfully chosen and led by children and young people of different ages and abilities (Kellett, 2010b, 2011; Bucknall, 2009)
Key research competencies are social experience and familiarity with the issues under investigation Children and young people’s research competence can be seen as different to but not necessarily lesser than adult competence (Solberg 1996; Christensen and Prout 2002). The unique lived experience of being a child may give added value to the conduct of research in matters which affect children.
Some topics chosen by young people may not register with an adult as being of interest whilst young people find them highly relevant. Engaging children and young people in the selection of research topics and the development of research questions can make research better because it is more relevant.
In short, recognising young people’s expertise and capability and engaging young people in research could provide you/your organisation with a valuable ongoing source of rich data upon which to plan and deliver your services.
Explore some of the following examples of research with and by children and young people. As you do consider the impact of young people on the research. You could use these questions to help you:
GO TO your ‘Helping people do their research’ or ‘Doing research’ journal if you would like to record your thoughts
You will see young people’s interests in research span further than their immediate lived experiences to community matters and beyond. This list is a small example of the wide range of research topics young people have undertaken with The Open University. A fuller list of topics that children have chosen spans issues in education, learning, physical and mental health, gender, the environment and more (Bucknall, 2010).