Presentation on theme: "Child-centred practice"— Presentation transcript:
1 Child-centred practice “Give me the information I need to make choices and feel more in control”: an action research study with young peopleElizabeth Fern Guðrún KristinsdóttirIntroductionChild-directed practiceThe young people put forward a series of narratives in which they compared their experiences of various practitioners and services.The narratives prepared for the next task when we asked the young people to formulate the questions they would ask to decide whether a particular practitioner was likely to be helpful to them. With minor modifications, these questions were used in the first interviews with the practitioners (Fern and Kristinsdottir, 2011).This poster presents an action research study, conducted in Iceland, which involved ten young people, aged between 13 and 17 years, who had engaged with social workers, as consultants to the research. We focus in particular on the participatory group work methods used to activate young people’s knowledge. We show how we worked with the inter-cultural dimension of our interactions to build rapport and create more egalitarian research relationships.Theoretically, we took a child standpoint approach which recognised the young people as having the knowledge and expertise on children’s experiences of social work intervention in their lives. Consistent with this stance, we employed a research design, with an emphasis on action and change, aimed at maximising both the influence of the young people on the research, and the potential for developing practice in the interests of children.Gaining participation: making it easier for researchers to engage young people in researchQuestions young people wanted to ask social workersFindingsWe discussed the findings with the young people using photographs of children, young people and adults (from the internet and clip art) to tell stories illustrating what research participants had said in interviews about how they worked with young people and what child-centred and child-directed practice meant to them. In discussion with the young people we concluded that work with children and families can have the appearance of being child-centred, but fail to provide avenues for children to have their say and contribute to decision-making. In the model of child-directed practice the child has moved to a more equal position alongside the adults. The young people in the consultation group viewed this conceptual map as a more helpful representation of practice approaches in which practitioners work alongside children, sharing knowledge and resources, with children assisting the practitioners in the direction of their practice (Fern, 2012).How long have you been in this job?What is your education?What is your experience?Have you had a good relationship with children seeking help?Have you been able to help children who have sought your help?How do you make people feel good?How do you feel about kids, e.g. autistic ones and the like, also just kids with ordinary problems?Do you ignore them, or do you listen to them and take an interest in solving their problems?Do you become angry if kids achieve no success?If you were given a shy child, how would you approach him/her?What do you do if the child tells you her/his problems and does not want others to know about them?How can I be sure that you won’t tell anybody else?How can I trust you?In the initial meetings with the young people we provided information about the research and gained their written agreement to take part. We used two methods as ice-breakers and to help us discuss our research interests with the young people. It was Christmas time so the first method was a game which involved researchers and young people acting out and guessing the characters of the Icelandic Christmas Lads. The game helped us develop our strategy for overcoming the language barriers and using the challenges as a resource. For example, we used the presence of the British researcher, lacking fluency in the national language, to create a less threatening atmosphere (Corsaro and Molinari, 2000). This worked well because all the young people involved were more competent in their bilingual skills than the British researcher.Future workDevelop the role of children and young people as consultants to research to include the power to effect change.Develop child-directed practice through action research.Child-centred practiceReferencesTwo of the thirteen Icelandic Yule lads that come down from the mountains on the days running up to Christmas:Candle Stealer (Kertasníkir) and Pot Scraper (Pottaskefill)Corsaro, W.A. and Molinari, L. (2000) ‘Entering and Observing in Children’s Worlds: a Reflection on a Longitudinal Ethnography of Early Education in Italy’, in P. Christensen and A. James (eds.) Research with Children: Perspectives and Practices, pp London: Falmer Press.Fern, E. and Kristinsdóttir, K. (2011) Young People Act as Consultants in Child-directed Research: an Action Research Study in Iceland. Child and Family Social Work 16(3), ppFern, E. (2012) Child-Directed Social Work Practice: Findings from an Action Research Study Conducted in Iceland. British Journal of Social Work doi: /bjsw/bcs099.Hunleth, J. (2011) Beyond on or with: questioning power dynamics and knowledge production in ‘child-oriented’ research methodology. Childhood, 18(1), ppWe used a video about bullying ‘Hell on Earth’ (English subtitle) featuring the popular pop singer and disc jockey Páll Óskar to generate a discussion about who young people go to for help with their problems and what responses they consider to be helpful or unhelpful. Páll Óskar was subjected to bullying in school and describes in the video how he coped with this. He is strong role model for children in Iceland because he speaks openly about his experiences and demonstrates his resilience.Discussion based on the video provided a useful ‘buffer zone’ for us as researchers and for the young people as consultants which supported us in exploring difficult issues (Hunleth, 2011).Our thanks to the young people and practitioners in Iceland for their contributions. The research was supported by KEA/University of Akureyri research funds and RANNIS, the national research fund of Iceland.Thanks also to Caitlin Fern O‘Brien for the design and help with the poster.