Nonviolent Research Methods: Uncovering New Ways of Researching with Children

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Diane FARMER, OISE, University of Toronto, Canada
Noah KENNEALLY, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education-University of Toronto, Canada
Broström (2005) and Einarsdóttir (2007) raise an important point in regards to researching children’s lives and experiences of childhood – how to balance children’s rights to privacy and protection with the potentially invasive entry into children’s spaces and lives that is required of research? These uninvited forays can be understood as acts of symbolic violence (Bourdieu, 1999), and are a clear demonstration of the unbalanced power dynamics between adults and children. Are there ways of designing and conducting research that reduce or constrain the symbolic violence and power imbalances existing between adult researchers and child subjects?

In an effort to explore ideas of potentially nonviolent research methods, this presentation examines the processes and practices in two of our own projects. One, a SSHRC-funded study looking at children’s understanding and experience of their own mobility; and the second, a pilot project testing out arts-based methods of data collection and analysis. We found that by emphasizing research as a social relationship reframed the research processes so that we engaged with adult-child power dynamics in less violent ways. However, along lines suggested by Punch (2002) and Hill (2005), and contrary to some of the literature existing on adapting research to be appropriate for children, we uncovered other means to share power and space, and creatively engage in research with children. Critiquing some of these “child-friendly” methods, we point towards the strengthening effects cultivating reflective space with children has on designing research, involving young people, and investigating children’s experiences and issues of childhood.