What Do Children Have to Say about Childhood? Getting Children’s Help in Theorizing Social Life

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Noah KENNEALLY, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education-University of Toronto, Canada
My current doctoral research investigates children’s perspectives about childhood using the visual ethnographic methods of graphic and narrative elicitation. The questions guiding my research are the following: What are the working images or core metaphors children have and use to describe what childhood means to them? How do these images and metaphors influence their social interactions? And finally, how can creative visual methods assist in involving children in data analysis processes? This presentation explores some preliminary findings from my ongoing research.

Engaging with children directly in research has become a way to involve children in investigating social life. Building on the theoretical foundation provided by James, Jenks & Prout (1998) and Mayall (2002), contemporary theorists in the sociology of childhood (Corsaro, 2015; Gabriel, 2017) consider children to be competent informants, as well as sources of information unobtainable by other means. Methodologically, visual ethnographies present a range of tools that can help to make children’s ideas more visible and concrete, and provide children with multiple ways to engage with the topics of inquiry (Bagnoli, 2009; Einarsdottir, Dockett and Perry, 2009; Farmer and Cepin, 2015; Tay-Lim and Lim, 2013). I discuss some of the ways that using visual ethnographic methods – drawings, cartoons, and concept maps – to capture children’s ideas and perspectives in a variety of modes yields important insights about childhood, and can also provide a platform for involving children in analysis processes. Engaging their help in pushing our theoretical envelopes regarding school, families, and social life can be a concrete way to share the power of knowledge production about children and childhood with children themselves.