Transition from primary to secondary school of children learning EAL project: Stakeholders, issues and strategies
As part of the ESRC NWDTC Research Impact Training Day I was given an exercise to think about the stakeholders, issues and strategies to address the issues in my research. After identifying the stakeholders, I had to do a little strategic planning in a group of three. We had to think about the main interests and issues the stakeholders will have with my research project. Doing research is about maintaining a balance of what you require from your participants and what you give them in return, so awareness of their interests is crucial.
Here is what my stakeholders planning exercise looked like using a stakeholders matrix. Some explanations follow bellow.
The main stakeholders that I identified in my research are (in order of importance): teachers, children, headteachers, ITT providers and parents. I found parents a tricky one considering that they could be adverse stakeholders if they do not consent for their children to take part. This led to an insightful comment that I could use this as a resource to inform my research as to why these parents are reluctant to allow their children to take part and what does this tell me about their background or views and beliefs. However, one of the most important stakeholders that the whole group missed was ourselves as a researchers. We have an intrinsic interest in our projects and we are also a very important part of the process of completing them successfully.
Main interests of stakeholders
I came up with three main interests which resulted from breaking up my main research question into the parts of educational experience of children with EAL that I am exploring. Improving the quality of education and English language learning are practical interests of all identified stakeholders and these are related to a global aim of improving schools and making them a better and more enjoyable place for children. Then comes understanding the experience of children with EAL which will benefit teachers, headteachers and ITT providers in terms of developing more suited strategies to meet the learning and social needs of this particular group of children. Children are important in this exercise as well because giving them voice to express excitements and worries about school will be a first-hand learning experience for their teachers and for me as a researcher.
Strategies to overcome issues
Thinking about the strategies to address the three issues (well, there are many more, but I didn’t have time for all of them)… my group came up with the following:
- Family background: research family background, look at values and beliefs, what could raise doubt in parents, find out about communication conventions and approach parents appropriately; establish face-to-face communication and have a bilingual assistants/ interpreter, if needed.
- Ethics and access: this is a big issues when working with children and young people. Procedures for safeguarding, confidentiality and anonymity have to be established along with verbal and written consent, ongoing checks if participants are still happy with the project and so on. In addition, it takes time to become more of an insider in a school – teachers and children need to trust you to open up and benefit the research. In this respect, I am relying on building trust by valuing and framing my own experience of a teacher and an EAL student in the past, which means that I have been an insider in other similar establishments. Again, I come back to frequent face-to face communication to go through with the project as other communication means are not appropriate in my case. Thinking back about gaining access to research schools, I would add persistence and networking as key skills which may help with arranging access.
- Resources: teachers are usually very busy during the school day so being efficient, succinct and planning appropriately is a key skill. Yes, I have all the time in the world to do my research, to talk to children and reflect on their experiences but if I am looking for impact in terms of addressing the interests of the main groups of stakeholders, I will need to work with the time and resources that they have, otherwise they may never employ in practice my suggestions simply because they don’t have the time to do so.
One minute presentations of the above followed and I have to admit, I found it hard to be brief enough to fit into the time limit. Great learning experience though, and lots of food for thought about the people involved in my researcher, their interests and intentions, my interests as a researcher and the issues which are borne out of this complex interaction. Let’s get messy as I will be looking into this in more depth.