Abstract for Postgraduate Student Conference 2012: “The Impact of Educational Research Methods on Developing the Postgraduate Researcher” 2-3 August 2012, School of Education, University of Manchester
Researching agency and engagement in transition from primary to secondary education: insights from the work with children having EAL
Research impact beyond the gates of academia appears to be one of the buzz words in research communities (Martin 2011). In the current climate researchers need to think about ways in which their work could contribute to practice and policy development and therefore the focus of some would shift to a very practical and engaging level of doing research. However, impact could and should be considered in many different ways, not just in terms of direct influence on policy and practice. This paper draws on insights and preliminary findings from a transition project exploring children’s agency and engagement in the progression from primary to secondary schooling. Looking at the experiences of children having English as an additional language (EAL) whose voices often remain hidden behind a language deficit notion (Lyons 2010), the paper focuses on research strategies that I have employed in order to give voice and space to children to be reflexive and articulate their experiences. I will discuss the development of a learning journals tool and its joint use with discussions as a method of working with student voice. I will also focus on the views of children regarding the usefulness of this approach in articulating their transition expectations at the end of Year 6. The learning journals are being developed jointly with school staff in order to make them fit in the busy schedules of the classroom and at the same time be useful to both students and teachers and all those involved in transition. I conclude by suggesting that researching students’ perspectives in an important element of understanding their experiences but it also engages children in research and critical thinking processes. This contributes to helping staff, children and young people to see the value of research processes as part of education and making a difference at a localised and practical level.
Key words: qualitative research, transition, student experiences, student voice, learning journals