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Title: An exploration of young children's engagements in research behaviour
Author: Murray, Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 2741 4318
Awarding Body: University of Northampton
Current Institution: University of Northampton
Date of Award: 2012
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Natural research behaviours may present in children younger than eight years but tend to be overlooked by professional researchers, with the result that young children are rarely recognised as agents in enquiry concerning matters affecting them. This exclusion amounts to social injustice as it underestimates children’s capabilities and denies them particular rights. The thesis proposes that young children engage in research activity congruent with professional adult researchers’ behaviours, as part of their daily lives. Furthermore, the inequity caused by excluding children from recognition as researchers may be addressed if professional researchers were to find ways to recognise and value the children’s contributions as researchers. The empirical study that is the focus for the thesis secured a taxonomy of research behaviours from professional adult researchers which was then applied to naturalistic observations conducted with - and by - children aged 4-8 years in their settings and homes. A ‘jigsaw’ methodology was adopted, featuring constructivist grounded theory and critical ethnography, among other methodologies. Throughout, the project was committed to participatory, emancipatory and inductive principles, though challenges were encountered along the way. Alongside observations, multiple other methods and analysis were employed in the co-construction of data with children and their practitioners in three English early childhood settings and children and their parents in five homes. Professional adult researchers also contributed to primary and meta-data. Results indicated that problem solving, exploring, conceptualising and basing decisions on evidence were regarded by professional researchers as the ‘most important’ research behaviours. Children engaged in these behaviours of their own volition, alongside other research behaviours. Their activities included exploring materials to create novel artefacts in art work, rolling in giant cylinders, cooking and ordering objects systematically. While undertaking these activities, children often revealed higher order cognitive processes such as trial and error elimination, causality, analogy and a posteriori conceptualisation. The study produced a ‘plausible account’ suggesting that children aged 4-8 years do engage in research activity naturalistically as part of their daily lives and that this activity is congruent with professional adult researchers’ behaviours.
Supervisor: Rose, Richard; Gammage, Philip Sponsor: University of Northampton
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HQ767 Children. Child development ; LB1139 Early childhood education ; LB1028 Educational research