Young children's research: children aged 4-8 years finding solutions at home and at school

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper


Children's research capacities have become increasingly recognised by adults, yet children remain excluded from the academy, with reports of their research participation generally located in adults' agenda. Such practice restricts children's freedom to make choices in matters affecting them, underestimates children’s capabilities and denies children particular rights. The present paper reports on one aspect of a small-scale critical ethnographic study adopting a constructivist grounded approach to conceptualise ways in which children's naturalistic behaviours may be perceived as research. The study builds on multi-disciplinary theoretical perspectives, embracing 'new' sociology, psychology, economics, philosophy and early childhood education and care (ECEC). Research questions include: 'What is the nature of ECEC research?' and 'Do children’s enquiries count as research?' Initially, data were collected from the academy: professional researchers (n=14) confirmed 'finding solutions' as a research behaviour and indicated children aged 4-8 years, their practitioners and primary carers as 'theoretical sampling'. Consequently, multi-modal case studies were constructed with children (n=138) and their practitioners (n=17) in three ‘good’ schools, with selected children and their primary carers also participating at home. This paper reports on data emerging from children aged 4-8 years at school (n=17) and at home (n=5). Outcomes indicate that participating children found diverse solutions to diverse problems, some of which they set themselves. Some solutions engaged children in high order thinking, whilst others did not; selecting resources and trialing activities engaged children in 'finding solutions'. Conversely, when children's time, provocations and activities were directed by adults, the quality of their solutions was limited, they focused on pleasing adults and their motivation to propose solutions decreased. In this study, professional researchers recognised 'finding solutions' as research behaviour and children aged 4-8 years naturalistically presented with capacities for finding solutions; however, the children's encounters with adults affected the solutions they found.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2012
Event2nd Global Conference: The Child: A Person's Project - Mansfield College, Oxford
Duration: 7 Jul 2012 → …


Conference2nd Global Conference: The Child: A Person's Project
Period7/07/12 → …


  • Finding solutions
  • early childhood
  • children as researchers
  • capabilities
  • children’s rights


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