Researching with children: Lessons in humility, reciprocity and community

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    I had assumed that my experience as a qualitative researcher accustomed to interviewing adults, and formerly as a teacher of young children, would be an adequate enough basis for undertaking research with children. My first inklings that investigating children's perceptions of their (male) preschool teacher would be far from straightforward surfaced when Bill* (the children's teacher) introduced me to them. He explained to the children that I would be sitting at the drawing and writing table and that I would like them to draw a picture of him, and to tell me about it. 'Perhaps you could draw a picture of me in a pink dress,' he joked. I settled myself at the table and waited. The few children who approached the table that first morning were more interested in colouring Christmas decorations, the other activity available at the table that day, than in drawing a picture of Bill. 'Bring some novelty pencils tomorrow', advised Bill, 'You need something to attract their interest'. More children approached the table the following day, keen to use pencils topped with the plastic dinosaurs I'd hastily bought at the local toyshop the previous afternoon. It was clear, though, that the pencils were the drawcard, not the opportunity to draw and talk about Bill. On my third day in the centre, I strategically 'reserved' the dinosaur pencils for children who agreed to draw a picture of Bill. He assisted by removing the colouring activity and channelling children toward me. Their 'resistance' was impressive. Sometimes subtle, more often overt, it took the form of rushed, scribbled drawings, multiple versions of Bill in a pink dress, 'silly' talk and 'rough house' play, almost identical comments, or no comments at all. Deflated and dejected, I retreated from the centre at the end of the week with little meaningful data, my stance as researcher severely challenged and disrupted.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)18-23
    Number of pages6
    JournalAustralian Journal of Early Childhood
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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