Listening to Voices of Children and Learning with Them: Action Research in a Primary School
This dissertation presents an action research project carried out in a primary school to address the issue of ‘pupil voice’. Consulting with stakeholders has risen in prominence in the political context of schools. A number of government directives to encourage schools to engage have been put forward, including the expectation of the establishment of a School Council. The formation of the School Council is the first cycle of action presented in this dissertation, which then continues to develop through three further action cycles: listening to the voices of teachers, ‘children as philosophers’ and action research partnerships in the classrooms. Preliminary work prior to the introduction of School Council sets the context. The conceptual framework has been developed through consideration of the work of Shier (2001), Fielding (2001) and Hart(1994) which has contributed to the establishment of a taxonomy of ‘pupil voice’ development. The methodological approach emerged from the works of Elliott (1991), Zuber Skerritt and Perry (2002) and Whitehead and McNiff (2006) through the development of ‘circles of influence’ which rose and diminished in importance throughout the action cycles. Three circles of influence are identified as ‘self’ including reflexivity, ‘methods’ including ways of engaging and analysing the data, and ‘literature’ pertinent to the area of action as well as the methodology itself. The contribution the subsequent thesis offers to practice is threefold. Firstly, there is the ‘methodological messiness’ (Dadds & Hart 2005) which occurs when conducting action research which necessitates listening to the voices of the participants in order to determine the next cycle. Secondly, there is the development of the ‘pupil voice’ taxonomy which embeds the pupils within the process and is groundbreaking in ‘pupil voice’ research in primary schools. Finally, there are the action cycles themselves which offer the lived experience of engaging in ‘pupil voice’ action research partnerships.