Privileging Younger Children’s Voices in Research: Use of Drawings and a Co-Construction Process
The growing acknowledgement of the value of listening to children’s views and experiences in social research, popularly termed as “listening to their voices,” brings with it methodological consequences. Regarding children as expert informants about their own lives carries with it the simultaneous call for researchers to be experts in developing and employing appropriate strategies that can effectively elicit the insights that children can bring to a research topic. With younger children, the use of participatory methodologies has been foregrounded as the key to unlocking their potential to contribute rich and useful perspectives to inform research into their lives. This article explores the usefulness of employing preschoolers’ drawings within the context of a co-construction process to facilitate the children’s construction of ideas and reinforce their voices in research. The case is made that the quality of the dialogical engagement is as important as the drawing itself, and both visual images and the verbal exchanges are central to the children’s meaning-making process. In the co-construction process, both adult and child are (ideally) equal players and the resulting dialogical process plays a major role in the constitution of the phenomena. The role of the researcher as the co-constructor can be a challenging one because it entails engaging and supporting children’s views and the expression of these views. The discussion and illustrations from the first author’s research projects contribute to the literature base on positioning preschool children as valid social actors in their communities.