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Involving Children in Ethnographic Research Using Photographs: Reflecting on the Development of Participatory Visual Research Methods in an English Primary School

By: Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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This case study reflects on the use of photographic interviews as a research method to involve children, aged between 4 and 11 years, in an ethnographic research project that took place in an English primary school. There has been growing interest in the use of visual methods in ethnographic research in recent years. Photographs can provide children with both a medium and another language in which to communicate their ideas and can be an effective way to locate discussion within the child’s experience. However, there is currently little practical support for collecting visual data with children within formal ethical guidelines. Recent research has revealed a number of potential approaches, each with its own particular set of opportunities and restrictions. My own approach was based on an amalgam of these as well as my negotiations with my research participants. I focus on the form that my photographic interviews took and some of the insights they offered in terms of my research focus. I consider a number of challenges that arose during their development and implementation and the ways that the performative, rule-bound policy context can shape research in school settings. Some of the features of ethnographic research are highlighted as providing useful tools to develop a reflective approach as part of the maintenance of an ethically principled approach that respects children’s competence.

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