Education Observatory

Research in Education at the University of Wolverhampton

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Book Seminar – Innovative research methods in the early years: beyond the conventional

New publication available now via Routledge

Children, Young People & Families
Early Years

In total 92 people attended the book seminar on the 16th March 2021.  The audience ranged in location including staff and students from the University of Wolverhampton and CREC students.  Students, practitioners and academics attended the conference.  UK attendees were located in an extensive range of areas including Durham, Manchester, Brighton and Somerset.  There was also a good range of universities represented including University of Dundee, University of Derby, University of Lancashire, Sunderland University and University of Gloucestershire.  International attendees were located in areas that included Croatia, Greece, China and Italy.   

Reflexivity in educational research JACKIE MUSGRAVE This chapter begins by examining how reflexivity has become an essential ingredient in high quality, educational research.  It explores a range of definitions of reflexivity in qualitative educational research; drawing on peer-reviewed journal articles to illustrate how reflexivity is addressed in the literature.  The content identifies the factors that inform and shape our beliefs and in turn, our motivation for conducting our research.  A central argument is that our research is ‘not a voyage of discovery that starts with a clean sheet’ (Denscombe, 2007, p 68).  The reasons why it is imperative to acknowledge and lay bare our motivations and reflexivity are foregrounded, helping the reader to be aware that it is impossible and unnecessary to be objective, and in fact can be unethical not to explore and declare our reflexivity in relation to our research.  The skills necessary to be reflexive are also discussed, such as the ability to be critically reflective, especially in relation to the possible impact our research may have on others.
Arts as a research method ELISABETTA BIFFI The fact that art, images, drawing, and the use of expressive materials feature strongly in the lives of children is borne out by numerous and the everyday observations of early childhood education practitioners; nevertheless, realising the full potential of the artistic dimension  is quite a different matter. In this chapter, we explore the value of the artistic and expressive medium for children and adults in research: first in general, then as a resource for enhancing communication and relationships, and finally as an domain of inquiry and discovery that can span a diverse range of disciplinary areas.
The use of drawing methods with young children HELEN LYNDON Drawing is increasingly being used as researchers seek participatory methods within education and the wider social sciences.   Drawing offers a developmentally appropriate way of engaging children in the research process and can be accompanied by rich discussion. This chapter outlines three ways in which drawing can be used to elicit children’s perspectives and the strengths and limitations of such methods are considered. The benefits of such methods are discussed in relation to both the process of drawing as well as the final drawn outcome as both can be equally valuable.  Ethical dilemmas are central when researching with children in this way and the role of the researcher and the relationships required are outlined. 
The use of identity boxes as a research method HELEN PERKINS This chapter reflects on the use of identity boxes as a research method. The chapter outlines how using creative activities provides an opportunity for participants to reflect on  key events and critical incidents and to reconfigure and reorder them in to the story they want to tell; it is this application of this concept that underpins the method. Examples of how identity boxes can be used to facilitate reflexive opportunities to produce rich data are examined  drawing on examples from two research projects, the first,  Creative research methods in a college-based higher education setting (Kendall and Perkins,  2014) The title of the research was Listening to old wives’ tales: small stories and the (re)making and (re)telling of research in HE/FE practitioner education  and from Helen’s own doctoral study, which is entitled  From Training to Qualification: The journey of Level 3 early years student-practitioners (Perkins, 2017). The chapter examines the efficacy of identity boxes as a methodological tool and concludes with a discussion of the strengths and challenges of using creative activities as a research method
Q-methodology: seeking complexities in perspectives of young children and practitioners ZETA WILLIAMS-BROWN AND GAVIN RHOADES The chapter explores how Q-methodology can be used to detail the complexities and communalities amongst participant’s positions.  The chapter begins with a consideration of Q as a full methodology, and the importance of a researcher’s positionality for how they deploy Q and interpret the data produced. Some different projects where Q-methodology has been used are examined to illustrate some of its features and flexibilities. This includes a recent project on the Early Years Pupil Premium that investigated practitioner’s perspectives on its use.  The chapter also details examples of how Q-methodology can be used with young participants. 
Videos outdoors with young children GARY BEAUCHAMP This presentation considers the unique contributions that video can make to research in early childhood, particularly outside of the classroom or setting. These include providing a multimodal record of the child’s view of the world and their interactions with it. The presentation explores how video can be viewed, and listened to, repeatedly to allow a more nuanced analysis, both by an individual or research team. Like any digital resource it can saved, shared, and edited to produce still images or shorter videos for a range of dissemination activities. The presentation details technical, organisational and ethical challenges in using videos, particularly the issue of informed consent and use of video in disseminating findings. 


Gary Beauchamp is Professor of Education in the School of Education at Cardiff Metropolitan University. He worked for many years as a primary school teacher, before moving into higher education where he has led undergraduate and post graduate courses in education, as well as supervising Doctoral students. His research interests focus on ICT in education, particularly the use of interactive technologies in learning and teaching. He has published widely in academic journals, as well writing books, book chapters and research reports and is a member of BERA Council. In addition, he has been an Additional Inspector for Estyn, Chair of Governors in two primary schools and has served as external examiner for many universities.

Elisabetta Biffi is a researcher in Pedagogy at the Department of Human Sciences for Education “Riccardo Massa” – University of Milan-Bicocca. She has been in this post since 2010 and teaches on “Narrative Theories and practices” on the Master Degree Course of Educational Sciences.   She is a member of national and European research projects on the topic of: pedagogical documentation, childhood protection and children rights; educators and teachers professional development.  She is a member of different editorial boards.  She is also a member of education associations including EECERA where she is co-convenor for the SIGTransforming Assessment, Evaluation and Documentation in Early Childhood Pedagogy.

Helen Lyndon is the Postgraduate Programme Lead for the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) in Birmingham, England. She taught initially in primary-school education, specializing in mathematics, then undertook a Master’s degree in early-years education whilst teaching in children’s centres. She went on to work in higher education on undergraduate and postgraduate courses relating to early-childhood education.  Her doctoral research, almost complete, focuses on pedagogic mediation, including development of listening methods for daily practice with young children. Helen is the UK Country Coordinator for the European Early Childhood Research Association (EECERA).

Jackie Musgrave is Programme Lead for Early Childhood and Education Studies (Primary) at The Open University.  Her research brings together her experiences as a Registered Sick Children’s Nurse and as a teacher of early childhood.  The focus of her research is to identify the role of practitioners in reducing or removing the barriers that health matters can create for very young children and in creating inclusive education and care environments for such children. The two chapters in this book are drawn from her doctoral research.

Helen Perkins is senior lecturer in childhood and family studies at the University of Wolverhampton. She began her early years career working in nursery and reception. Following 13 years as head of school for early childhood education in the College of further and higher education Helen joined the University of Wolverhampton as a senior lecturer working on undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Helen’s doctoral research predominately focuses on agendas and policies in the early years with a focus on the workforce and their qualifications. Helen served as an expert panel member for the Nutbrown Review of Early Years qualifications and is a member of the Executive for the Early Childhood Studies Degree Network focusing on workforce issues and professionalism.

Zeta Williams-Brown is Reader in Education for Social Justice at the University of Wolverhampton, England, and is leader of the ‘Children, Young People and Families’ research cluster for the University’s Education Observatory. She is an executive member and currently Chair of the British Education Studies Association (BESA). Zeta’s research predominately focuses on agendas and policies in early and primary education.

All feedback was positive and focused on the attendees experience, speakers content and access to the conference.  Feedback included:

  • Thank you for such frank and individual respectful research experiences.
  • Thank you so much to everyone, this was such a helpful session. I struggle to find spaces like this which focus in particular on early chilhdood research methods. Thank you to everyone for sharing you expertise and invaluable insights.
  • A lovely afternoon thank you – just ordered the book
  • Thanks everyone!!! Great event and fantastic launch
  • Thank you for organising such inspiring event!
  • I have found this seminar fascinating. I have worked in early years for very many years. Thank you I have ordered the book !
  • Thankyou so much for this afternoon, it has been really thought provoking and inspiring. I only wish I had been to something like this before I designed my PhD project but some great ideas for post-doc work!