Empowering children’s voice through critique and utopias

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftAbstraktForskningpeer review


Research topic/aim
This abstract reflects findings and methodological challenges related to preschool children’s participation in a larger action research project that address ‘ life and learning – in future preschools’ in Denmark. The aim is to empower children’s participation and to enable children to raise and render visible their own voice as part of developmental processes in preschools. Children hold knowledge, critique and wishes related to their everyday life in preschool of importance to them as well as to preschool teachers; following the lines of how to form and learn democracy of Lewin (1948) and Dewey (1916) children’s formation of democratic and social skills are supported by opportunities to voice their own perspectives and perception of reality. Subsequent, making children’s voice visible allows preschool teachers to reflect children’s knowledge and life word in pedagogical practice. These two arguments for children’s participation touch upon the distinction between the child's perspective and child perspectives (Samuelsson et al. 2011). This paper aims to present and discuss methods of how to empower children’s own perspectives followed by reflections on the significance of such perspectives for pedagogical knowledge and practice.

Theoretical and methodology framework
The aim of the study is pursued by methodologic inspirations from critical-utopian action research that emphasise a participatory worldview (Reason and Bradbury 2001) along with awareness about democratic knowledge creation and potentials for developmental processes through local formation of critiques and utopias (Nielsen and Nielsen 2006, Tofteng and Husted 2012).
The paper will present an action research study involving 50 children at age three to five. The children participated in five Future creating workshops situated in five preschools. The original future creating workshop is designed form critique, utopias and trials of new ideas through words (Jungk and Müllert 1984). However, the version for young children is designed to accommodate children’s participation through grafic illustrations of young children’s critique and utopias. The future creating workshops for children produced a number of posters containing drawings of critical statements and wishes related to everyday life in preschool. These posters are presented as materials for pedagogical reflections in workshops for participating preschool teachers.

(Expected) conclusions/findings
Empowering children’s voice paves the way for increased awareness and reflection of the interplay between pedagogical work and children’s perspectives. But it also raises some difficulties. Finding ways to empower children’s voice, to reflect children’s critique and wishes in developments and to work with children as participants, is challenging.The children bring up critique and wishes that touch upon structural difficulties, dilemmas and ambivalence in pedagogical work. Some of the more challenging findings are critique and wishes addresses;
• Bodily harm and restrictions
• Call for aesthetics, sensuality and beauty
• Longings for home and parents
• Longings for better social relations

Relevance to Nordic educational research
Research on how and why to engage children as participants in research and in institutional developments addresses overall interests in democratization and humanization that can be traced back to strategies for Nordic welfare developments and the Conventions on Children’s Rights.
Publikationsdato9 mar. 2016
StatusUdgivet - 9 mar. 2016
BegivenhedNERA 2016: Social Justice, Equality and Solidarity - Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Varighed: 9 mar. 201611 mar. 2016


KonferenceNERA 2016