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Resource Methods Toolkit wp6-tuni Published: 12 May 2022

Participatory methodologies with children and youth

Participatory research is about making research WITH participants of the study, for example, with children, youth, parents, or teachers. The researcher, too, is considered a participant and acts as a professional authority leading the process and evaluating the participants’ roles. In participatory research, the participants are recognised as empirical experts rather than pure informants because their everyday expertise affects the research process in multiple ways (e.g., Pienimäki and Kotilainen, 2018).

The planning phase of participatory methodologies is about outlining the required cycles of mixed data collection and analyses with interpretation. In this stage, it is suggested that children and youth take part in the actual planning of the study, such as co-planning the research activities. For example, the Child-Computer Interaction (CCI) research community is geared towards designing technology with and for children and youth, and several levels of participation in the design process, based on their role, intensity, impact, and contribution, are defined – as users, testers, as informants, and as design partners (Druin, 2002; Kinnula and Iivari, 2019).

The participatory collection of dataincludes multiple mixed qualitative data, including several forms of human communication, whether written, audio and/or visual modes of data. The co-collection and creation of data includes, for example, peer interviews among young people or co-production and design of media with researchers and other participants of the study. Moreover, young people may act as co-organisers of events and publications and as advisors regarding their own life spheres (Bradbury-Jones & Taylor, 2015; Mallan et al., 2010; Pienimäki & Kotilainen, 2018).

Pros

  • Participation involves exercising youth self-determination as the ability to make choices and decisions in one’s life.

  • Participation offers youth authentic experiences of conducting research as science education.

  • Having youth voices heard as a children’s rights-based approach creates social value.

  • Informing professional research, especially in studying this age group and their use of digital cultures.

  • Makes an impact on educational justice.

  • Teen-validated concepts applicable in hands-on practice serve organisations and policies.

Cons

  • Lack of research competence: children should not have to prove capacity. 

  • Children as researchers can be overcome by inter-generational barriers.

  • Power differentials need to be overcome when children are rarely able to challenge research findings that are ABOUT them.

  • It may be hard to define how participants have been involved in data production, especially when making media or ITC, for example, in design workshops where the researcher is involved in the process.





  1. Bradbury-Jones, C., Taylor, J., 2015. “Engaging with children as co-researchers:  challenges, counter challenges and solutions.” International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 18 (2), 161–173.

  2. Björling, E. A., & Rose, E. (2019). Participatory research principles in human-centered design: Engaging teens in the co-design of a social robot. https://doi.org/doi:10.3390/mti3010008

  3. Druin, A. (2002). The role of children in the design of new technology. Behaviour and information technology 21.1: 1-25.

  4. Eckhoff, A. (2019). Participation Takes Many Forms: Exploring the Frameworks Surrounding Children’s Engagement in Participatory Research. https://doi.org/doi:10.1007/978-3-030-19365-2_1

  5. Kinnula, M., Iivari. N. (2019). Empowered to Make a Change: Guidelines for Empowering the Young Generation in and through Digital Technology Design. In Proceedings of the FabLearn Europe 2019 conference on ZZZ. ACM, 16.

  6. Mackenzie, N., Knipe, S. (2006) Research dilemmas: Paradigms, methods and methodology. Issues in Educational Research, Vol 16, 2006. http://www.iier.org.au/iier16/mackenzie.html

  7. Mertens, D.M. (2005). Research methods in education and psychology: Integrating diversity with quantitative and qualitative approaches. (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks: Sage.

  8. Ornelas, E. L., & Mena, R. A. (2019). A mixed methodology to discover what young people know about digital footprint. https://doi.org/doi:10.1145/3358961.3358987

  9. Percy-Smith, B. & Thomas, N., 2010. “Conclusion: Emerging themes and new directions.” B. Percy-Smith & N. Thomas (eds) A Handbook of Children and Young People’s Participation: Perspectives from Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, 356–366.

  10. Pienimäki, M., Kotilainen, S. (2018) Youth participation in research on multiliteracies: ethical perspectives, MERJ 1 (8), 115-134.  

  11. Raposo-Rivas, M., Martínez-Figueira, E., & Barboza-Cid, M. F. (2019). Including the community in a participatory investigation process for the responsible use of the internet. https://doi.org/doi:10.30827/publicaciones.v49i3.11408

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Authors

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Team co-Leader, CO:RE at TUNI

Sirkku Kotilainen

Sirkku Kotilainen, PhD, is a professor in Communication Sciences at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences of Tampere University (FI). She has over 20 years of experience in research topics mainly covering digital literacies and media education among children and youth, teacher’s media competencies and media education in youth work. More recently, her research has focused on promoting media education among at-risk youth and, methodological developments in co-research with young people as empirical experts in their uses of online media.

Tampere University
Tampere University
CO:RE at TUNI
Methods

The team at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication of TUNI identifies, develops and provides access to resources on qualitative, quantitative and mixed research methods together with evaluating their validity in research practice.

These resources are collated in the CO:RE methods toolkit that cross-reference resources from the evidence base, the compass for research ethics, and the theory toolkit, to give users tools to apply to their individual research contexts.

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