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Project Outline

Title   E-Consultation with Pupils: A Pilot Study
Funder   Department of Education and CCEA, Northern Ireland
Outline   Download project outline as a pdf file (82KB)

Introduction

Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child gives children a right to have their views taken into account in all matters affecting them. Moreover Section 75(1) of the Northern Ireland Act requires public bodies to consult with children in the development of policy. This drive for the increased involvement of young people is supported by the inclusion of Local and Global Citizenship (post-primary) and citizenship issues within Personal Development (primary) in the revised curriculum for Northern Ireland as this too encourages the participation of young people in school and community life. There is therefore a need to develop interesting and effective ways of involving young people in educational policy development, and in doing so to develop their skills for active citizenship. However, there are certain hurdles which need to be overcome if young people are to be engaged in genuine and meaningful consultation: obtaining direct access to young people and in particular those young people who do not have other opportunities to make their views known; encouraging young people to provide genuine responses in a school climate where they are used to giving the “right answer”; consulting with young people in a way which is appealing to them; convincing young people that their views will be taken seriously. The use of information technology is widely recognised as an effective mechanism for overcoming some of these traditional hurdles to effective participation. In particular the use of e-consultation tools could contribute to genuine and meaningful consultation with young people: barriers to access are minimised as young people can access the necessary technology through their school; anonymity is protected and therefore will elicit a potentially more honest response; the format is appealing and familiar to young people; and immediate and direct engagement with policy makers may convince young people that their views are being seriously considered.

Purpose and Aims

The aim of the project is to pilot a range of methods for e-consultation with young people and in doing so to:

  • provide an evidence base for the development of an effective e-consultation strategy for DE and other educational policy makers
  • ascertain the views of pupils in relation to the format of and the child’s input to the Pupil Profile
  • develop mechanisms for schools to incorporate active citizenship into the curriculum by providing pupils with real opportunities to shape policy
  • identify opportunities for the enhancement of pupil key skills in relation to communication, ICT, managing information and self-management through e-consultation

Design and Methods

There are four components to the research strategy:

1. Children’s research advisory group

Eight pupils from a Year 7 primary class will be consulted during three stages of the project: prior to the project they will be involved in the design of the research strategy; prior to the pilot e-consultations they will test the proposed models and research instruments; following the pilot e-consultations and focus groups they will be involved in the discussion of the research findings

2. Pilot e-consultations

The pilot e-consultations will involve three primary schools: controlled, maintained and integrated. Eight Year 7 pupils will be selected in each of the schools to pilot at least one of the e-consultation strategies: an online survey; 'focused chat' sessions; 'storyboarding', allowing students to create illustrative narratives expressing personal experiences or responses to a theme. These activities will be hosted on the Sakai Virtual Collaboration Environment and technical support will be provided by Patrick Carmichael and Harriet Truscott from CARET (the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies: http://www.caret.cam.ac.uk) at the University of Cambridge.

3. Focus groups

Following the pilot e-consultation each group of Year 7 pupils will be engaged in discussion in small focus groups. These discussions will be used to ascertain the pupils' assessment of their experience in terms of: ease of access, level of engagement and enjoyment; and their views of the level of participation offered to them.

4. Semi-structured interviews

These will be conducted with the class teachers in order to ascertain their perspective on the method, classroom management issues and potential contribution of pupil engagement in e-consultations to the development of citizenship skills through the curriculum area of Personal Development.

Proposed Timescale

June 2006- October 2006

Project Outcomes

A report on the findings will be submitted to DENI and CCEA in October 2006

Contact Details

Laura Lundy

Lesley McEvoy

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