Co-constructing early adolescent education through image-based research : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education at Massey University, Palmerston North
Professional literature reporting the needs and characteristics, both educational and developmental of early adolescents presents a compelling case that students of this age group are distinct and require the development of a unique educational approach to best support their needs as learners and young people. Although much has been written about these students, little has been written with them, and even fewer studies have involved students themselves as co-researchers to investigate their own experience and understandings. The research reported in the thesis describes the implementation into practice of an image-based research methodology with early adolescent students themselves constructing and articulating their voice as the core focus of the research. The research was predicated on the belief that 'student voice' is the element vital in an educational approach developmentally responsive to students of this age group, and an element all too often missing. Extended Visual Dialogue, the methodological approach devised to implement the research, was employed to conduct exploratory voice research with 38 early adolescent students in Years 7 and 8, across three participating schools in 2004. The approach combined elements from the research genres of voice research, participatory action research and image-based research and the students used a combination of auto-photography (participant-generated photography) and photo elicitation interviews to investigate how they perceive school and learning, perceive their identity as young persons and learners, and perceive the world in which they live. Through the processes of the research progressively, the students shared their perspectives with the adult researcher and brought themselves, and the researcher, to a deeper understanding of their unique point of view as learners in our schools, and as young persons in their own right. The findings of the research revealed the sound understanding the students have about their educational and personal needs, preferences, and agendas, and organised these into a framework representing the perspective of the students, accessible to their teachers as key stimulus for their development as distinctly middle level practitioners and their schools as authentic middle level education providers.