This week we have been reflecting on the BBC Two series Babies: Their Wonderful World again. When we watched the programme it made us think about how we might choose to carry out research on the topics that are being investigated and explored. We imagine that the approach we might take may be different to what we see in the programme, because we align ourselves to a different discipline to many of the experts that feature on the show. We sit within the subject area of early childhood studies, which is informed by a range of other perspectives such as education, health, sociology, psychology, law and history (QAA, 2014). This adds a real strength to ECS because it allows for a holistic view of early childhood and young children. However it comes with its challenges too. Sacha Powell and Kate Smith talk about how “knowing that there are different lenses through which young children are ‘imagined’ makes for a field of study that is often difficult and problematic rather than comfortable and straightforward” (2017: 1).
Babies: Their Wonderful World is presented by paediatrician Dr Guddi Singh, who might potentially view young children and their development from a health perspective because of her professional background and education. This may be different to some of the other people who share information about their studies and conduct some of the experiments, like psychologist Dr Michelle Peter who features in the programme in relation to her research on children’s language development. What’s important to remember is that there is not a “right” or a “wrong” way to view children, but it is important to bear in mind researchers’ perspectives and backgrounds when reading their studies and thinking about why and how they chose to carry out the research they did. Although many people conduct pieces of research on young children, the approach that they take and the methodology they choose may differ depending on the discipline they sit in. The ethical guidelines they follow will be different too – for instance whether they follow the British Educational Research Association’s (2018) ethical guidelines for educational research or the British Psychological Society’s (2018) code of ethics and conduct. The implications of these different lenses (and thus different research designs) might mean that research findings and analysis differ. Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that one way is better than the other, but it is something to be aware of when you are thinking critically about the sources of information you are coming across.
Do you think you view children through a particular lens? How do you think that might influence how you would choose to conduct research into their lives?