Theses Doctoral

The Literacies of Child-Led Research: Children Investigating and Acting on Their Worlds

Gavin, Kara

This study seeks to expand notions of research, what it can be and how it can be conducted, through focusing on children’s approaches to exploring their worlds. The purpose of this study was to examine how children employ literacies of research across spaces. Through this framework, I conceptualize children’s literacies of research to include the social practices children engage in when investigating issues that matter to them. Previous participatory studies with young people have focused on apprenticing youth and children into traditional research practices in order to then conduct studies with them that are relevant to their lives. This study builds on this work but begins by exploring the notion of research itself, seeking to understand children’s perspectives on how they examine topics of interest. Framed by critical and transformative theoretical frameworks, specifically critical childhoods, sociocultural approaches to literacy, and youth participatory action research (YPAR), this study engaged a small group of nine- and ten-year-old children, representing a range of racial, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, as co-researchers. The following research questions shaped the study: How do nine- and ten-year-old children in a participatory research group engage with opportunities to follow their own lines of inquiry?; What themes do they investigate and how?; What literacy and research practices do they draw on, resist, remix, and/or transform and how?; and How do adults interact with children around child-led research?

The findings suggest the playful, relational, dynamic, intertextual, and resistant natures of children’s literacies of research. This study was interrupted by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the research group transitioned to a virtual space. The findings also indicate the innovative ways children resisted the isolating circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic through creating and repurposing digital platforms to sustain friendships and connect with classmates. Children’s literacies of research have implications for how research is conceptualized and taught in literacy classrooms and in the academy as well as how researchers engage with children in studies.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Ghiso, Maria Paula
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 1, 2021