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Contemporary research with children and young people

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Why does research with children and young people matter, and how can research make a difference in their lives? This dynamic and interdisciplinary module will take you on a journey towards becoming a reflective and critical researcher. You’ll explore the foundations for social research, social justice and equality issues, children’s rights, and participatory and creative methods for inclusive and ethical practice. You’ll learn about the opportunities and challenges of researching childhood and youth through real-world examples, engaging audio, video and interactive materials.

What you will study

This module will be attractive to anyone with an interest in and concern for research with children involving children and young people, from very young children to adolescents, right through to early adulthood. It will interest those who work with, volunteer or care for children and young people in various settings and contexts and who want to learn more about different approaches to amplify their representation, voice, and participation through inclusive and ethical research practices.

The module draws on contemporary theories and examples from various disciplines, including Childhood and Youth Studies, Education, Psychology and Sociology. This shows you the many varied ways of doing research, including through both traditional and contemporary and creative research methods.

Block 1 introduces the foundations of social research with children and young people. The units give you the key concepts, core knowledge and understanding of the principles of research design, qualitative and quantitative research methods and the beliefs and assumptions that shape research methods. You'll be encouraged to actively question, evaluate and see research as more than simply collecting facts and consider why and how children and young people are involved in research. You'll also begin to identify and think about topics and research issues that interest you.

Block 2 focuses on the opportunities and challenges of participatory, creative and reflective research practices. You'll examine issues of diversity, representation and inclusion and the opportunities for including diverse groups in research. This includes challenging racism and empowering young people of colour, LGBTQI, disabled and neurodiverse children and the role of power and participation through practitioner and insider research as a tool for social change. You'll also reflect on aspects of your own identity, motivations, and interests as a researcher.

Block 3 addresses the importance of ethical principles and values in research involving children and young people, including their rights, consent and safeguarding. Through scenarios and real-world examples, you'll consider and reflect on the complex and nuanced dilemmas that might emerge when planning your own research project, and why research roles and relationships matter when studying sensitive topics and/or working with children and young people with different needs.

Block 4 brings together the topics, issues and approaches covered in the module, and you are guided through the step-by-step process of designing your research project for your end-of-module assessment. The units include forming a research question, carrying out a literature review, choosing a method and how to write a research proposal.

In addition to the set text in the E320 Module Reader, there are weekly interactive online activities throughout the module to support your learning. The audio and video resources have been specifically created to support your understanding of core issues and research concepts and make links with ‘real life’ issues.

Entry requirements

There are no formal academic or experiential requirements to study this module. However, previous OU level 2 study in a related area will be beneficial.

Though this module aims to be of relevance to professional practice, you will not be required to work with or directly carry out research with children and young people. The tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and end-of-module assessment (EMA) research project is desk-based only.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

If you would like to learn more about research with children and young people, we recommend reading:  Clark, A. et al. (eds) (2014) Understanding research with children and young people. London, England: SAGE Publications Ltd.

You may also wish to explore these free OpenLearn resources to prepare for this module:

What's included

You will receive a printed E320 Module Reader (also available online as an EPUB). The E320 Module Reader is a specially selected collection of 22 journal articles and book chapters. Weekly units of study give you the dedicated time to undertake these set readings.

You’ll also have access to a module website, which includes:
  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific materials, including an extended selection of resources and databases to support your understanding of social research methods
  • an introductory forum with FAQs and a way to connect with other E320 students
  • a forum for your individual tutor group
  • a bespoke forum dedicated to the end-of-module assessment
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.
  • access to a private research journal space
  • access to other collaborative tools, including Open Studio

The audio recordings, films, and designed activities in this module feature OU academics, previous OU students, experts and professionals who have undertaken research with Children and Young People across the UK’s four nations and Ireland, and from around the world.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and End-of-Module Assessment (EMA), providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying E320 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Contemporary research with children and young people (E320) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2031.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment