'Engaged Voices': The Educational Researchers' Challenge?

Mhairi Catherine Beaton

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paperpeer-review


Much has been written about learner identity within schools but fewer studies have explored children’s own perceptions of learner identity. The ethnographic project described in this paper explored the complexity of primary school pupils’ identities (Pollard, 1985). Underpinned by a symbolic interactionist view of identity (Mead, 1934; Blumer, 1969), data collection included observation, video recording of classroom interactions and semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis of these rich data explored the constitution, construction and function of the pupils’ learner identities.
The project highlighted an issue faced by many educational researchers. As many were once classroom teachers, they may unconsciously bring the assumptions of the classroom teacher to the research process; potentially making it challenging to hear the pupils. The interrelatedness of the various phases of the research and subsequent comparison of the different data, including an insider’s emic conceptual framework through the pupils’ use of ‘flip’ cameras, permitted the researcher in this project to hear the pupils’ authentic voices.
This permitted the demonstration how the pupils drew from hidden messages conveyed through the structure, culture and organisation of the school to construct their learner identities. Pupils claimed agency in whether they accepted or rejected these messages from their interactions with people and activities in the classroom. The messages identified by the pupils as being used to construct their identity were surprising to the researcher; perhaps in her role as a former classroom teacher.
The paper concludes with a discussion of resultant implications for those wishing to authentically enact student voice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2015
EventLearner Voice Research Conference - University College, Dublin, Eire, Ireland
Duration: 26 Jun 201527 Jun 2015


ConferenceLearner Voice Research Conference
CityDublin, Eire


  • learner identity
  • student voice
  • authenticity
  • participation


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