An ordinary school child : agency and authority in by Katarina Ayton.

By Katarina Ayton.

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Beginning my fieldwork, I had assumed that I would be able to ask the children questions about their schooling during the school days, as well as observing and participating. Instead I found that the days were very busy and there was little opportunity for talk. During lessons the children were busy with schoolwork and the conversations that occurred then were short and discreet. During break time and lunch most of the children in the class spent their time busily with some physical activity, and trying to ask them questions interfered with this.

Among researchers doing ethnography among children there are ongoing discussions about which role to take as participant observer. In her ‘least-adult’ role N. Mandell argues for minimising the physical differences between adults and children, and she herself became an active participant over time, joining the children in their games (Mandell 1988). This ‘least adult’ role is, on the other hand, criticised by A. James, C. Jenks and A. Prout (1998:183) who argue that since adults cannot pass unnoticed among children as age, size and authority intervenes, one should instead reflect on the significance of these differences.

This is why I see them as central to school life. Their place is seldom questioned and it is possible that even they themselves seldom question their place at, or within school15. Ethical considerations One ethical consideration has been to make the setting of the study as anonymous as possible. In order to do this I have not only changed the name of the school and the participants, I have also changed other details relating to the study. These changes are judged by me not to interfere with the interpretations of the research material as well as retaining sufficient transparency for others to be able to judge my interpretation.

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