Methodology, Methods, Data Collection, Data Analysis and Presentation


Participatory Research – Empowering children

This project aims to place children at the centre of research; as leaders in research about their own lives, specifically their own wellbeing. This research project also aims to empower young people beyond being ‘child’ participants, enabling them to become ‘research participants’ (Danby and Farrell, 2005), encouraging them to reflect on their learning and consider how to measure and demonstrate the impact of their provision.

Throughout this blog, within data collection sections,  children participating will be referred to as co-researchers.

The researchers recognise that young people are able to interpret their own every day worlds if given the space and opportunity to do so (Danby 2002, 2009). The researchers also recognise that young people are experts of their own lives (Mason et al. 2011) and will use  emancipatory approaches when working with students, supporting them to create research and evaluation tools to explore and show the effect Northants Music and Performing Arts Trust’s (NMPAT) ‘Music for Wellbeing’ workshops had on them. 


  • How do children interpret the concept of ‘wellbeing’?
  • How do children make sense of their feelings?
  • What methods do children use to make sense of their learning?
  • How can children communicate and show the effect the ‘Music for Wellbeing’ workshops have had on them


The focus of workshops related the NHS’ 5 steps to Mental Health and Wellbeing, enabling us to structure our approach to focus group sessions as we started sessions by discussing and sequencing these statements:

I enjoyed connecting with others! I enjoyed being active! I learnt a new skill! I enjoyed being in a kind environment! I learnt something new about myself!


  • How did you feel before the workshop?
  • How did you feel during the workshop?
  • How did you feel after the workshop?
  • Did anything surprise you?
  • Did you learn anything?

Continuous phrase used: How can you show me?



We will collect qualitative data through a ‘mosaic’ approach; talking, reflecting and creating alongside children who will be active participants in the data collection process (Clarke and Moss, 2001). This multi-modal approach will enable students to choose, adapt and create their own research tools.

The project will be delivered in 2 phases; young researchers’ plans, designs and ideas from Phase 1 will be built upon in Phase 2. Phase 2 of the project will not only provide an opportunity for young people to become researchers, but also Changemakers and designers, as they co-create ‘wellbeing measurement tools’, alongside academics, designers and artists that will support the mental health and wellbeing of their peers and, potentially, be shared with schools across the county to support other students.


Informal observation: Researchers will observe workshops, noticing how children are responding during the music workshop, and allowing researchers to ‘slow down’ and listen to young people’s contributions and comments (Clarke and Moss, 2001). Researchers recognise that young people communicate their thoughts and feelings not only through speech, but through their play, actions and reactions (Jackson and Forbes, 2014).

Focus groups: After each hour session and observation, we worked with a focus group of 6 students to discuss and reflect upon the music workshop. The optimal focus group size, using the mosaic methodology with students of this age, is 5-6, and a limited number of themes to explore is advised (Greig, Taylor and Mackay, 2013). There will be a 15 minute break (minimum)between the workshop and the focus group activities and discussion. Focus groups will be ‘mixed’ and school staff have been asked to ensure the focus groups are diverse, considering academic ability; gender; SEND and cultural background.

We documented our visits using photographs of the tools being made and edited, and we asked students 5 research questions/prompts during each visit to measure impact using their spoken qualitative feedback, as well as the feedback they gave us through the use of a variety of creative activities, ensuring every child could choose the way they commented and reflected on the workshops. Researchers adapted sessions based on how young people responded and widened the choice of data collection tools, from week to week to meet the needs of children, improvising within sessions to enable children to take the lead and take the research in unexpected new directions (Clarke and Moss, 2001).

Data Collection Tools from Focus Group

Creative methods were used to explore the emotional responses of young people (Clark, 2011; Coad, 2007; Darbyshire et al., 2005; Harris et al., 2015). These methods allowed children, as co-researchers, to select an instrument that was suited to them and enabled them to communicated as effectively as possible, capturing their voice and their thoughts in a personalised way (Irwin and Johnson, 2006).

These are some of the tools that were available for students to use, but they were also invited to make suggestions in regards to other tools, and to mix and combine tools to answer the questions (prompts) they were asked:

  • Photographs – Researchers documented the children’s work through the use of photographs as some methods for creating meaning will be visual. Children were also offered the use of photovoice to express their ideas.
  • Voice Recordings – Children chose to communicate their thoughts and explore the research questions through discussion which was recorded and transcribed, with their consent.
  • Drawings – Children had the choice to use drawings to communicate and explore the research questions, supporting those who preferred to use visual representation. This method is inclusive for all children, including those with Speech and Language Development issues and/or SEND. Drawings were used as a stimulus for conversation, combining interviews with drawing to re-position the interview as a conversation as children drew (Robbins, 2005). Children’s reflections, narratives and interpretations of their own drawings can give a better insight than adults’ interpretation of the drawings (Einarsdottir, 2007).
  • Maps – Maps enable children to make links between their thoughts and actions. Children created maps, documenting the journey from the start of the workshop to the end, considering any changes that took place in the way they felt and reflecting on what they did, adding colour, words and/or images if they chose to create a multi-modal visual representation of their response to the session.
  • Instruments created by children – unknown to enable improvisation and adapt to children’s needs as leaders of their own research.


We will document our visits using photographs of the tools being made and edited. Each of the 30 visits will be documented on Edublog, summarising key observations and findings from each session to form part of a final Evaluation and Recommendations section



Findings from each of the sessions will be a result of reflecting on data made by the children alongside the children.

The importance of reflection in terms of learning is widely understood (Dewey, 1933) although reflective practice is more commonly associated with school staff and educators rather than students (Pollard, 2002). Furthermore, the reflection required at the stage of data analysis within research often excludes children (Pinter and Zandian, 2015).

This research aims to involve children in the data analysis and findings stages; children will not only generate data, but will be part of the research team analysing this data, reflecting on their own work and developing metacognitive skills by considering the choices they made during the workshops.

Researchers will discuss the data produced with individual children and reflect on how it was created  This type of reflection is important as it is happening in context and is concious as children consider their reactions to an experience, creating an opportunity for children to not only contribute to data analysis but also  potentially affect change in the way they respond to experiences (Leigh, 2020 p.131)



Once designed, researchers will be presented with the detailed designs for the tool and asked for feedback to enable the Designer to tweak and finalise designs ready for production.

Once manufactured, students from different schools will evaluate, edit and critique the proposed tools for evaluation following their ‘Music for Wellbeing’ provision; students can use the designs of their peers to explore and critique a variety of methods for reflection.

Therefore, students will not only be active participants in the research process, but also in the Evaluation process.

Students will reflect on their experience of being researchers, using models of reflection at the end of the project to capture their responses and evaluate the impact the process has had on them.