The good life: listening to the voices of children

Claire Cassidy, Sarah-Jane Conrad, Christian Mathis

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Introduction, Background, and objectives of Study (100 words) This paper discusses findings from a study undertaken in Scotland and Switzerland. In Swiss and Scottish school curricula, reflecting and evaluating rules, norms and values is key; this includes children being able to make informed ethical decisions (Bleisch & Huppenbauer, 2011) in order to determine how one should act with regard to others and vice versa, guaranteeing everybody a Good Life. Focusing on children’s voice and participation, the objectives of the study were: 1. to investigate what children think the Good Life is; and 2. to consider the philosophical methodology used to elicit responses to the key question. International, Cross-Cultural, Comparative, or Transnational Aspects of Research (100 words) The study affords opportunities to consider and learn from international comparisons as it collects data in Scotland and Switzerland. Both countries are undergoing a period of curriculum change, with citizenship being central. This contributes to wider international considerations in Global Citizenship Education. This study employs practical philosophy with children through the practice of Community of Philosophical Inquiry (CoPI) (Cassidy, 2007, McCall, 2009) as a methodology. That CoPI can be applied in any cultural or national context is a strength of this study and it is anticipated that the study may be expanded more widely beyond these two countries. Theoretical or Conceptual Framework (100 words) CoPI enhances the skills for informed ethical decision-making and children’s reason giving (Cassidy et al. 2013; Topping et al. 2007), while an effective citizenship requires that the children’s conceptions are taken as a starting point, guaranteed in CoPI. These benefits further suggest that CoPI provides a powerful research tool allowing data collecting on e.g. conceptual change in science education or supporting children’s voice and participation. The study scrutinizes the power of CoPI as a research tool with regard to the Good Life, a central concept in political philosophy, as a way to access children’s voice and participation. Research Methods or Modes of Inquiry (100 wordsThis research methodology builds on the work of Kennedy and Cassidy (under review). Each group participates in CoPI as part of their normal school work, with teachers trained in facilitating practical philosophy. The children are asked to consider the question: What kind of society do you want to live and participate in? Participants must build on others’ previous statements by dis/agreeing and providing reasons for that dis/agreement. The facilitator juxtaposes speakers in order to drive the dialogue further philosophically. A wide range of perspectives are therefore considered. The sessions last approximately one hour for each class. Samples or Data Sources (50 words) The study collects recorded and transcribed data originating from the philosophical dialogues. Participants are approximately 250 children aged between five and sixteen and eight facilitators distributed in 10 groups altogether across a range of school settings in both Scotland and Switzerland.Method of Analysis (100 words) All dialogues are transcribed. Following transcription the researchers, using a grounded approach, independently code the dialogues to uncover themes. Subsequently, the coding is then refined to provide a set of codes against which the dialogues are considered in order to identify key themes or features in the children’s responses.In relation to the second question, the dialogues are considered in terms of the extent to which a) the first research aim was addressed through the approach, and b) the quality of the contributions were supported by the approach. Findings (100 words) The research is still ongoing and we cannot yet draw any definite conclusions. The working hypothesis is that children in both countries put forward roughly the same concepts regarding the Good Life. The children are expected to be political in their notions of society and to be explicit about political and social matters in the sense that they address wider concerns about participation, representation and the voice of others in society. Secondly, we expect that using CoPI as a research tool will yield rich data regarding reasoning that can be used for children’s voice and participation.Conclusions, Scholarly or Scientific Significance, and Implications (100 words) Given the importance of children’s participation (Lundy, 2007), this study affords children opportunities to express their views on the question of the kind of lives they want to live, the Good Life. Children are often not seen as full members of society (Matthews, 1994; Stables, 2008); it is important, that the adult/child power imbalance is addressed and that children’s views might impact on that society. This study aims to contribute to that shift. Further, there appears to be no research literature on using practical philosophy as a research tool, particularly with children. In this regard this study is innovative.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventWorld Educational Research Association - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Nov 201421 Nov 2014


ConferenceWorld Educational Research Association
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • voices of children
  • children
  • listening to children


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