Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Indispensable Insight: Children's Perspectives on Factors and Mechanisms That Promote Educational Resilience

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Indispensable Insight: Children's Perspectives on Factors and Mechanisms That Promote Educational Resilience

Article excerpt


In the discussion of how to promote academic success for children facing adversity, one important perspective has been neglected--the views of children. Numerous expert adults have expressed their views (e.g., Goldstein & Brooks, 2013), and several researchers have sought out adolescents' perspectives on the factors related to academic success (Chen, 2010; Yonezawa & Jones, 2009). However, only a few researchers have talked with children who face adversity to document their views on what helps them to experience positive academic outcomes (Mitra & Serriere, 2012; Beaudoin, 2005). Thus, this study was designed to ask children ages eight to 12 who face adversity to share their perspectives on the factors and mechanisms related to educational resilience--academic success in the face of adversity.

The Critical Role of Children's Perspectives in Fostering Educational Resilience

At a time when growing numbers of children face adverse environments that place them at risk for school failure, educators face mounting pressure to increase students' academic performance. In response, schools, districts, and states across the country have begun to institute a wide variety of instructional changes and reforms. However, while many of these initiatives have been informed by the perspectives of teachers and other adults (Beaudoin, 2005; Mitra, 2008), views from students, in particular, have been noticeably absent (McCallum, Hargreaves, & Gipps, 2000; Mitra & Serriere, 2012). In fact, some experts suggest that listening to the views of children is one of the most neglected aspects of educational research (Bishop & Pflaum, 2005).

Failing to include children's perspectives in the development of strategies designed to improve academic outcomes is a serious oversight for three reasons. First, research suggests that achievement is tied not only to what occurs in the classroom but also to children's interpretations of what happens in the classroom (Bishop & Pflaum, 2005; Dahl, 1995). It will be very difficult for adults to explain, let alone improve, children's achievement as long as they lack a solid grasp of how children interpret their school experiences and their teachers' behaviours.

Second, despite advanced knowledge and experience, adults do not always understand what children are thinking. For example, adults are sometimes surprised when children make mistakes or misunderstand. Even Piaget (1952) recorded an incident in which he was amazed at the difficulties a child encountered when presented with a simple reasoning task. Alternately, as Lincoln (1995) declares, "adults often underestimate the ability of children to be shrewd observers, to possess insight and wisdom about what they see and hear, and to possess internal resources we routinely underestimate" (p. 89). Children have unique viewpoints and values about many things, including their education (Mazzoni & Harcourt, 2013). Given that adults cannot anticipate the totality of children's views regarding what supports their academic achievement, adults would do well to listen to children's perspectives.

Finally, if adults and children do not necessarily share the same understandings, the effectiveness of strategies built on adult perspectives alone is likely to be limited (Beaudoin, 2005). If these efforts fail, children stand to lose the most (Chen, 2010), since they are "in a very real sense, the primary stakeholders in their own learning process" (Lincoln, 1995, p. 89). Although improved academic performance is no guarantee of future positive outcomes, evidence suggests that school failure is connected to rising rates of illiteracy, poverty, drug dependency, teenage pregnancy, welfare dependency, and criminal activity (Beaudoin, 2005; Chen 2010). Given the negative outcomes connected to academic failure, both for children specifically and for society as a whole, there is an urgent need for insight into factors that foster children's educational resilience. …

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