Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

"It Was Fun. . .I Liked Drawing My Thoughts": Using Drawings as a Part of the Focus Group Process with Children

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

"It Was Fun. . .I Liked Drawing My Thoughts": Using Drawings as a Part of the Focus Group Process with Children

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over the last decade, there has been considerable expansion with the use of focus groups in social science research (e.g., Bloor, 2002; Goebert, 2002). Nonetheless, Morgan, Gibbs, Maxwell and Britten (2002) suggest the use of focus groups to study children's experiences remains at an exploratory stage. Indeed, in the field of leisure studies focus groups are underutilized as a method of data collection, especially in research involving children. Further, virtually no published leisure research involves the use of drawings as a technique in the methodological process. The absence of such a technique is particularly surprising given its potential for eliciting meaningful responses from participants who are children.

Children have been recognized by several researchers as culture-producing agents who actively participate in the construction of their social worlds (Adler & Adler, 1998; Fine, 1987). As a distinct children's culture is acknowledged, interpretative researchers are faced with the challenge of representing children's perspectives in their texts instead of imposing their own authority as an adult researcher. In my experience, drawings are one way of assisting researchers in this regard.

In this paper, I propose using drawings as a method of data collection for research with children in leisure studies. More specifically, drawings can be used as technique for eliciting information in focus groups with children. Van Manen (1990) argues researchers can learn about a phenomenon through visual imagery because "it is in this work that the variety and possibility of human experience may be found in condensed and transcended form" (p. 19). Drawings with children are used in other fields of research such as psychology and sociology. With respect to the former, children's drawings have been used to study the psychological development of children. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget used drawings to study children's conception of space (cf. Piaget & Inhelder, 1969). Psychologists today continue to use drawings as a method of eliciting information from children (e.g., Aldridge, Lamb, Sternberg, Orbach, Esplen, & Bowler, 2004; Freidlander, Larney, Skau, hotaling, & Cutting, 2000). As for the latter, sociologists typically use drawings with children to investigate their personal perceptions and experiences (cf. Schratz & Walker, 1995; Lykes, 1994). Both fields of study have given children a natural means of communicating their views of the world through drawings. This method of data collection gives child participants a voice and enables leisure researchers to better understand children's leisure experiences, based on the children's own observations and interpretations.

This article presents my experiences and reflections of using drawings as a part of focus group sessions with children. The focus groups were a part of my master's thesis, which explored the extent to which participation in a variety of leisure activities directed towards cooperation and effective communication affected the development of social capital and sense of community in a group of children at an international camp (Yuen, 2004). The purpose of this article is to share my experiences and observations of using drawings as a technique in conducting focus groups with children, and to illustrate the benefits of using drawings as a technique when conducting research with children. Specifically, I consider four particular contexts in which the use of drawings as a method of data collection contributed to my research: 1) facilitating a relaxed atmosphere, 2) gaining insight into the children's perspective, 3) providing structure and focusing the discussion, and 4) recognizing and reducing the potential of groupthink. The discussion is centred around my experiences with a number of focus groups that used drawings as the basis of their discussion and one focus group that did not include drawings as a part of the procedure. …

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