Hearing and acting with the voices of young children and more-than-human perspectives

Dr Penny Lawrence's research centres on young children, their families, educators, and communities, with a particular interest in dialogue and children’s relationships with environments. She works on visual multimodal methodologies together with more-than-human perspectives, to critically investigate constructions of and possibilities for childhoods. Penny’s first career was as a BBC trained producer.  She is therefore highly skilled in video which suits participatory research approaches, knowledge exchange and impact. 

Her latest article is about hearing and acting with the voices of children for the Journal of the British Academy (Lawrence 2022). This article responds to David Archard’s (2020a) provocation paper ‘Hearing the child’s voice’ and it is from the perspective of early childhoods. The delineation of the age at which a child can form a view is the first thinking point. It questions how to value the views of children younger than eight and presents multimodal dialogue as an important frontier for the enactment of the right to a view. Responsiveness within dialogue is suggested rather than pre-determined delineation.

The second thinking point explores alternative perspectives to binary thinking: feelings can be conceptualised as not separate from thoughts. Voice can include emotional expression; and, when individual children form and express a view, they remain linked within relationships with others, and the world. The ‘in-between’ space where dialogical voicing occurs can be world-wide. The think piece contributes original ideas of young children’s voices as multimodal dialogues including more-than-human perspectives (such as the environment) beyond delineations.

Quotes from this article feature prominently in the interdisciplinary ‘Reframing Childhood’ Final report of the Childhood Policy Programme (British Academy, July 2022:33-34). This relates to law, medicine, sociology, and education. In terms of impact, the British Academy are about to take this report of children’s agency and voice to the four nation’s governments in the UK and will evaluate the policy impact. 

The full article ‘Hearing and acting with the voices of children in early childhood’, Journal of the British Academy, (2022), can be viewed and downloaded here