Hearing their voices: The perceptions of children and adults about learning in health education
Scratchley, M. J. (2003). Hearing their voices: The perceptions of children and adults about learning in health education (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12212
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12212
Children were the central focus of this study which was grounded in a belief that children’s voices should be listened to and heard, in particular about their perceptions about their health and health education in schools. Also heard in this study were the voices of adults (parents and teachers of the sample of children). Six research questions were explored related to the health knowledge children already had about health and health issues; where children acquired their health knowledge and perceptions; the aspects about their own health children were concerned about; what children most wanted to learn about in health education; the ways the views of children differed from the views of adults, and how teachers might make use of the children’s views in curriculum planning. This study was carried out with a sample of children, parents and teachers drawn from a suburban full-status primary school (inclusive of children from new entrants to Year 8). The sample (Year 3 to Year 8) facilitated coverage of the voices and views from young children to young adolescents in response to the research questions. The theoretical perspective lay in the use of grounded theory. Ideas were discovered and formed as data were interpreted. In this study children provided pictures of their knowledge and understanding of health through their responses to two draw-and-write tasks. Both children and adults then expressed their views and ideas about health education and learning about various health issues in informal conversational interviews. Other methods used were parent questionnaires and Chi square testing of some results. The major finding was that the sample of children did have views on health education and could, and did, express them. It was also found that adults were surprised when they realised the extent of the issues about health with which their children were grappling, or at least thinking about. These results indicated a need for teachers and parents to rethink some of their own assumptions about what children need to learn about in health education. It was also found that children were disappointed that teachers did not meet their expectations for health education. There were reservations about the way health education was presented to them; the type and the amount of information was thought inappropriate, and health education did not include issues in which they really had an interest. Although both adults and children thought health education was important, it appeared that children from as early as Year 5 were developing a more critical view about the importance of health education and what health education should include than did adults. From the findings there are a number of implications for the health curriculum in schools, not least that classroom content for health, objectives and the process of delivery should be done in partnership, with adults and children working together so that programmes become more appropriate and children’s concerns satisfied. The findings also indicated that more research is needed, particularly in New Zealand schools, about health education in general and the way it is presented at school, curriculum construction and implementation, and the more topical health issues in which children appear to have an interest. It was also revealed that research is needed into gender issues, particularly the relationship between what boys and girls are interested in learning about, and also the power relationships between those who determine what children should learn and the children themselves. Finally, this study has contributed to a growing body of international research which has investigated the extent to which children possess knowledge that is of value in classroom teaching and learning in health education. The evidence in this study is that children do indeed possess knowledge, they can express themselves, and in so doing, can contribute to classroom curriculum construction and curriculum design.
The University of Waikato
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