Tricks of the Trade—Negotiations and Dealings between Researchers, Teachers and Students

Veronika Wöhrer, Bernhard Höcher


We introduce several social research projects carried out by five junior researchers and 17 11-13-year-old pupils at a secondary modern school in Vienna. We describe processes of negotiations between researchers, pupils and the teacher about the framework, time, data, methods, spaces, attention, dedication and financial matters, i.e. about many crucial aspects of a research process. In these discussions and negotiations the students proved to be good observers and users of social science knowledge. A closer analysis of our own positions in these encounters leads us to elaborate on two critical moments of participatory action research (PAR) projects at school. The mixing of different roles, tasks and expectations in working with children in a school context can produce disappointment on the part of the students and difficulties and excessive demands on the part of the trained researchers. A second problem is that the knowledge produced in such cooperative projects is not easily recognised and valued—either at school or in academia. We conclude with our own definition of participation, action and research in this context and discuss the fact that a commonly reached understanding of conclusions and goals might not be possible in PAR projects. We nevertheless think that PAR is a fruitful research practice, because we perceive the negotiations and the mutual convergences and learning efforts that were made by all participants as enrichment for the students, the teacher and the trained researchers.



participatory action research; children's research; social science knowledge; negotiation; boundary object; mutual learning

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Copyright (c) 2012 Veronika Wöhrer, Bernhard Höcher

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