Research · Thought leadership

Ensuring research participants' voices are heard with effective data collection

Student pictured holding pen, taking notes while reading text book

Research led by IET is exploring how marginalised children, their parents and teachers, use technology to access education. Dr Saraswati Dawadi discusses how effective data collection can uncover lived experiences in under-resourced countries.

The project, named Reaching out to marginalised populations in under-resourced countries (ReMaLIC), is funded by the British Council's Widening Participation Research programme to understand the lived experiences of research participants.

IET is using its experience in educational technology with a range of specialist data collection methods to understand the experiences of marginalised people in Bangladesh, Nepal, Senegal and Sudan, to highlight the need of improved access to technology, improve education systems and reduce marginalisation.

Research being led by IET is also investigating the perceived value of the English language in these under-resourced countries, amplifying the voices of marginalised children, their families and teachers to policy makers and in public dialogue.

Discussing the motivations of the project, Dr Saraswati Dawadi, Research associate at The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology, commented on the need for those experiencing the affects of marginalisation to share their experiences in an empowering manner.

Saraswati shared:

"The premise of our study is to give power and voice to our research participants, which may provide insights into their subjective lived experiences, understanding the way they construct their own identity and perceive themselves, and the ways in which they perceive other members of their society."

"We have used a qualitative research design and sought to privilege the voices, experiences, and lives of marginalized children along with their parents and teachers by involving them as active participants in our study."

During this research, members of IET have used semi-structured interviews and focus groups among the central methods of data collection to facilitate conversation and participant engagement, building a full understanding of the the situation that marginalized children are faced with.

Adding further, Dr Saraswati Dawadi commented that "during the data collection, our focus was on creating an environment that enables children to express their views freely to an adult researcher". During this, IET researchers have facilitated engagement with an approach that includes:

  • building support and trust with research participants
  • creating a safe environment for participants (children, parents and teachers) to feel able to speak in confidence and give their undivided attention
  • giving every participant respect by saying their name and ensuring they appreciate their contributions
  • never dismissing the opinions of participants
  • ensuring that all children are listened to and feel included.

Adding further, Dr Dawadi, shared:

"We have made every effort not to impose our views on children, but to encourage them to share their lived experiences of using technology and the English language in their learning. We listened to their views and respected each child. We also provided adequate responses to the questions that arose from children. Additionally, we took power dynamics into account that can lead children to respond in particular ways to interview questions."

Stay up-to-date with the IET website for the latest activities of the ReMaLIC project. For more information about Saraswati's work across our research programmes, visit her People Profile here.