Small Group Research Project
Child Interview Reflection
On three separate days my research group interviewed children ranging in age from middle childhood to late adolescence. We focused on the physical domain of child development. We asked questions that mainly involved exercise habits, eating habits and family activities.
Differences in age groups
The most glaring difference from our interview research was that the younger children tended to be more involved in organized sports than the older children. All but one of the middle childhood children, ranging in age from six to ten years old, either played or were currently playing an organized sport, while about half of the early adolescent eleven to fourteen year olds played an organized sport. None of the late adolescent children, from ninth grade to twelfth grade, or fourteen to seventeen years old, played an organized sport. A popular organized sport among the interviewees was soccer.
We theorized that this was due to parents' influence on the younger children. Also, the high school students we interviewed attended charter schools that may not have had organized sports yet.
Another difference among the age groups was the amount of time the family spent outdoors. The middle childhood and early adolescent children spent a considerable time with their families outdoors, especially on weekends and after school. The late adolescent children spent a lot of time outdoors as well, but with extended family or people outside the family. These family activities included organized sports, family outings and exercise.
The older children tended to prefer eating meals from home rather than school prepared meals. Some of the high school children preferred home cooked meals noticeably more than school breakfast or lunch. The early adolescent children were divided in their preference, while nearly all of the middle childhood children ate school lunch consistently, and school breakfast at least once in a while.
Real life versus theory
According to the textbook, some theorized that intelligence increases in stages. From our research, the children's intelligences seemed to differ from person to person, even if they were the same age.
The book also seems to underestimate the influence of other people on children's child development. Nearly all of the children we interviewed participated in exercise that involved either their siblings, friends or parents. All of the children who participated in organized sports were greatly influenced by their parents to join the sport, then learned to like the sport later. Also, the children we interviewed seemed to put a lot of importance on family physical activity that is done together.
The questions that stand out
Our question What activities do your family do together? seemed to elicit the most enthusiasm. Many of the children, especially those in middle childhood and early adolescence, eagerly detailed their family's recreational activities. They seemed to light up when talking about these activities, showing that they enjoyed the times the family spent together.
Our question What does exercise mean to you? was our most creative question because it really made the children think yet did not seem to intimidate them. They may have thought that they were just defining the word exercise for us, but this question helped us to see what they thought exercise was. The children shared a plethora of answers, some of them simple, others complex, and others funny.
Our question If you were the teacher, and you could choose anything you want to do for PE, what would you choose? seemed to provide us with the most knowledge because we were able to learn what the children liked to do when it came to exercise. We learned that the children liked to exercise and do physical activity.
Our question Do you have PE in school? provided the least knowledge because half of the children did not have physical education at the time of our interviews. Many of the children went to the same schools, and some of these schools either did not have physical education yet this year or were in a transitional stage that prevented providing physical education.
Evolution of our questions
Since this was the first time anyone in our group had ever interviewed children to learn about child development, the biggest change in our questioning as the interviews proceeded was the way we asked them. The more children we interviewed, the more relaxed we became in conversing with the children. So the questions came out smoother, and we were able to get more efficient responses.
Also, some of our early questions were too broad or ambiguous for the children, so we modified these questions so that they were more specific and easier to understand.
There were so many questions we could have asked pertaining to the physical domain of child development, such as questions about sleep habits, knowledge about sex and their health, but we decided to keep it simple since this is the first time we were ever doing something like this.
I have a new appreciation for conducting interviews for research on child development. Children are sometimes unpredictable, so it is challenging to stay on a question regimen. I feel that questions for children need to be clear and relatable to them, not only to the interviewer. Also, the culture of children needs to be considered in interviews of this nature because this kind of dialogue may be something new to some children, and may affect their responses and openness.
Impact on my future as a teacher
This project was helpful to me as a future teacher in so many ways. Learning about child development from a book or lecture has its usefulness, but talking face to face with a child and asking him or her specific questions is experiencing child development as it happens. It helped simulate talking with children in a classroom setting, although a different type of classroom.
The interaction with the children in middle childhood and early adolescence was especially useful since I plan to be an elementary school teacher. I was able to learn the physical habits of children, their preferences about the physical aspects of growing up and what makes them happy and sad. Children think differently from adults, so what I may think is helpful for them may not be true.
From this exercise, I plan to consider implementing some of what I have learned from the children we interviewed into my pedagogy. Most of the children liked to exercise outside, and we live in beautiful Hawaii, so I may take the children outdoors to teach any subject, whether it be counting the trees, painting a landscape, seeing Hawaiian history, looking for Hawaiian words, or reading under the bright sunshine.
Finally, interviewing the children reinforced the fact that I enjoy speaking to children and getting to know them. I am looking forward to teaching them as I learn from them.