Researching Young Offenders: Navigating Methodological Challenges and Reframing Ethical Responsibilities

Shafi, Adeela ORCID: 0000-0002-6265-5024 (2020) Researching Young Offenders: Navigating Methodological Challenges and Reframing Ethical Responsibilities. International Journal of Research and Method in Education, 43 (1). pp. 1-15. doi:10.1080/1743727X.2018.1529746

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Young offenders’ perceptions of their educational experiences are little researched not least because of methodological and ethical challenges. These include being difficult to access, questions on their reliability as interviewees and their ‘doubly vulnerable’ position, due to the secure locked context and their age. This article draws on doctoral research, which sought to re-engage young offenders with education and learning whilst in a custodial setting, to discuss navigating such methodological challenges and managing emergent ethical responsibilities. It is argued that interview methods which are based on the principles of connectivity, humanness and empathy (CHE) are crucial methodological tools when interviewing ‘doubly vulnerable’ participants. Using the principles of CHE contributed to rebalancing the power dynamics between researcher and participant making it possible to elicit rich and credible data. This was especially relevant in a custodial setting where the autonomy of participants is deliberately restricted. These shifting power imbalances gave way to a range of additional ethical responsibilities of research with participants who have already experienced challenging social, economic and educational circumstances leading up to their incarceration. This article contributes to a reframing of the notion of being ethical and suggests ways of reconciling the dilemmas of research with participants in challenging contexts. These include extending a researcher’s ethical responsibilities to beyond the research and the use of the researcher’s greater power to advocate for less powerful participants. The use of CHE and other rapport building techniques to improve data elicitation gave way to further ethical responsibilities. Guidance on how to reconcile these is little explored. As we move further into sophisticated methods of qualitative data collection, the more likely we are to face additional ethical responsibilities which go beyond the research itself. Some would argue that this is not the job of researchers, however researchers are not neutral, value-free objects but carry with them power to give voice to the vulnerable. Greater awareness of these issues may stimulate further research further, thereby increasing methodological and ethical knowledge on under-researched groups.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Young offender education; Ethics; REF2021
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology. > HV6001 Criminology > HV6251 Crimes and offences
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology. > HV7231 Criminal justice administration > HV7431 Prevention of crime, methods, etc.
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Society and Learning
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2018 14:17
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:43

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