Empowering Children Through Visual Communication: A Research Project Funded by CfBT

This research project explores how visual means could be used to improve communication amongst children and between children and adults in the primary school. Drawing on a methodology known as PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal), the project encouraged children and teachers in three Norfolk primary schools to experiment with visual ways of enhancing communication, participation and decision-making within school council meetings. A research team from University of East Anglia worked in collaboration with teachers involved with the school councils in Hillside Avenue Primary School, Poringland Primary School and Tuckswood Community First School. The first phase of the project involved observation and documentation of current forms of communication and participation within the school and class councils.
Based on findings from phase one, PRA methods were adapted and new visual strategies were invented to facilitate discussion and decision making. In phase two the methods were implemented and discussed in workshops. Part one of the present report gives a critical account of the project. Part two is a guide for teachers in visual strategies for class and school councils, it looks at: visual approaches for generating new ideas for discussion (time lines, drawing, mapping, institutional diagramming and transect walks); ordering, ranking and prioritising issues, agenda items, problems or solutions (card sorting, voting with beans or counters); decision making tools (preference and matrix ranking); visual approach to agenda presentation and minute talking and elections; how visual strategies compare.