This study, funded by SCOTENS, set out to explore the cultural orientations of primary school teachers in the Island of Ireland, and to examine how they affect their understandings and practices of children’s voice in schools. For example, in predominantly traditional cultures, children’s voice projects may be illusory, only allowing participation in marginal decisions and deterring meaningful change as a result of this. In this study, for simplicity purposes, we refer to teachers’ cultural orientations as ‘beliefs about education’.
Four research questions were developed to guide the design and conduct of the study:
1. How do teachers’ beliefs about education vary between schools with different characteristics in the two jurisdictions (north and south)?
2. How do teachers’ beliefs about education influence their own (and their students’) understandings of, and approaches to, children’s voice?
3. Do such understandings/approaches differ between north and south?
4. How do teachers with different educational beliefs enter into dialogue with children and each other? What dynamics emerge out of such dialogic encounters and what power differentials are discerned?