The purpose of this chapter is to describe how the design of this research project was carried out. In this design chapter the components include the research settings, access to the
participants and the process used to invite their participation, the data collection process (including the phases of this collection), and the analysis of the data. I then discuss the ethical considerations and issues of validity and trustworthiness. Finally, I introduce the participants in a way that helps the reader gain a picture of who the young women are before I present their voices namelessly in the findings chapters in order to protect their anonymity.
I will begin by restating the research questions to keep the reader informed of the purpose of this study.
1. How do young women who attend a Teen Parent Unit in Aotearoa New Zealand say others experience them as young mothers?
2. What do young women attending a Teen Parent Unit deem as helpful supports? 3. How do young women who attend a Teen Parent Unit in Aotearoa New Zealand say
they experience themselves as young mothers?
The research settings
The research was located within two settings: the Teen Parent Unit (TPU) and the early childcare and education (ECE) centre that was adjacent to the Teen Parent Unit.
The Teen Parent Unit
The Teen Parent Unit was a purpose-built facility adjacent to a secondary school that opened in 2010 with 14 pregnant or mothering teens enrolled at the time I began my research. The Māori name for the Teen Parent Unit was gifted by the local iwi.
As well as everything being ‘under one roof’, the Teen Parent Unit programme philosophy was guided by four important values (described as Māori terms):
whanaungatanga: being respectful of each other and our children; kotahitanga: being an active team member and helping each other; tūtika: taking ownership of my decisions and actions; and
ngākaupai: creating a positive future for myself and my child.
These values were derived from the Wellbeing Framework (Durie, 1998) and Ka Hikitia: Managing for Success (Ministry of Education, 2008). The teachers in this setting sought to create an appropriate and responsive environment for learning by implementing the following principles. These principles are endorsed by Hindin-Miller (2012), and drawn from the
culturally responsive pedagogy outlined by Bishop, Berryman, Cavanaugh and Teddy (2009); It is everyone’s right to feel safe, it is everyone’s right to learn, and it is everyone’s right to be treated with respect (Hindin-Miller, p. 82).
These values and principles helped to create an environment where the pregnant or parenting young woman could bring her life experiences into the classroom in complete safety. In the spirit of true partnership; the Teen Parent Unit worked collaboratively with the ECE centre and is a proud embodiment of these important principles and values.
The Early Childhood Education (ECE) Centre
The ECE centre was also built-for-purpose, attached to the Teen Parent Unit and could be accessed by the young mothers attending the Teen Parent Unit and the wider community. It provided education and care for infants, toddlers, and young children from the age of six weeks to five years of age. The centre was licensed for 35 children, although 28 children were enrolled at the time the study began. The Māori symbol for ‘new beginnings’ was appropriately chosen as the name of the centre. The centre’s philosophy statement is:
Through a primary caregiver approach, we give respect and understanding to each child’s unique character by providing a calm, quiet and unhurried environment, where children are able to experience wonderment and awe without interruption. Through collaboration with parents/whānau and the community, the Centre will be a place where children and adults learn and grow together. 3
The philosophy aspires to respect and understand the uniqueness of each child through a primary caregiver approach. As described in Chapter 1, this approach is based on the seven principles of Emmi Pikler, renowned paediatrician, and her colleague Magda Gerber who developed the RIE approach to infant caregiving.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, the ECE policy statement that guides curriculum delivery is Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education 1996, 2017). Te Whāriki is a framework for providing children’s early learning and development within a sociocultural context. Te Whāriki envisages teachers in early learning settings working in partnerships with parents, whānau, and community to realise this vision. To support this Te Whāriki provides a framework of principles and strands. Each setting takes these principles and strands and, in partnership with parents and whānau, creates a holistic curriculum that is intended for their child’s learning
(Ministry of Education, 2017). Reedy and Reedy (as cited in Ministry of Education, 2017) believe that:
The real strength of Te Whāriki is its capacity to establish strong and durable foundations for every culture in Aotearoa New Zealand, and in the world…Te Whāriki rests on the theory that all children will succeed in education when the foundations to their learning are based on an understanding and a respect for their cultural roots (p. 15)
The Ministry of Education (1996, 2017) and Lee, Carr, Soutar, and Mitchell (2013) outline key features of Te Whāriki saying it:
is the first national curriculum statement for the ECE sector in Aotearoa New Zealand to improve the quality of early ECE;
is an inclusive curriculum – it supports children from all backgrounds to grow up strong in identity, language, and culture;
sets out an integrated and holistic approach to learning and development; applies to all licensed and chartered ECE services;
protects the diversity of ECE services while, at the same time, defining common guiding principles and curriculum goals; and
serves as a base for planning, assessing and evaluation.
Access to participants and selection
Careful thought was given to my approach and entry into the research field. It was not a simple matter of approaching the young mothers directly. The Teen Parent Unit was located adjacent to a secondary school with the ECE centre located within the same structure. In order to gain access to work in these settings, I needed to gain consent from the principal and board of trustees of the school and the manager of the ECE centre. Information about the research project and a request to conduct the study within their educational settings was sent (Appendix A), along with consent forms (Appendix B).
In consultation with the head teachers of the Teen Parent Unit and the ECE centre, I offered my expertise as a fellow student of Magda Gerber to provide insight of the RIE philosophy to
the students who were enrolled in the Teen Parent Unit and to the ECE staff. Since I had chosen to do my thesis in this unique setting, I was provided access and availability to participants. However, there was no guarantee of participation.
Process followed to introduce the research invitation
It was suggested by the teacher of the Teen Parent Unit that I meet with the young women who were enrolled in the Teen Parent Unit during the first year that I conducted my study. On the day that I explained my study, ten students were present.
I explained the study to this group of young women verbally and answered any questions they had. Following this discussion, I provided them with a letter explaining the study and the consent forms. They were informed about the main objectives of the study, and what they would be asked to do as participants. I also provided my contact details if any questions or concerns should arise. I suggested that the young women take some time to read and think about taking part in the research. I explained that they had a right to withdraw from the study at any time and their right to have any information that they had provided, but later did not wish to be included, removed. I explained the concepts of anonymity and confidentiality, and how these would be maintained by changing their names and any identifying information. These procedures were presented and accepted by the University of Canterbury Educational Research Human Ethics Committee (Appendix C).
Of the ten students present on the day I explained the study, nine agreed to participate in the study.
Data collection process
Following the tradition of qualitative research and narrative inquiry, I utilised multiple forms of data collection (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Creswell, 2007, 2013; Lichtman, 2013), such as participant observations, field notes/journal, individual conversational interviews, peer reviews, attendance at events at the ECE centre, school documents, and official Education Review Office (ERO)4 reports.
When I began my data collection, I considered my role to be that of as a “narrative
anthropologist” (p. 71), a term which Clandinin and Connelly (2000) use to describe the time spent in the field conducting observations, collecting anecdotal information, and being “flexible and open to an ever-changing landscape” (p. 71). I reflected on this term and
thought of the meaning of the word anthropologist – someone who studies human beings and their customs (Oxford Dictionary, 1995). Clandinin and Connelly (2000) suggest that as a narrative anthropologist one enters the inquiry field living their story. The authors explain:
As researchers, we come into each new inquiry field living our stories. Our participants also enter the inquiry field in the midst of living their stories. Their lives did not begin the day we arrive, nor do they end as we leave. Their lives continue. (p. 64).
As did mine, only differently. It is the design and process of narrative inquiry to evoke
change from the stories we tell, and the stories we live. After negotiating a purpose during my time in the field, I was able to get a picture of the landscapes of both settings by observing a range of activities such as, daily routines, intake interviews, parenting classes, and special
4 The Education Review Office (ERO) is a government-funded agency that review early childhood education
events, such as the ECE centre’s ‘first birthday’ and holiday celebrations. I was also able to reflect on my own story and how this may influence the ways in which I was getting the picture. For Clandinin and Connelly (2000) a narrative researcher in the field “negotiates a way to be useful” (p. 75). I interpreted this to mean that I should consider how I could
contribute to the research setting. As I worked through the data collection and interpretation, I found this technique allowed me to engage in the process of reciprocity – the “giving back to participants for their time and effort” (Creswell, 2013, p. 55). For me it was ‘paying it
forward’. Initially, as I waited for ethical approval to begin my data collection, I offered the young mothers and the early childhood education centre something–my knowledge and experience of the RIE philosophy-in the form of a dialogue group.
For clarity, I will describe the process of the data collection in three phases.