This chapter focuses on participatory, qualitative and collaborative approaches to research.  Drawing on research from my four year doctoral research study, the chapter discusses how creative and participatory methods can be a useful approach for engaging with young people who experience a variety of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.  In the fieldwork, I was eager to ensure that the research approach I adopted with young people was accessible, fun and on their terms, providing the participants with a degree of choice and control over the research experience.  

I was interested in understanding the lived experiences of staff (see Smith and Connolly 2019) and young people who attended a Pupil Referral Unit, a type of Education Other Than at School (EOTAS), where young people in care are over-represented.  Given the circumstances that many of these young people find themselves in, where formal review meetings become the weekly norm, it was important that my research was not viewed as yet another form of ‘review’ for the young people.  

Therefore, I applied a mosaic approach (Clarke and Moss 2001), which offered a range of creative methods to participants such as drawing, art work, photography, walking tours, and informal interviews.  The young people were able to decide how they wanted to share their educational experiences with me, or simply use this time as a creative workshop for themselves if they chose not to participate in the research.  

Whilst the chapter highlights the usefulness of the mosaic approach, it also provides insights into some of the challenges that researchers might face when they are engaged in participatory methods.  It discusses the importance of recognising and talking about these challenges during the research process, so that we might better understand how participatory our work actually is – and in doing so, improve how we work with young people. 


Clarke, A. and Moss, P. 2001. Listening to young children:  the mosaic approach. London: National Children’s Bureau Enterprises.
Smith, P. and Connolly, M. 2019. Care and education. a case study: Understanding professional roles and identities of teachers within a Welsh PRU. Cylchgrawn Addysg Cymru / Wales Journal of Education 21(1), pp. 65-88.