By Dr Julia Badger
Researchers usually focus on supporting young people via biological, cognitive, social or emotional investigation and often by designing, developing and implementing interventions or useful tools.
But can we do this accurately for young people without young people’s input?
I’m applying for a grant to develop an immersive workshop for adolescents around the impact of negative social interactions on mental health. Young people will be involved in every aspect of my project and I wanted to make sure that what I was proposing would be suitable and comfortable for them. I contacted the NeurOX Young Person’s Advisory Group to ask for insight into young people’s preferences when it comes to being involved in research. It’s been a while since I was an adolescent, so it seems absurd to assume I’d know what was best.
I prepared an overview of the proposed project with some very specific questions I’d hoped we could discuss. We had two break out groups with about 5 young people in each. The number worked well, and everyone felt able to contribute. They were open with their experiences and preferences but what made the experience even more valuable than I had hoped was their contribution of new ideas and alternative ways of doing things within the proposed project.
In each group there was a young person facilitating the session and discussion points, and comments were noted on Padlet (an online noticeboard). This meant that comments could be made anonymously and worked well to stimulate and progress discussion. I fed back (reflected) during the session to make sure I was understanding the comments correctly and was sent the Padlet transcript afterwards.
The experience allowed me to adjust some of the ideas I had had, with the confidence of making my proposed project stronger and better for the population I was hoping to help. In fact, it allowed me to put details *in* for certain proposed activities for which I was previously uncertain. The experience was incredibly valuable, and I recommend anyone planning research with children and young people to consider seeking the advice of that population before undertaking anything!
After all, who knows what could work best for a target population than that exact target population themselves!
Senior Research Associate
Department of Experimental Psychology
University of Oxford
Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels