05 – Keynote 5 – Learning from and with children through drawing

Presentation - ECV2022-Keynote 5

Learning from and with children through drawing

Linda Harrison, Macquarie School of Education, Macquarie University, Australia (linda.j.harrison@mq.edu.au)

Biography: Linda Harrison is a Professorial Research Fellow in Early Childhood Education at Macquarie University and Adjunct Professor of Early Childhood, Charles Sturt University. Her research focuses on studies of children’s learning, development, and wellbeing, educator-child relationships, and the factors influencing program quality in early childhood education and care (ECEC) contexts. Linda has a long-standing interest in the use of drawing as a research methodology for understanding children’s experiences and relationships with others at home, in their ECEC settings, and during the transition to school. Her recent work has sought to gather children’s voices and perspectives to guide ECEC policy and practice.

Background: This presentation is informed by three research studies that engaged 4–6-year-old children in drawing. The first study tracked changes in child-teacher relationship quality during the first year of school; the second listened to children with speech sound disorders’ ideas about their talking; and the third gathered children’s experiences and opinions about their ECEC settings to inform the update of Australia’s Approved Learning Frameworks.

Aim: This presentation aims to: (1) illustrate a progression in gathering, analysing, and researching with children through drawing; and (2) reflect on how children’s perspectives about what matters to them can reframe how educators and health professionals support children’s learning, development, and wellbeing.


Study 1: Children’s drawings of themselves and their teacher at the beginning and end of their first school year were rated for relational pride, vulnerability, emotional distance, and anger, using attachment-based criteria.

Study 2: Children’s drawings and verbal communications about talking to another person were interpreted using six focal points: body parts/facial expressions, talking/listening, relationships, positivity, negativity, and no talking.

Study 3: Children’s drawings, writing and conversations were analysed thematically in relation to location (geographic, situation), actors (people, animals) and actions (activities, movement). 


Study 1: Most children depicted stability or improvement in the quality of their relationship with the teacher during the school year; however, some depicted a stable negative relationship, and others showed increasing negativity.

Study 2: Most children with SSD depicted talking as an action (ears, mouths, speech bubbles) and an activity with a purpose involving others; however, some chose to not draw talking.

Study 3: Children’s drawings were about doing, being, belonging and learning, what they liked, and the importance of friends, families, and educators. 

Conclusions: Drawings allow children to produce and share their knowledge and experiences. By providing their drawings as data, children enter into a partnership with researchers, who then have a responsibility to respectfully and responsibly report and promote their voices. 

Implications for children and families: Drawing allows you to share and talk about your experiences, ideas, and feelings and what is important to you.

Implications for practitioners: You can offer drawing and talking with individual or groups of children as a way to appreciate and understand what children feel about themselves, their abilities and relationships, and their learning experiences.

Key words: children’s voices, relationships, wellbeing, communication, research methods 

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: 

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