AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | assent

Hello! My name is Nick Petten, owner of Petten Consulting in Toronto, Canada. I am a practicing program evaluator focused on child and youth programs and a children’s rights advocate. My work with children and young people over the last decade and a half has impressed upon me that they are fully capable of expressing and communicating their lived realities and that those realities are a valued focus of study.

Lessons Learned

When researching childhood, a critical methodological concern is the power dynamics that occur between adults and children. Unequal power can compromise your data and severely distort truth. But more importantly, it can cause harm to your subject.

The new sociology of childhood is a scientific discipline that promotes the process of obtaining assent from children to participate in research. So, how do you seek assent with children?

Hot tip #1: Develop an assent and accountability framework that will help you explain the process of research and its findings in a child-friendly manner and systematically ‘check-in’ with children about their participation in the research.

Hot tip #2: Develop protocols to use when seeking children’s assent that considers as many factors as possible about why they would answer in a particular way.

 Hot tip #3: Dedicate time to building relationships and having conversations with the gatekeepers and remember that such conversations need to strike a balance between providing critical information and too much detail that can lead to confusion.

Hot tip #4: Engage in internal reflection through an explicit and systematic process throughout the research process and think about how the insights gained may influence how you converse with children and their gatekeepers.

Rad resources:

If you are starting to think about how to genuinely involve children’s participation in research, you better be ready to read. By reading some of the great material on research with children you can begin to understand children’s position in research – even in our adult-centric world.

Here is some material to get your started on you reading adventure:

For more information, please go to my website:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Youth Focused Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the YFE AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our YFE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.




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