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Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights from the Council of Youth Research


by Mark A. Bautista, Melanie Bertrand, Ernest Morrell, D'Artagnan Scorza & Corey Matthews ó 2013

Background: The research community has long documented educational disparities along race lines. Countless studies have shown that urban African American and Latino students are systematically denied educational resources in comparison to their white counterparts, resulting in persistent achievement disparities (Ladson-Billings, 2006; Ladson-Billings &Tate, 1995; Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008). Though this research is thorough in many regards, it consistently lacks the voices of the Latino and African American students themselves. This omission not only silences those most affected by educational inequalities, it also denies the research community valuable insights.

Purpose: This article discusses an analysis of a youth participatory action research (YPAR) program, the Council of Youth Research, in which urban youth of color research educational conditions. We address the following research questions: 1. How do the Council youth appropriate traditional tools of research? How do they adapt and transform these tools to serve their purposes? 2. What methodological insights can adult educational researchers draw from the study of an intervention project that seeks to center the voice and perspectives of youth? 3. How does YPAR as it is practiced by Council youth challenge what is considered as legitimate and transformative research?

Research Design: To address our research questions, we conducted ethnographic research on the Council during the summer of 2010 and the 2010-2011 school year.

Findings: We demonstrate how the students in the Council appropriated traditional research methods for critical uses and employed creative approaches to conveying research findings. We focus on the studentsí use of participant observation, database analysis, and interviews, and describe the multimodal avenues through which the students conveyed findings.

Conclusion: Our study points to alternatives to traditional research that take advantage of urban studentsí positionality and insights. We argue that the perspective of youth of color, especially in working-class, urban areas, is integral to our understanding of problems in urban schools as well as approaches to transforming inequitable learning conditions and structures. Until we make the power of research accessible to young people and other marginalized communities, educational research will be limited in its scope and impact.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 10, 2013, p. 1-23
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17142, Date Accessed: 12/17/2017 8:57:22 AM

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About the Author
  • Mark Bautista
    University of Texas, Arlington
    E-mail Author
    MARK BAUTISTA is a Posdoctoral Faculty Fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington. Dr. Bautista's research focuses on the intersections of participatory action research, critical youth studies, and critical pedagogy with urban youth, looking specifically at the development of their sense of agency and community advocacy.
  • Melanie Bertrand
    Arizona State University
    E-mail Author
    MELANIE BERTRAND is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Her research employs micro- and macro-level lenses to explore school reform and leadership as they relate to matters of racial equity in education.
  • Ernest Morrell
    Teachers College
    E-mail Author
    ERNEST MORELL is the Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) and Professor of English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is also the Vice-President of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and will assume the presidency in 2013. For nearly twenty years Dr. Morrell's research has focused on drawing upon youths interest in popular culture and participatory media technologies to promote academic and critical literacy development, civic engagement and college access.
  • D'Artagnan Scorza
    UCLA
    E-mail Author
    D'ARTAGNAN is a Ph.D. Candidate in the UCLA Department of Education, UC Regent Emeritus, and Founder & Executive Director of the Social Justice Learning Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to help youth use research to create change.
  • Corey Matthews
    UCLA
    E-mail Author
    COREY MATTHEWS works in development and fundraising for a New York based public policy think tank. Corey studied at UCLA as an undergraduate and a graduate student, and his core research interests are on African American male educational trajectories in the K-16 pipeline, critical consciousness, and the sociology of education.
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