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 - 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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