Harvard Educational Review
  1. Winter 2018 Issue »

    The Quandary of Youth Participatory Action Research in School Settings

    A Framework for Reflecting on the Factors That Influence Purpose and Process

    Gretchen Brion-Meisels and Zanny Alter

    Youth participatory action research (YPAR) is a form of critical participatory action research that provides young people with opportunities to identify injustices in their current social realities, to gather and analyze data about these phenomena, and to determine actions that will begin to rectify their negative outcomes. A growing body of evidence suggests that YPAR projects improve outcomes for individual youth as well as the organizations/settings they act on. Despite this, the extent to which YPAR can and should be used in institutions that reproduce dominant cultural power dynamics remains a subject of debate. Building on recent studies that explore the tensions inherent in school-based YPAR projects, in this theoretical essay Gretchen Brion-Meisels and Zanny Alter put three fundamental tenets of YPAR—participation, purpose, and level of analysis—into conversation with each other. Illustrating their points using examples from an ongoing YPAR project that explores barriers to on-time graduation at an urban high school, they describe the ways in which these tenets are central to YPAR projects and identify several elements of schooling that complicate decision making around these fundamental ideas.

    Click here to access this article.

    Gretchen Brion-Meisels is a lecturer in the Prevention Science and Practice Program at Harvard University. Her research explores partnerships between youth and adults that support both individual and collective development. She is particularly interested in using youth participatory action research to investigate and reform student support efforts, as well as to build positive school climate. Brion-Meisels has participated in a variety of research projects, including investigations of adolescents’ perspectives of schooling and community-based work, social-emotional learning in schools, holistic student support systems, and the intersections of bullying and discrimination in prevention research and practice. Her courses focus on supporting positive youth development, creating loving educational spaces, and partnering with youth in educational research and practice.

    Zanny Alter is a school counselor deeply committed to questions of equity and justice in schools. Currently, she works with high school students whose wisdom and potential exceed their school-based performance by providing social, emotional, and academic support during the regular school day. Prior to receiving her school counseling license, Alter worked in the School District of Philadelphia, where she supported community partnerships between high schools and universities focused on college access, community arts, and social justice. She is committed to research and practice that focus on the interactions of youth voice, inequity, and empowerment.

  2. Share

    Winter 2018 Issue

    Abstracts

    The Quandary of Youth Participatory Action Research in School Settings
    A Framework for Reflecting on the Factors That Influence Purpose and Process
    Gretchen Brion-Meisels and Zanny Alter

    Book Notes

    Uneasy Peace
    Patrick Sharkey

    When Grit Isn’t Enough
    Linda F. Nathan

    The Experience of Neoliberal Education
    edited by Bonnie Urciuoli

    The Newcomers
    Helen Thorpe