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What is Youth Participatory Action Research?

Youth Participatory Action Research trains young people (i.e. students) in the research process: (1) problem identification, (2) data collection, (3) data analysis, and (4) action.

Problem Identification: First, in the problem identification stage, youth critically explore their environment. During, this time youth gather information and reflect upon current conditions within their setting (i.e. school, community, etc.). After critically exploring their setting, youth narrow in on a particular area of interest.

  • Example: One Peer Resource group explored existing information on sexual education. Students reviewed information provided from their health center, their school textbooks, as well as newspaper articles, and popular movies. After being disappointed with the lack of available information regarding sex education offered to the student body, students determined that they needed to gain an understanding of the student body’s current knowledge regarding sexual health information. In addition, they planned to solicit input from the student body to determining what additional information they wanted to learn.

Data Collection: The data collection stage consists of youth strategically designing their research tools (e.g. surveys, interview questions, observations). Next, youth gather information from individuals within the school district such as community members, school staff, other youth, policy makers and district administrators.

  • Example: Another, Peer Resource group focused on culturally-responsive teacher instruction for diverse students and student engagement within their school. Students in this group developed their own survey for students and teachers, a teacher interview protocol, and teacher observation rubrics.

Data Analysis: The data analysis stage consists of youth strategically assessing information to identify main findings with the aim of informing action component.

  • Example: The previously mentioned Peer Resource group focused on culturally responsive teacher instruction critically assessed the information they gathered from both survey and interviews. They identified their main findings, and built evidence from the data to support their understanding of the problem.

Action Component: The action stage of the project entails the youth utilizing their findings to inform direct change within their setting. Youth can take on an array of action-oriented projects within their school and community environments. For example, youth can generate a petition to promote a particular element of the school environment such as alternative courses, or they may organize a public assembly to raise awareness around an issue of importance. They may also distribute information  on an item of importance to various media outlets (pamphlets, website, twitter, video, etc.).

  • Example: One, Peer Resource group focused on understanding current school policies promoting student diversity. Students identified the need to intentionally recruit students of color. They chose two action strategies. First, they hosted a reception night for incoming families of color providing a presentation and answering parents’ questions. Second, students who identified as belonging to communities of color created a video to illustrate their daily experiences to share with interested recruits.

Why engage in Youth Participatory Action Research? Research shows that YPAR positively contributes in a variety of domains the individual youth, relational (adults and youth), and the setting.

Individual Benefits for Youth:

  • Positive Interpersonal Skills
  • Cognitive Growth & Maturity
  • Positive Future Orientation (i.e. higher educational aspirations).
  • Academic Proficiency
  • Job Readiness
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Civic Knowledge and Skills
  • Civic Motivation

Relational Benefits for Youth and Adults:

  • Positive Interactions Among Youth
  • Friendship Formation Across Diverse Groups of Youth
  • Positive Youth Adult Relations
  • Strengthen Teaching Practices

Setting Benefits:

  • Increase Meaningful Opportunities for Youth Leadership
  • Increased Youth Voice in Policies and Practices that Directly Impact Them
  • Increased Youth and Adult Perception that Youth have Expertise to Contribute to their School and Environments.