Monday, December 23, 2013

When organizational politic work within and against action research in a school community

For years, action research has been a tool teachers (and others) have used to address a wide variety of issues.  Whether addressing a school-wide curriculum concern,
addressing a problem of practice in their classroom, or struggling to connect with an individual student, teachers around the globe are using action research as a means to empower themselves and those around them to effect change.

Our article in the Action Research Journal looks at one principal’s attempt to mandate action research for all those in her school community.  Knowing the power of action research, the principal believed that this type of research would provide the teachers with a tool to enact change.  By empowering her teachers, she believed that she could ensure that ALL children receive the educations they deserve.

Interestingly (but not surprisingly according to the literature), this mandate—born out of her desire to empower teachers—caused a wide variety of tensions in the schools.  In our article, “Politics and Action Research: An Examination of One School’s Mandated Action Research Program,” we examine the ways that organizational politics worked within and against the action research program. 

While excellent work was produced by many of the teachers, the action research program uncovered historical tensions in the school and pitted factions of teachers against one another.  As researchers connected with the school and its teachers, we found these events fascinating.  Throughout our time with the school, we asked ourselves questions such as:

            • Why do some educators bristle at the thought of mandated professional development even when they are given the autonomy to enact their own agency?

            • What would it take to authentically engage an entire school in the action research process?

            • How do we encourage thoughtful administrators—who simply want to engage teachers in providing quality educational experiences for all children—to pursue action research as a viable option for professional development?

While our intent is not to support or reject mandated action research programs in schools, we believe the tale we tell in our article will give others pause as they design professional development opportunities for their schools.  

We truly believe in the power of action research, and we look forward to thinking through the questions above with you!

Ryan Flessner and Shanna Stuckey

You can access this article for FREE for the next 30 days by clicking HERE.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Recognizing and Developing Young Mothers’ Leadership Capacity Through Participatory Research

During graduate school, I taught in an interdisciplinary leadership program full of inspiring and interesting students, all of whom were used to being identified as ‘leaders’. As an undergraduate student, I was the Executive Vice-President of my university students’ union. Before that, I was on my high school student council, I ran leadership camps for other students, and I was often the ‘go-to’ student when a teacher needed someone to take on a project. I was, by all standard accounts, a young leader.

Adults and young people alike treated me like a leader, told me that I was a leader, and believed that I had leadership skills. I was often involved in decisions that affected me. As a result, I too believed that my voice mattered, so when my voice wasn’t invited, I had no problem offering it.

“Is this for real”? Participatory Research, Intersectionality, and the Development of Leader and Collective Efficacy with Young Mothers, is about a different leadership story. It’s the story of the recognition and development of leadership capacity with young people – young mothers to be precise – who are rarely, if ever, thought of as leaders (or citizens).
Over 10 months, I worked with a group of 11 young mothers who were simultaneously raising children, completing high school, and managing complex personal living situations. They were also becoming, through the youth participatory action research (Y-PAR) project I present in this article, community researchers. In turn, they made recommendations about provincial level child protection policy, from the perspective of young parents living in one province in Eastern Canada.

In “Is this for real”?, I describe our Y-PAR process, and highlight the benefit of intersectionality as a theoretical orientation to research with young mothers. I also struggle with the challenge of inviting historically marginalized youth (in this case, young mothers) to invest their time and energy into Y-PAR, and into creating recommendations that all too often fall on deaf ears. I offer some modest suggestions for making Y-PAR’s societal impact more “real” for participants, and for policy. It is not the ‘typical’ story of youth leadership, or of young mothers, but it is a story worth telling. Young mothers, not in spite of, but because of, their identities and experiences, should be thought of as leaders and citizens with expertise to share.      

What do you think about young mothers’ involvement in participatory research? In policy-making? How can we further expand the way we think and talk about youth leadership?
I welcome your thoughts on comments below.

LLevac atsign uofguelph dot ca

You can access this article for FREE for the next 30 days by clicking here