Abstract: Facilitating Critical Inquiry and Action with Youth: PAR Process and Practice (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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263P Facilitating Critical Inquiry and Action with Youth: PAR Process and Practice

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Angela Malorni, MPA, Doctoral Student, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Youth Participatory Action Research is not a specific set of methodologies, but rather an epistemological commitment to various forms of knowledge and an embedded critique of colonization, racism, homophobia , classism, misogyny and xenophobia in society, our research and ourselves. As such, it stresses the importance of democratic practice in research and the transformative purpose of research. The adoption of participatory research with youth has been rapid and there is significant diversity in how participatory research with youth is approached.

While this growth and methodological diversity is very important for responsive and relevant research, we can also see a number of methodological and practice challenges arising. For one, the practice of participatory research with youth has outpaced the development of methodology. Methodology is often a ‘black box’, with the mechanisms in play absent or not described in detail. When methodological practice is made more explicit, it is illuminated that all too often, youth are not meaningfully integrated into all aspects of participatory research. Finally, the critical and emancipatory aims of participatory research are not always clear. Increased participation alone does not equate to emancipatory practice. Critical learning, reflection and social action are all critical components of emancipatory research practice and should be reflected in the practice of participatory research.

This project aims to help address some of the methodological and practical challenges of implementing YPAR in a way that is connected to its’ critical and transformational roots. Critical youth work teaches us that social change happens in the process not just the product, thus there is a need for closer attention to the elements of participatory research with youth. This study aims to explore the ‘black box’ of processes and practices in YPAR projects that emphasize both critical consciousness development and social justice action. The research question that guides this paper is: What facilitation processes and practices contribute to critical consciousness development and social justice action-taking in participatory research with youth in youth development and out-of-school settings?

I conducted a scoping review of 49 articles on participatory research processes and practices with youth in out-of-school and youth development spaces in the United States. I analyzed the results to offer a set of learning, relationship, methodological and environment considerations for adult facilitators of participatory research with youth. I do not offer a new way of doing PAR with youth, but rather a critical examination of the elements of enhancing meaningful youth participation, critical inquiry and action. Implications for YPAR practice, and future directions for research are discussed.