Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Using Community Based Research to Teach Policy Practice and Social Justice: Cultivating Agents of Change (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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265P (WITHDRAWN) Using Community Based Research to Teach Policy Practice and Social Justice: Cultivating Agents of Change

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Felicia Tuggle, PhD, Assistant Professor, Auburn University, Auburn, AL
Background and Purpose: Equipping social work students with the knowledge, skills, and experience to design, implement, and evaluate Community Based Participatory Action Research is a promising practice for facilitating social change. The purpose of this study was to integrate a youth participatory action research (YPAR) framework into the existing SOWO 7080 Policy Practice and Social Justice course. YPAR is an innovative approach to positive youth and community development in which young people are trained to conduct systematic research to improve their lives, their communities, and the institutions intended to serve them. The advanced practice elective course (SOWO 7080) was designed to promote the development of advanced research, policy practice, advocacy, and evaluation skills and techniques necessary for promoting social and economic justice. The goals of the project were to equip social work students with the knowledge and skills needed to engage citizens in the process of social change and policy development and to develop youth civic engagement and leadership skills among teen participants.

Methodology: The sample for this project was comprised of 8 MSW students enrolled in the SOWO 7080 course, and 20 teen participants from the local Boys and Girls Club. MSW Students met weekly (during scheduled class time) at the local Boys and Girls Club. Using the YBPAR process, MSW students facilitated weekly sessions designed to assist participating youth identify an issue impacting teens in the community or school setting and to develop a research question that would ultimately guide this project. Once there was consensus on the issue to be addressed, MSW students assisted students in developing data collection tools and collecting quantitative and qualitative data on the identified issue (educational equity). Youth and MSW students worked collaboratively to analyze the findings, develop proposed action/policy strategies to mitigate the issue, and disseminate the results. The project was community based, youth led, and action oriented.

Results: Qualitative data was collected using the digital stories MSW students submitted to showcase the knowledge, skills, and values gained from participating in this project and from surveys youth completed. Content analysis of the digital stories submitted by MSW students suggest that participating in the course/project provided them with a real-world experiential opportunity to apply conceptual frameworks and empirical research in the examination of social issues, policies, and services. Students reported that as a result of the course/project, they felt competent in their ability to engage citizens in the data collection and analysis process. Students shared that this opportunity helped them recognize the importance of including citizens in policy development and analysis and how in doing reciprocal empowerment occurred. Results from the youth surveys show that this experience positively increased youth leadership skills, knowledge of civic engagement, civic engagement skills, and future plans to be more active in their community.

Implications: Integrating applied research methods such as CBPAR into research and policy courses can build student competence in their ability to use research to guide practice, engage in social justice practice, and impact social change.