Abstract: Teaching, Learning, and Bridging: Examining Graduate Student Researchers' Roles in Youth Participatory Action Research Projects (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

421P Teaching, Learning, and Bridging: Examining Graduate Student Researchers' Roles in Youth Participatory Action Research Projects

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Noor Toraif, MA, Doctoral Student, Boston University, MA
Adrienne Young, Graduate Student, Boston University, MA
Astraea Augsberger, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston University, MA
Katherine Gergen-Barnett, MD, Vice Chair of Primary Care Innovation and Transformation; Program Director in the Department of Family Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA
Background and Purpose: Although scholarship on participatory research has focused on the role of academics as knowledge brokers within Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) projects, less attention has been paid to the role that Graduate Student Researchers (GSRs) play in these projects. Autoethnography is a qualitative method that allows researchers to describe and reflect on a societal phenomenon in an in-depth, analytically rigorous, and personal manner.

This study uses autoethnography to investigate how knowledge sharing is brokered by GSRs engaged in a YPAR context. The autoethnography is conducted by the authors, two female graduate students of color facilitating a cross-disciplinary YPAR project. We examine the following topics: 1) the role that GSRs play in facilitating more equitable YPAR projects; 2) how YPAR contexts facilitate bidirectional learning processes; and 3) practical recommendations on increasing YPAR preparedness for GSRs.

Methods: Our autoethnography draws from multiple data sources that we prepared and collected as GSRs throughout the course of the YPAR project (Aug2020-Apr2021) including: 1) weekly YPAR planning notes, 2) weekly YPAR memos reflecting on project structure, activities, successes, and challenges, and 3) transcripts of Discussion Sessions (n=4; 90 minutes each) between us on the following YPAR domains: a) planning and logistics; b) structure and personnel; c) content and activities; and d) intra-YPAR relationships.

We analyzed these data sources reflexively, reviewing them together and asking ourselves a set of reflective questions including: What is going on here? Why is this happening? How does it make me feel? These conversations were used to generate a larger narrative of the YPAR project from our vantage point. We then engaged in a reflexive analysis of our identities and positionalities as GSRs in relation to each other, the YPAR youth members, and the senior researchers on the team. These reflections were used to provide greater context to our narrative.

Findings: Our findings indicate that, as GSRs, we experienced ourselves as occupying several YPAR roles. The three processual themes that emerged from our reflections are: teaching, learning, and bridging. We engaged in teaching activities with both the youth YPAR members and senior researchers. For example, as GSRs, we taught youth members how to design a research project and conduct research activities, as well as navigate the “hidden curriculum” of academic institutions and norms. We also engaged in learning and unlearning, a process facilitated by the youth members’ questioning of the status quo in academia, including unarticulated workplace and labor expectations and norms of academic hierarchies. Finally, we played a unique bridging role between youth YPAR members and senior researchers, facilitated by our racial identities, age, and cultural familiarity with youths’ concerns and priorities–both at an interpersonal and cultural level.

Conclusions and Implications: Our findings indicate that we as GSRs occupied a unique role within the YPAR project, acting as practical, educational, and emotional liaisons between youth YPAR members, the senior researchers, and our academic institutions. The practical and ethical considerations for GSRs interested in YPAR methods and activities are further discussed.