Youth participation in education research - "the bricolage"

Year: 2015

Author: Car, Donna, Down, Barry

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Education systems are influenced by many factors including sociological, psychological, political and economic conditions. If researchers are to develop a genuine understanding of education institutions and the lived-experiences of those young people who dwell within, then an interdisciplinary approach is required. Reflexive researchers must become “bricoleurs” with awareness that true insight comes from our inquiries into those blurred social, psychological, political and economic boundaries from which lived experiences coalesce.

As a bricoleur I employ multiple interdisciplinary research methods that are reflective of the complexity of the young lives of my research participants. I consider diverse disciplines as multiple and varied scenarios contribute to the complexity of lived experience of my research participants. This multidimensional approach requires me to draw on an in-depth rigorous understanding of social theory and qualitative methodology in order to decide what is most relevant to the project at hand.

I view my research with those labeled as “at-risk” as a form of social justice, it is resistance research with emancipatory possibilities. My research seeks to help young people to learn through their participation in research – it is brazenly dialogical and pedagogical. Young people are encouraged to understand and challenge the complex power relations that direct the social world of schooling through a process of critical inquiry.

This paper chronicles the development of Gateways a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) university enabling project. Gateways has a dual purpose of helping young people to consolidate skills that will prepare them for university and as a research project that seeks to uncover factors that contribute to young people with complex lives being unable to attain their preferred imagined futures in higher education or employment.

YPAR participants are co-researchers who conjointly develop the research question/s and methodologies employed. YPAR is a form of action research and the action research cycle of –plan/act/observe/reflect is pedagogical and a natural fit for the bricoleur. It utilizes multiple methodologies, multiple research products and an exploration of multidimensional social theories through critical dialogical praxis. Gateways researchers are immersed in critical literacies and participate in workshops with academics (developing rigorous research skills), creative arts practitioners (performance/film/photographic/visual art ethnography) and with community activists (social action) enabling them to denaturalize the realities of their worlds and make collective change based on the knowledge they’ve developed through their critical enquiries. The Gateways university enabling project supports young people to become bricoleurs who have capacity to transform their own worlds.