‘Learning to listen and listening to learn: Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR)'

Year: 2013

Author: Coll, Leanne, Enright, Eimear, O'Sullivan, Mary

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

‘Listening then does not amount to grasping something in order to integrate and order it into our own world, but to opening one’s own world to something or someone external and strange to it. Listening-to is a way of opening ourselves to the other and of welcoming this other, its truth and its world as different from us, from ours’
(Irigaray 2008, p.232)

Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) projects do not aim to speak about young people, rather to actively listen to, learn from and learn with them. Within a YPAR framework young people are co-partners in the design, analysis and dissemination of research (Irizarry 2009; Lodge 2005) and co-researchers (Fielding 2004). From an educational perspective, YPAR challenges conventional roles in which students are passive recipients and consumers of knowledge, repositioning them as architects of their own learning (Enright and O’Sullivan 2012; Cammarota and Fine 2008). The data for this paper was generated as part of a two year Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project, conducted in a co-educational post-primary school with 32 students. The purpose of the larger study is to understand and transform how sexuality education is designed and delivered in Irish post-primary education.  This paper explores the potentials of YPAR in educational research for student learning, and in addressing sensitive curricular content. In pursuit of this aim, we will discuss the theoretical and pedagogical underpinnings of YPAR. We will then offer snapshots from our work which illustrate: the challenges and possibilities we faced as co-researchers in renegotiating roles, relationships and collaborative spaces in a school environment and the tensions that arose at the level of the classroom when exploring the boundaries of our personal and collective understandings and experiences of gender and sexuality while adopting YPAR as a methodological framework.