In addition to being culturally and linguistically sustaining spaces, classrooms function as liberatory third spaces (Gutiérrez, 2008) & we spaces (Rodríguez-Valls, 2009) where students are not only seen within, but co-create, schooling processes (Dover & Schultz, 2018). This means challenging banking forms of education that view teachers as the sole holders of knowledge, and students as empty vessels to be filled (Freire, 2018/1970). In doing so, Project LEARN employs forms of inquiry-based, emergent curricular processes through Teacher Action Research (TAR) and Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR), described below.

Teacher Action Research

Teacher Action Research (TAR) is a powerful and transformative process that seeks to improve teachers’ practices by engaging them in critical inquiry and reflection about their teaching, learning, and curriculum (Pine, 2009). Through TAR, teachers identify a specific aspect of their teaching or learning that they wish to improve upon. Once teachers identify their area of focus, they work to “engage in research by identifying their questions, documenting their observations, analyzing and interpreting data in light of their theories, and sharing situated representations with the larger community” (Souto-Manning, 2012, p. 54). The primary purpose of TAR is for teachers to conduct research that leads to transformative actions to their practices and pedagogies, further resulting in deeper educational access, opportunity, and equity for all students (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009). 

In Project LEARN, we use action research to 

Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR)

Drawing from Participatory Action Research (PAR), Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) “seeks to empower the oppressed, challenge social injustices, and helps young people connect to decolonial knowledge(s)” (Desai, 2019, p. 126). YPAR is an inquiry-based process that challenges traditional power structures by placing student voices and knowledge at the center of research investigations (Anyon et al., 2018). Students engaged in YPAR learn to interrogate issues that are directly impacting their lives and become advocates for social change within their communities (Morrell, 2008; Desai, 2019). Involving young people in the process of YPAR is significant, given the fact that youth are rarely acknowledged as potential knowledge producers (Morrell, 2008). Further, YPAR has been shown to improve the educational outcomes of students of Color and other marginalized groups, such as newcomer students and emergent plurilingual students (Domínguez, 2021; Irizarry, 2009). 

Our work in Project LEARN positions newcomer and emergent plurilingual students as experts of their communities and lived experiences by engaging them in the process of YPAR. Students engage in a critical cycle of inquiry that “builds understanding, skills, and knowledge of issues, with the goal of promoting change and improvement” (Cook & Krueger-Henney, 2017, p. 181) by selecting an issue of importance to them that they desire to take action on. Teachers assist students in gathering data about their chosen issue, co-analyze and disseminate findings, and work together to create change in policies and practices that directly affect them (Call-Cummings et al., 2020). 

What Topics are Students Researching in Project LEARN?

Artifacts from Students' YPAR Projects

Exploring Community Issues and Assets with Emergent Plurilingual Students


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