Youth Engagement as Researchers

The Freechild Institute Youth Involvement Toolkit

Identifying issues, surveying interests, studying situations, analyzing findings, and developing projects in response are all powerful avenues for youth as researchers. Youth researchers can provide analysis, study or research, examinations and facilitate discussions about social, economic and similar problems,

If we knew what we were doing it would not be called research, would it?

— Albert Einstein

Ways Youth Engagement as Researchers Happens

Participatory Action Research — Youth-centered Participatory Action Research, or PAR, engages young people in research in order to create positive social change. Working together with adults or on their own, youth PAR facilitates group self-inquiry by the young people involved in the topic of the research, using on rationality and justice to affect their own activities and activities that affect their broader communities.

Research for School Improvement — Student researchers actively work to transform education during and after their research, and reflect throughout the process. In school, youth research emphasizes co-learning among students and between students and adults, and embeds action with stated learning goals focused on students experiencing and transforming schools in new ways.

Youth-Led Community Organizing — Youth researchers who organize their own research and promote it in order to transform communities are leading community organizing. Their approaches can be empowering, engaging and highly motivating for adults and youth alike.

Needs for Youth Engagement as Researchers

Training — Learning what methods and activities to use in research is essential to the process, as is determining how to implement strategies for effective research projects. Youth can move beyond training quickly, but essential elements including communication, data and other skills can be trained effectively.

Credit — Conducting rigorous and relevant research should be acknowledged by schools with credit for student researchers. Credits can recognize the math, social sciences and public speaking involved, as well as soft skills including planning, critical thinking and others.

Community Resources — Providing youth researchers with the tools and access they need to appropriately facilitate their projects can be essential to success. Whether its funding, training, adult allies, meeting space, or otherwise, community resources can build and sustain youth researchers in ways few other tools can.

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how Freechild Institute can support youth + social change through youth research in your community or organization, contact us.

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