Leveraging the Student Experience to Promote Success in Schools

Duncan-Andrade, Jeffrey M R; “Urban Youth and the Counter-Narration of Inequality”. Transforming Anthropology, 15:1 (April 2007), p.26-37



The researcher, Jeffrey Duncan Andrade, examined research that showed that urban youth of color spend up to 6 and one half hours per day engaged with electronic media.  This investment in electronic media by urban youth has led a number of organizations to issue statements urging schools and communities to create a critical media literacy curriculum.  The need for this curriculum is espoused because of the often negative depictions of urban youth and their communities in popular media.  The researcher decided to do something about this problem and partake in and advise a 6 week seminar for urban 11th grade students regarding social issues and the media’s depiction of them.  The researcher engaged the participants in intensive 6 day sessions and readings and discussions regarding race and socio-economic status in popular media and the political systems that surround them.  The participants in the seminar were all 11th grade students in Title 1 school with a grade point average between 1.5 and 3.8.  This range of grade point averages was important because  the researcher wanted to demonstrate that any student no matter their academic standing could participate in such seminars and discussions and be motivated to produce academic projects by the end of the research.


Throughout the course the students in the seminar were encouraged and asked to provide responses to the injustices they studied and saw through forms of media.  Students cumulative project would be a number of essays and media projects which they would present at the end of the seminar.  The researcher found strong qualitative evidence that any student, no matter grade point average, was able to be no only engaged in but successful in producing academic material when the topic related so close to their lived experiences.  The researcher believes that to effectively teach literacy to urban youth we must expose them to topics and activities that relate to their current reality and leverages their real and lived experiences.


Review Comments


The author organizes the article by first explaining the historical context behind his work before jumping into what has happened.  After explaining the historical context of his interests the author proceeds to give more understanding of the community and context in which he will be conducting his action research.  The author explains the histories of his community as well as of the students who live within it.  After this he goes on to explain the research project and what he will be having students do. Finally we are narrrated through the research process for the students and how it has affected them and their interests in education.  Finally the author finishes with some closing thoughts and implications of his study.

Contribution to Field

The author differentiates his research in this area by differentiating his work from “scholarly” articles and explains that it will be action research that is relevant to the here and now and the communities in which he works.  The contribution is significant even though there is no hard quantitative data to go with his study.  He is able to present evidence of increased student achievement and engagement through the culturally responsive practices that he preaches.


Theoretical Framework

The author is trying to demonstrate that for urban youth to be successful we must leverage their experiences with our content.  He believes that when we have students engaging in things that matter to them right then we will find real results.  Also the author is showing that students can be at the forefront of fighting for equality because they share a perspective that adults do not.

Data Collection

The main data collection in this article is qualitative.  The author points to the success of all of the students from those with a 1.8 G.P.A. to those with a 3.8 G.P.A.  He points to the use of the student work in national workshops and conferences to the reality which is that the students were successful when content mattered to them.


The findings point to the fact that content matters to our students.  Quite simply put, when the content of a class relates to the lived experiences of students, students are more engaged and successful.  We find that the current content of classrooms is embedded with themes of institutional racism that do not leverage the experiences and wisdom of urban youth of color.  The researcher points to the success of the students attending the summer as evidence that all students can be successful if we are willing to evolve our instruction and our classrooms to their needs.


The author also makes a poignant point about the possibility for our students to be architects of fighting for equality because the problem affects them most directly.   Students must face the inequality in schools and instruction everyday and if we empower them to do something about it, they will.

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