More Information Needed

Wildenger, K., & McIntyre, L. (2010). Family concerns and involvement during kindergarten transition. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(3), 387-396.

Transitioning from preschool to kindergarten has been regarded as a “sensitive period” for children (Rimm-Kaufmann and Pianta, 2000).   Recent research findings have concluded that early childhood transition experiences may impact later academic and social outcomes (Eckert et al. 2008). Recently, there has been a growing number of research studies in the area of kindergarten transition experiences and effects, but few studies have addressed the parent or guardian perspective in the area (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010).

Wildenger and McIntyre’s (2010) study on parent concerns and involvement during the transition period between home and kindergarten or preschool and kindergarten aimed to exam transition experiences from the lens of the parents or guardians. They looked at parent concerns during transition, perceived needs during transition, and parent involvement during kindergarten preparation activities.

Results regarding family concerns showed that most parents and guardians had few concerns about their child transitioning to kindergarten (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). Where there were concerns, they mostly had to do with sociobehavioral concerns, such as following directions and getting along well with others.   The issues of least concern to parents were communicating needs, toileting issues, and the ability to get along with the new teacher (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010).

In the area of the perception of needs, there was a significant area of need identified by parents and guardians concerning what families could be doing at home to help their have a successful transition experience into formalized schooling.   Parents and guardians also listed information on the specifics of the kindergarten program and information about their child’s kindergarten teacher as an area of need (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). Although these needs were based on a large number of the participant’s feedback, there was still about one-quarter of the participants that felt they did not have any needs in this area.

The last area that was looked at was the level and type of involvement the parents and guardians had in the areas of formal and informal transition activities that the schools offered. The transition activities offered by the schools ranged in format and in nature. Some examples of the activities included visiting the child’s kindergarten classroom, attending a kindergarten meet the teacher or orientation night, receiving information in the mail about the kindergarten program, receiving a phone call from the kindergarten teacher, and receiving a home visit from the kindergarten teacher (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). The researchers found that the most utilized transition activities for the parents were attending a kindergarten open house or orientation and receiving written communication from the kindergarten teacher about the program (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). Conversely, parents were least likely to receive a home visit or phone call during the summer transition months.

When looking at the differences in participation in transition activities and socio-economic status, Wildenger and McIntyre (2010), found that total transition involvement was significantly less than for lower socioeconomic groups.

The strengths of this study appear to be the strong focus on parent perspective. It seems that although a significant portion of parent participants reported having needs in the area of information obtainment for transition tips and program details, there were also a significant number of parents that said they did not have any concerns. This indicates to me that in the very least, schools should offer a formalized transition informational event, such as an open house, to be sure that information about program details are communicated. I can also see the value of conducting a home visit during the summer months by the kindergarten teacher. Conducting a home visit would give parents and their child the opportunity to meet and get to know their teacher and also the opportunity to address individual questions or concerns about program details or transition tips. Perhaps for the parents that stated they did not have any concerns about the transition process, a home visit may alert them to some things that they should look out for when they are helping their young one transition into formal schooling. I see this as an educational component about the importance of successful early childhood experiences and some key findings that have proven to be helpful during the transition period. Another argument for making a home visit would be the ability to work around the parents’ schedules and take out transportation and child care as an inhibiting factor.

The issues that I can see arising is that many teachers are not employed in the summer months and even if they are, most teachers do not receive their class rosters for the next school year until just before the school year begins. This has been the case in the school districts that I have worked in. Home visits, just as open houses are, should be a part of the kindergarten teachers back to school contracted hours or it can even be imbedded into a summer transition program that has been created and funded by the school.


Ecker, T. L., McIntyre, L. L., DiGennaro, F. D., Arbolino, L., Begeny, J., & Perry, L.J., (2008). Researching the transition to kindergarten for typically developing children: A literature review of current processes, practices and programs. In D. H. Molina (Ed.), School psychology: 21st century issues and challenges (pp. 235-252. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Rimm-Kaufman S., & Pianta R. (2000). An ecological perspective on the transition to kindergarten: A theoretical framework to guide empirical research. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 21(5), 491-511.

Wildenger, K. & McIntyre, L. (2010). Family concerns and involvement during kindergarten transition. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(3), 387-396.


Training Advisors to Conduct Research

Hurt, R. L., & State, C. (2012). An Applied Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods in Academic Advising. NACADA Journal, 32(2010).

This article presents approaches for conducting academic advising research. Presents qualitative and quantitative approaches, however, emphasizes the use of qualitative approaches. Advising as a form of teaching can be evaluated. The writers suggest reluctance on advisors’ part to conduct research due a lack of training in statistical analysis. The writers present frameworks to provide validity to qualitative research.

 Qualitative Research

             The article includes a description of qualitative research. It begins by outlining four characteristics of valid qualitative research: targeted to address a specific question, have qualities which can be measures, seeking to understand the factors influencing behavior, ensure the researcher is genuinely interested in the people he/she is researching so that a deep connection can be made.  Four areas to be mindful of when conducting qualitative research: may last a long span of time, be aware to ensure the story of the data is told and bias is reduced in interpretation, review possible journals that might publish a qualitative (as opposed to quantitative) study, and to possibly incorporate quantitative research (where appropriate).

Three Approaches to Quantitative Research

The writers presented three types of quantitative research approaches and provided examples of how each type can be used. Ethnography is “rooted in cultural anthropology and sociology” (pg. 65). In academic advising, we are trying to describe the student experience. That is an example of an ethnographic study. In my research, I’m interested in describing the learning students may do as a result of advising interactions. This would be supported through this type of research framework. Appreciative Inquiry, is the second type presented. It is described as a form of small group discussion, which leads to the production of the most effective form of “x”. Discussion is guided and attempts to cover four phases: Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny. These are described further as identifying the current status of “x”, considering what could be, designing what could be, and finally, creating what could be for “x”. The third type presented is Case Studies. In this type, varying groups are selected by the researcher to discuss a topic. Perhaps this would be different years of students within a major (i.e. Freshman, Sophomores, Juniors, or Seniors) and are guided with open-ended questions to discuss a specific topic. The responses are collected and common themes or further research topics emerge.

 Article Critique

            This article presented very little literature review. It’s based upon a supposition that academic advisors are reluctant to do quantitative research due to lack of understanding of statistics. That idea lacks any reference. The authors suggest identifying journals that will publish qualitative research, but did not recommend any. That would have been helpful, too. In addition, each of the three types of qualitative research presented did not include significant literature support for the explanation or definition.   It could be considered an introductory piece for an advisor beginning to consider research questions. However, further inquiry would need to be done before crafting a research methodology.

Application to My Research

            Well-developed research could build more validity into the field of advising. As I have been doing my literature review, I would agree that much of what I am finding is qualitative research. However, I have seen a transition within the day-to-day execution of advising, as we have been integration technology based tools with our practice. We track and record interactions, use data sets to identify which students to reach out, and have fully online tools available. This is developing data sets that will be available (with the appropriate approvals) for quantitative research. As this is evolving, I am hopeful I can access this information for my research.

I’ve administered surveys and led focus groups in the past, with varying degrees of success. The results from the surveys were presented with very basic statistical analysis along with the focus group comments. The focus groups comments helped to put the data from the surveys into context. In my current role, I’ve been working towards the implementation of quantitative survey assessments. The first two I am considering employing include post appointment surveys and pre and post surveys to test knowledge of a specific academic tool. I hope to publish or present findings in the future. I’m hoping that by collecting data from these surveys, I can open a dialogue with students and advisors to find out more about the factors, which might be contributing to what is being measured in the surveys. This article was helpful in that it will present a starting point for how to conduct the qualitative methodologies, which I need to consider. However, I’ll need to conduct a more in-depth literature review before moving forward.

What drew me to the article was that it helped me understand the context in which my research will be presented.  If the authors are correct in their assumption about advisors’ capacities for statistical analysis and they are the primary audience for my research, I need to understand how to convey my findings in a way that is accepted and understood.

Finally, Something that Works!

Brooks, M., Jones, C., & Burt, I. (2013). Are African-American male undergraduate retention programs sucessful? An evaluation of an undergraduate African-American male retention program. Journal of African American Studies, 17(2), 206-221.

There are hundreds of articles about minority retention issues in higher education discussing retention programs that fail to retain minority students. However, very few discuss successful retention programs and how they can be effectively implemented in Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). Brooks, Jones, and Burt (2013) do just that in their article Are African-American Male Undergraduate Retention Programs Successful? An Evaluation of an Undergraduate African-American Male Retention Program. Many colleges and universities have solid retention programs, particularly based on Tinto’s (1999) model. Characteristics of solid retention models are that they provide high expectations for students, give sound advice to understanding and retaining curriculum, provide excellent support in academic and social integration, enabling the student to feel valued and encouraged (Tinto, 1999). While Tinto’s (1999) approach is practical, it addresses a broad range of student populations, lacking consideration of marginalized populations whose present different retention issues than what Tinto examined. Brooks et al (2013) attack Tinto’s (1999) integration model, by proposing that retention integration models require Black students to “unlearn their culture in substitution for the established campus climate” (p. 207).  Rather, Brooks et al (2013) assert that matriculation rates increase when students of color are able to maintain their cultural identities.

The goal of Brooks’ et al (2013) article is to present findings on a study that provided a retention intervention program specifically for Black males in a PWI. First, the researchers specified the importance of a college degree for African American males. The Chronicle of Higher Education (2009) showed that in 2007, 46,400 Black male students received a college degree compared to 90,990 Black female students showing the imbalance of earning potential between Black males and females which ultimately impacts the economic ability of Black families. Because Black women generally search for Black men as potential mates, the lack of Black men in college precludes them from dating, or forces them to date men who have less earning potential affecting the family socioeconomic status. Next, the researchers discussed the success of National College Athletic Association (NCAA) models in retaining Black males. In 2009, Black male college athletes graduated at a rate of 49%, while only 38% percent non-athlete Black males completed their degree program (NCAA Research Staff, 2009). An important fact, the level of support student-athletes receive (e.g. support services, orientation programs, tutoring, financial support, mentorship programs, etc.) is crucial as many athletes score low on entrance exams, yet, graduate at higher rates than Black males who do not participate in collegiate sports programs.

Using a mixed method approach, specifically a QUAN-Qual model, Brooks et al (2013) devised a four-prong approached to creating a retention program. A QUAN-qual method is research method in which both qualitative and quantitative methods are used; however, a greater percentage of the research is conducted used a quantitative approach, denoting the use of capital letters when discussing this research approach. First, they invited 136 African-American freshman males, between the ages of 18-21 years old (90 completed the study) to participate in the semester-long study. Second, participants were required to enroll in a for-credit seminar course which met for one hour each week. The course covered topics applicable to Black male college students, with lessons presented on self-esteem, academic and social support, faculty connection, and financial resources. Coping methods for how to recognize and properly deal with racism on campus were integrated into curriculum as well. Next, students were paired with upperclassmen mentors who shared similar majors, interests, and backgrounds as the freshman students. Students were required to meet with their peer-mentor once a month to discuss coursework, social, and personal issues the student may be facing. Finally, the data collection process was implemented through the pre-test at the start of the semester, and a post-test (final exam) which allowed researchers to investigate the students’ integration into college life. A forty-question final examination asked questions centered on such constructs as social integration, self-esteem, academic culture, and mentor/mentee relationships.

What Brooks et al (2013) found was that students gained an understanding of the academic acculturation process over the semester, a sound understanding of academic advising/support, and where to get help for social and academic issues such as counseling and tutoring services. Specifically important to the students was the mentorship aspect of the program. Students shared that having a personal connection with senior students provided positive role-models that helped them shape their identity as a college-educated Black male.

I love this article! Why? Because it discussed what works, rather than what doesn’t work in retention programs; not to mention it is a good example of an mixed-method, action research study. As stated earlier, anyone can learn the deficiencies in college retention programs and why they do not serve minority students, but, very little attention is paid to programs that are actually succeeding in retaining minority students. For the purpose of my research, I want to attack current retention models in PWIs that inefficiently maintain Black students, and, I want to pose a solution that works! Using the well-respected model by Tinto (1999), Brooks et al (2013) put a spin on it that targeted a very specific population that often gets overlooked. The uniqueness of this approach makes it a solid contribution to the field with solid data using both a qualitative and quantitative approach to paint a very clear picture of how such a program could be beneficial for retention efforts. I realize there are limitations to implementing this type of retention program. The university would need to approve this type of course, a coordinator of the sort would need to promote and enroll students in the course, while a faculty-person would have to be recruited to create the curriculum and teach the course. This is very challenging for many PWIs, mainly because the culture of the environment discourages of any type of ethno-subculture assimilation within the institution. That’s a conversation for another day (we can chat about it in the comments, if you wish). Nonetheless, this article is useful for future research to positively show what a minority retention program could be, what it looks like, and how it impacts academic excellence in higher education.


Brooks, M., Jones, C., & Burt, I. (2013). Are African-American male undergraduate retention programs sucessful? An evaluation of an undergraduate African-American male retention program. Journal of African American Studies, 17(2), 206-221.

Chronicle of Higher Education. (2009). Degrees conferred by racial and ethnic group. Almanac of Higher Education.

NCAA Research Staff. (2009). Research related to graduation rates of Division I student athletes 1984-2002.

Tinto, V. (1999). Taking student retention seriously: Rethinking the first year of college. NACADA Journal, 19, 5-9.

Actively Improving Exam Scores?

Yoder, J. D., and Hochevar, C. M. (2005). Encouraging active learning can improve students’ performance on examinations. Teaching of Psychology, 32(2), 91–95. doi:10.1207/s15328023top3202

I have been enthusiastically reading multiple articles, book chapters and on-line materials in my quest to learn more about active learning. The term ‘active learning’ seemed to be a buzz word as of late, however true active learning had been occurring for thousands of years. The most recent article I read caught my attention simply because of the title, Encouraging active learning can improve students’ performance on examinations (Yoder & Hochevar, 2005). I wanted to know how they can prove this and what methods were used.

Article Summary

The authors (Yoder & Hochevar, 2005) hypothesized that students in upper level psychology classes would perform better on exams if the materials were presented using various active learning methods versus traditional teaching methods. In this article the definition of active learning was, “anything that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing” (pg. 91). The authors discussed multiple active learning studies and their outcome. However, Yoder and Hochevar felt confident that no other study, until theirs, combined multiple active learning techniques in order to examine the overall effectiveness compared to nonactive teaching models.

The class was taught in the spring semester of 2001 (45 students), 2002 (37 students) and 2003 (38 students) by the same instructor – the first author, Janice Yoder. In order to show the progression of using active learning as the primary teaching modality, the class of 2003 was the base, while tracking changes from 2001 to 2003 as well as from 2002 and 2003 (Yoder & Hochevar, 2005). The procedure for the study included obtaining class GPAs’ that were deidentified and securing institutional research board (IRB) approval to use the class data. The student demographic was relatively fixed with mostly women and the GPAs’ were consistent between all three classes studied. The authors noted that the “unit of analysis was exam items, not students” (pg. 92). The major area of interest in the study was class wide performance (the correct answers) on the exact test across all three classes. The exam questions were coded to the teaching modality when the content was delivered. The authors compared students’ performance on the exact same exam questions over the course of three years. The only slight difference was the minimal editing of two questions out of the 40 questions administered. The active learning methods utilized included, but were not limited to, discussions of materials class wide or in small groups, exercises and simulations (Yoder & Hochevar, 2005).

Summarized Study Results

With the 2001 class being the nonactive learning model, the results from the class of 2002 and 2003 represented a significant shift toward greater reliance on active learning (Yoder & Hochevar, 2005). Additionally, the patterns in the data indicates that the analyses were clear and mostly consistent. “Both within a class and between classes, classes scored higher and less variably on items testing materials presented via active learning compared to lecture, autonomous readings or video without discussion coverage” (pg. 93).

Strengths, Critiques and Response

The purpose of this study was to gauge how students would perform on exams if active learning was utilized. While the study seems strong in using the same instructor and the same exam, I would conceive that using these two main variables alone could possibly have a different outcome in a different setting. For example, the first author in this study, Yoder, was also the instructor. Her enthusiasm for teaching may have increased over the three years because the students were increasingly engaged in the subject matter because it was being taught in a more interactive way. I equate this to having a “good” teacher and having a “bad” teacher. For example, when I was in high school I struggled in any math related subject. I avoided any class that might include any algebraic equations simply because I despised math and my lack of confidence made me feel dumb. I tried to learn basic algebra but it never stuck. Fast forward 15 years and in order to graduate from college I needed to pass college algebra with a 70% or better. Needless to say, I had major anxiety over accomplishing this feat! Luckily I worked at a community college and had the luxury of knowing who was a “good” teacher and who was a “bad” teacher. In reality, none of them were bad there were just different levels of enthusiasm. I wanted an instructor who felt a passion to teach math not just to bring home a paycheck. In order for me to really learn math I decided that I needed to start at the bottom and move my way up to college algebra. My plan of attack worked! Why this plan worked was because of a couple of different factors, they were: I wanted to learn (and never feel inadequate in regards to math again) AND the instructor wanted me to learn. This instructor had a vested interest in me and wanted me to succeed. Finally, in comparing my basic experience to a three year study, one would venture that if a singular instructor could change the outcome for one student (me) just on vested interest alone, then a study and the data produced can be skewed simply because the common denominator over the three year span was the same instructor, Yoder, who also had a large amount of vested interest.

While I am still in the early stages of researching the multiple facets of active learning, I would be very interested to see if the study described in the article Encouraging active learning can improve students’ performance on examinations (Yoder & Hochevar, 2005) could be expanded. The size of the study was very small in terms of the number of students involved and the number of variables were limited. While their intent of the study was to prove that active learning improves test scores, I felt that the study would have been more valid if the active learning techniques were the same but delivered by different instructors who also administered the same exam.



Yoder, J. D., & Hochevar, C. M. (2005). Encouraging active learning can improve students’ performance on examinations. Teaching of Psychology, 32(2), 91–95. doi:10.1207/s15328023top3202

Linguistic cultural association and ethnography

This blog post comments on an idea prevalent in McCarty, Wyman and Nicholas’ (2014) chapter on ethnography with indigenous youth.  The first ethnographic vignette in this chapter focused on a conversation with a ninth grader, aged 16, attending a “Navajo community school” (pp. 84).  One of the major themes of the conversation, and one that the researcher admitted she failed to fully connect until well into the interview, is that language often cannot be disconnected from other prescient social factors—culture, racism, and environment as examples.  She noted that the student “repeatedly returned to the integrity of the human and physical landscape in which Dine identity is rooted” (pp. 87).

This idea of interconnectedness brought me back to my first ethnographic field trip.  I was working as an interviewer with a group of cultural anthropologists from the University of Arizona and Native American elders from several southwestern Nations.  We were traveling to the Timber Mountain Caldera, a landscape containing several pan-culturally significant sites that also happened to lay directly in the middle of the Nevada Testing Site (NTS).  The NTS, controlled by the federal Department of Energy, has a long history of classified weapons testing—including the nuclear bomb in the mid-Twentieth Century—as well as a somewhat colorful history working with indigenous groups (Zedeno, Stoffle & Halmo, 2001).  Before any new testing projects can begin, the agency of record must conduct environmental impact assessments (EIA), which determine risks to the geological landscape and native flora or fauna, and social impact assessments (SIA), which determine cultural risks to people, either living nearby or historically associated with a place.

Many of the first SIAs were informed by the standard, and predominantly white, idea of the desert as a negative space with no connection to history or culture.  When faced with the sometimes quite complicated historical and cultural associations with the land in question, federal authorities often responded with disbelief or hostility.  In return, indigenous groups often became more concrete in their language of a place, and more demanding of federal consideration.

This history was beautifully telescoped in the highway sign for Mercury, NV, the NTS checkpoint that houses offices, cafeterias and lodging for personnel at the site: It read “NO SERVICES,” and was flanked at the turn-off by several “DO NOT ENTER”s and “GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL ONLY”s.  This was flanked, at the end of a long dirt road, with a barricaded front office, where we were required to present two forms of ID to an official who already knew our names.  Although we joked about it in the moment, it was the most singularly intimidating town entrance I’ve ever seen, and it had a tangible effect on the elders, even before any interviews were conducted.  It disconnected them from land that culturally was theirs, angered them and drastically changed the tenor of our ethnographic interviews from outside of the NTS.


McCarty, T.L., Wyman, L.T. & S.E. Nicholas. (2014). Activist ethnography with indigenous youth.  In D. Paris & M.T. Winn (Eds.), Humanizing research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities.  Los Angeles: Sage Publications Inc.

Stoffle, R.W., M.N. Zedeño, and D.B. Halmo. (2001). American Indians and the Nevada Test Site: A Model of Research and Consultation.  Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office

Leadership and Uncertainty

I read the article by Jordan and McDaniel (in press) in terms of not just how elementary school students can deal with uncertainty, but also how adults also manage uncertainty. While their article focused on elementary students, I kept wondering if that type of uncertainty and learning through peer interactions occurs in adult learning communities as well. As an individual moves into a new community of practice, he/she will experience uncertainty (Wenger, 2000).  I thought about the fellow classmates of the elementary students as fellow peers in a learning community and drew a correlation that perhaps joining a new community begins with uncertainty and that a leader has a responsibility to understand that uncertainty.

Communities of practice help people thrive and manage uncertainty.  Those that have established the norms and culture for a group set the stage for how someone can be successful within that group. Collaboration is a strategy which can enables learning about a culture. An individual learns who is in charge, how decisions are made, and what outcomes are expected (Wenger, 2000). These peer interactions are very influential, as discovered by Jordan and McDaniel (in press) in their study of elementary students. Learning can occur as a result of this lack of balance of power.

Social supportiveness was closely evaluated in the study by Jordan and McDaniel (in press). The social supportiveness helped the students deal with uncertainty while completing the project task. A factor that influenced whether a peer responded in a socially supportive manner was prior experience with the individual expressing uncertainty. The social support varied based upon whether a student wants something from a fellow student who was expressing uncertainty. If not, the uncertainty was dismissed. If so, the need was addressed. The socially supportive responses were more likely to occur when one’s peers were also uncertain or believed the uncertainty was appropriate to the situation at hand.

In terms of leadership, the authors found that framing the uncertainty helped the students move through the uncertainty. Awareness about the community of practice can then help a leader understand how to introduce someone into the community. The other readings this week, though, highlighted the lack of awareness that people outside of marginalized groups may experience as a result of trying to exist within a white community.

I believe a leader should ensure all members of the community are thriving, engaging, collaborating, supporting, etc. What do you do, though, if you don’t have the opportunity to relate to people within the community or even understand that social support is being offered? Is leadership then a function of realizing whose knowledge you are including or not including? And, is leadership ensuring the social support needed for community members to engage and succeed? These were some questions that came to mind as I reviewed the articles this week. As we begin to learn about the communities we plan to study, perhaps action research, as outlined by Bautista and Morrell (2013) can suggest a model by which leaders can learn more about the communities they lead and determine methods to provide the social supportiveness which can enable learning and success by the community members.


Bautista, M., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D. & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record, 115(100303), 1­23.

Jordan, M. E. & McDaniel, R. (in press). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. Journal of the Learning Sciences. doi: 10.1080/10508406.2014.896254

Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organization, 7(2), 225–246.


Inspired to take action in action research…

Last week, after reading an article, (Shulman, L., et al, 2006), that thoroughly described the differences between the PhD and the EdD, I was really affirmed in my choice of ASU’s EdD program. The underlying concept of participatory action research of being a line of inquiry that rises out of the need of the local community is something that personally speaks to my personal and professional desires. I joined and continue to work in the field of education because I want to be a force of positive impact that helps those who live in the community I serve.

As we were grappling with elements of scholar and community identities last week, I’ve really begun to consider various aspects of research in general. Who is my community? Am I an insider? Outsider? Or some odd hybrid? Who ultimately is the beneficiary of the research? How do I ensure that they do benefit from the research? If I’m not a “part” of the community, can I even accurately identify what problems exist in the community?

I feel like these questions were not necessarily answered but enhanced from some of this weeks readings. A few texts in particular grabbed my attention and caused me to critically reconsider the above questions.

The first article that really made me reflect on the previous questions was Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights from the Council of Youth Research (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews, 2013). This article followed a project of the Council of Youth Research in Los Angeles as they taught high school youth how to do research and then supported them as they altered some traditional tools and practices to fit their needs. The students conducted various branches of research around schooling in their local community and many of the action research participants had personal connections to findings, experiences and systems it illuminated. I think I particularly connected to this article because it seemed that these students immediately benefited from the process and findings of the research. The students walked away from the experience being more informed advocates for equitable educational opportunities in LA.

Another set of text that confounded the questions that I’ve been grappling with, comes from the book Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies (Denzin, Lincoln & Smith, 2008). A major component of the text is to analyze the methodologies and practices of traditional research and eradicate practices that reinforce colonization practices. A means of doing that, is to truly allow indigenous cultures and communities create their own research agendas, identify their own problems and conduct the research in ways that uphold their values and practices. This speaks to at least two of my main concerns. Research that is conducted in this manner truly benefits the community because it rises out of a need they’ve established. It also addresses the concept of whether or not an outsider of the community can accurately identify a problem. I think this text has caused me to believe that yes, an outsider might be able to identify elements of a problem that plagues the community but they may not ever necessarily identify or establish the importance, ramifications or depth of that problem themselves. I think the text establishes ways in which “outsiders” can assist communities in research but it really is described as completely altruistic and at the mercy of the community.

One last text that I was particularly drawn to was an article entitled, ‘Keeping Up the Good Fight’: the said and unsaid in Flores v. Arizona’, (Thomas, Risri Aletheiani, Carlson, & Ewbank, 2014). This particular article was crafted and organized very well and took a very interesting view and research stance on the Flores v. Arizona case and its implications for English Language Learning students in Arizona. I think one thing that immediately caught my attention and was present throughout the article, was the very objective and distant feel of the text. I think the authors did a profound job of connecting novel concepts to the plight of ELL students and Arizonans as well as crafting very poignant images that help illustrate that plight even more. However, what I didn’t get from this article that I felt from some of the others is a sense of personal connection. I understand that writing articles in a small group may drown out a strong, individual voice and even the article that this text was written for may demand very removed, distanced writing but I couldn’t help feel that this article was written in a fashion of an outsider looking in.

That may very well not be the case, but upon reflecting on the idea of participatory action research and the role that we as community members have in serving the needs of that community, I can’t help be believe that my research should be something that I’m not only passionate about but personally connected to. I hope to see that my writing reflects that element of community member fervor and that it ultimately benefits my community.

Bautista, M. A., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights from the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record, 115(10).

Denzin, N. K., Lincoln, Y. S., & Smith, L. T. (2008, May 7). Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies (N. K. Denzin, Y. S. Lincoln, & L. T. Smith). Sage.

Shulman, L. S., Golde, C. M., Bueschel, A. C., & Garabedian, K. J. (2006). Reclaiming education’s doctorates: A critique and a proposal. Educational Researcher, 35(3), 25-32.

Thomas, M. H., Risri Aletheiani, D., Carlson, D. L., & Ewbank, A. D. (2014). ‘Keeping Up the Good Fight’: the said and unsaid in Flores v. Arizona. Policy Futures in Education, 12(2), 242-261.

Learning from youth

What happens when marginalized and oppressed youth are invited to participate as equal partners in research about their educational experiences?

The Council of Youth Research, based in Los Angeles and highlighted in an article published in the Teachers College Record (2013) , provide compelling testimony. This team of researchers, comprised of students and faculty at both the high school and college level, is doing amazing and innovative research on educational inequity in their city.  The team’s methods, insights, and reports serve as a model for the awesome potential of youth participatory action research.

The authors describe a comprehensive research plan that entails various forms of qualitative research in conjunction with quantitative data analysis.  The research team is also intentional about making sure all voices are included and represented equally.  For me, the most impressive aspect of the team’s work is the variety and creativity of ways in which the youth share their findings.  They use a multimedia approach that includes articles, PowerPoint presentations, video documentaries, and even rap.

I am inspired by the variety of methods the team uses to convey knowledge.  The multifaceted approach is intentionally inclusive, aimed so that a multitude of stakeholders can access the research findings.  It is accessibility at its finest.  This appeals to me both as someone who values inclusion and as a researcher committed to conducting research that benefits people.  Too often, research results are confined to arcane academic journals or conferences that only a privileged minority can access.  Sadly, social science research that actually could make a positive difference is not shared with people in positions of power who could implement interventions.  I am drawn to the idea of disseminating knowledge gleaned from action research in multiple ways so that more people can be exposed to and benefit from it.  Thus, one of the key lessons I learned from reading this article is that it is not only important to use a variety of methods to conduct research; it is paramount to use a variety of methods to distribute research findings.

After reading this article, I am excited about the possibilities offered by youth participatory action research and eager to try it in my own work.  My goal is to ultimately produce an innovative intervention to improve the retention, satisfaction, and success of ASU freshmen, and it seems that the most effective way to do this would be to partner with this population in designing a study to better understand their needs and experiences.  I am convinced after reading this article that involving individuals in all phases of research intended to benefit their community is the best way to achieve success.

My main concern is regarding how I could possibly replicate the practices used by the Council of Youth Research.  The time commitment required by university researchers and the high school students is enormous.  As noted by the authors of the article, Council members met for approximately 40 hours per week.  I wonder how the adults were able to get students to agree to such an extensive time commitment.  Even if I were able to figure out a way to get a group of ASU freshmen to agree to a similar schedule, it would be impossible for me to do so, given my status as a full-time employee.  I wonder what alternative arrangements might be feasible for arriving at results similar to those presented by the Council.


Bautista, M., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D. & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory
Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth
Research. Teachers College Record, 115(100303),1­23.

Dare to Inspire

As an undergraduate, in an education program, there is one question that is presented over and over again. “Why do you want to be a teacher?” In general, there are two answers to this question:  one, the person answering had a wonderful educational experience and wants to reproduce the same experience for others or, two, the person answering had a horrible educational experience and wants to create a better experience for future students. Details in the answers change, but the underlying idea stays the same. People become teachers because they want to do right by children. My answer is no different. I had some amazing teachers and I saw the impact they had on students’ lives. I wanted to affect that kind of change.

As I was sitting in a planning meeting for next school year, we were discussing data and how do we go about impacting our student achievement; in particular, our low and at risk students. The terms that came up over and over again were “making connections,” “real life problems” and “making learning meaningful.”

Essentially, we were brainstorming about how to inspire our students.  I couldn’t stop thinking of an article I read, Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological insights from the Council of Youth Research. The article is actually discussing an approach to research which includes students, teachers, graduate students and professors. This in itself was exciting to think about, but what I kept coming back to is the impact that this experience would have on the students involved in the project.

The students are identifying problems within their community and actively participating in the research, working directly with adults who value their opinion and empower them to not only define the problem and find solutions, but to voice it. (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews, 2013) In Medicine Stories, Morales says that healing will start when a community starts to discuss the trauma or injustice that has affected them.  (Morales, 1998) The students involved in the Council of Youth Research have lived inequality in their education, but the students have now started to deal with how this inequality has affected them and they are becoming change makers. They are researching and assisting in the project, but consider the learning that is taking place in the Council.

The problems being discussed and researched are “real life” problems and they are problems that directly impact the students. “Students are expected to learn and use research methods in order to produce knowledge about their educational experience so that they can develop identities as critical agents who work to facilitate change in education.” (Bautista et al., 2013) Setting aside the skills the students are learning in research, writing, presenting, interviewing…etc., imagine the impact on how these students view themselves and what they are able to affect. Picture the kind of learning that would take place on a daily basis if we, as teachers, could make the concepts as personal to our students.

In an excerpt from the Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies there is a discussion about the difference between how Western culture and the Native American culture approaches science. The author isn’t arguing that one is better over the other, it simply spells out the differences and he states that, “These two approaches can complement one another.”  He goes on to say that in order for science to have meaning for students, “that meaning must be inherent in both the content and presentation.” In other words, teachers must know their community and culture of students and present the information in a way that is relevant for the student. “The first step in motivating and enhancing learning of any sort is by encouraging involvement in the learning process.” (Denizin, Lincoln, & Tuhiwai Smith, 2008)

It is easy, as a teacher, to become caught up in the overload of responsibilities our position demands and sometimes we forget why we became teachers. We are not in a job where we go home and leave work at work. That is what makes our job amazing because we are directly impacting the life of a child. We get to inspire students to do and be their best, but in order to do so, it is imperative that we approach our students in a fashion that is culturally relevant for them. We have to ask our students what is important to them. We need to allow our students to identify the problems they see around them and to search out solutions. More importantly, what would happen if we empowered our students to speak out against injustices?  How many students would blossom just by the experience of having an adult value their opinion and work? What would our schools look like if we had mini councils of youth research happening in our classrooms? I bet the teachers would end up being just as inspired as the students.



Bautista, M. A., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory action research and city youth: Methodological insights from the Council of Youth Research. Techers College Record, 115(October 2013), 1–23.

Denizin, N. K., Lincoln, Y. S., & Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2008). Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies: Chapter 24. Sage Publications Inc.

Morales, A. L. (1998). Medicine stories: History, culture and the politics of integrity (p. 135). Cambridge: South End Press.

Students and the Power of their Voices

As I read the article Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights from the Council of Youth Research (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews), my mind was flooded with how many different ways the article appealed to me.


The main thrust of the article was about bringing Latino and African American youth into the process of action research.  In particular, giving a voice to minority students who, research has shown, have often become disenfranchised within the public school systems.  I think that is a phenomenal idea and read with intrigue about the steps taken and the results that occurred. Taking high school students and guiding them through the scientific methods of Participatory Action Research is an incredibly powerful learning experience.  The educational value of teaching students to be researchers, alone, is enormous.  Yet that was just the first part.  The students then took it to the next level by researching a question that impacted their lives: that of being able to access an equitable, quality based education.


What struck me almost immediately was how the article connected in my mind to a portion of the book Why Race and Culture Matter In Schools (Howard, 2010).  In chapter 5, Howard discusses some interviews that he conducted as part of a research team while he was also working with African American and Latino high school students. The interviews gave the students a chance to voice their perceptions and detail some of things that have happened to them over their years as students.  It focused on how teachers and counselors within the school system have made comments to them implying that, by virtue of their minority status alone, they may not be as capable or as qualified to take the more difficult course like their peers.


When I linked these two pieces of writing together in my mind, it seemed to make perfect sense.  First, both tackle the issue of the imbalance that happens in schools to minority students.  It addressed how some students are the recipients of the problems but so often they aren’t allowed to have a voice or a platform.  The opportunity to teach students how to become action researchers allows them do more than remain passively frustrated without an outlet.  It gives them a chance to learn about a situation, research it, and then hopefully acquire the skills to act on it in the future.


Second, it creates another proposal, in my mind, to the ideas of how schools can create change within their cultures.  Much of Howard’s book was dedicated to the premise of changing teachers’ perceptions.  One idea he strongly advocated was through teacher self-reflection.  He stated that value very succinctly and powerfully.  The thought, though, occurred to me that not all teachers are going to be good at self-reflective behavior.  Even those who are good may need a little more prodding to truly understand the impact–nee devastation– that their words are doing to those they are saying them to.  Words that, when they were spoken, may have been said with seemingly good intentions but that was not how those same words were heard in our students’ ears.  Those teachers may need a mirror in addition to their own journals.  The mirror of students’ voices and stories to propel them to change.  The mirror of research results from students who could be fortunate enough to be able to participate in a Youth Participatory Action Research program.


The last way that this article connected to me was in the ways that I might be able to try and empower my students within my own classroom.  I teach fifth graders and they are clearly not ready to tackle something of this magnitude.  One of the parts that made the research in the article so wonderful was the authentic nature of the research.  That leads me to ponder about opportunities that I can stay open for that might allow my students to engage in a very simplified version of an action research project of their own.  Not in any sense of it being “valid” but for the value that my students can learn about becoming active learners and engaged participants in society.



Bautista, M., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews C. (2013). Participatory action research and city youth: methodological insights from the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record 15. Retrieved from


Howard, T. C. (2010).  Why race and culture matter in schools.  New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Changing the way we research to make change

From working in Title I schools throughout my entire career, I have seen lots of ‘research’ being used to justify why we are making sudden changes to our methodologies and curriculum. However, it does not seem that those who are making these decisions are thinking about whether these changes make sense for our students. For example, did they ask questions such as what was the setting of the study? Did participants share a similar context to our students and teachers? With this in mind, I was pleased to see that our readings this week were connected to action research, as maybe I could find some evidence to support my feeling that action research or traditional research for that matter is not necessarily directly transferable to students within my own context.

To start, it was refreshing to see that the study conducted by Bautista, Morrell, Bertrand, D’Artagan and Matthews (2013), was rooted in the fact that low-income students of color are not only not given the same educational opportunities as higher income students, but that any research that involves these students “consistently lacks the voices of these students themselves” (p. 1). I agree with them on their points that traditionally, we have seen research that simply legitimizes the experiences of some and just ignores the perspectives of others (Bautista, et. al., p. 3). It is because of this that the researches suggest an alternative approach to action research, such as implementing participatory action research, where the subjects are directly involved and invested in the investigation process.

I absolutely can see why having the participatory action research approach is crucial in thinking about my own research agenda. I am interested in the best approaches to teaching kids how to read. I cannot be completely objective in researching these approaches if I do not include student judgment. From the research that is out there, students are coming from multiple contexts; who knows whether or not they are similar to those students that I am trying to help? As students are the ones who I want to help, shouldn’t they then have a voice in the process? Yes they should, as the point of action research is to identify a problem in a particular setting or community and to have the participants be the ones who give us the knowledge from the study (Bautista, et. al., p. 3).

There is absolutely an issue with our most disadvantaged students reaching their full potential due to the barriers associated with poverty. We can theorize and theorize for hours about how to solve the problem, but the reality is that it will not get solved unless those affected are participating in their own research to ensure that their oppressions are overcome (Bautista, et. al., p. 10). This is especially critical when we think about the power ownership of learning has on students and families. As Liou, Antrop-González, and Cooper (2009) show, high achieving low-income students of color identified family as the reason they are successful academically, above school (p. 541). These students had families who supported them because they believed they were going to college; they felt like they ‘owned’ this goal. Therefore, I believe this same notion could be applied to action research. Action research will only be successful if students and families play a key role in the process, as they do not see the school, as the largest influence. If we do not involve students and families, we researchers take the risk that the work we conduct will not increase educational access.


Bautista, M. A., Morrell, E., Bertrand, M., D’Artagan, S., & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory Action Research and City Youth : Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research. Teacher’s College Record, 115(100303), 1–23.

Liou, D. D., Antrop-González, R., & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks. Educational Studies, 45(6), 534–555. doi:10.1080/00131940903311347

Hip-Hop: One Step Away from Youth Participatory Action Research





I love hip-hop! Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1980s and 90s hip-hop was the norm– the culture. Even if you weren’t a B-Boy (beat boy) or B-Girl there were elements of hip-hop youth incorporated into our being. My brother wore squeaky-clean tennis shoes with ironed jeans and ironed t-shirts. For me, hip-hop confirmed my suspicions that something wasn’t right in the world. It also reflected my reality back to me with places, sayings, sights and sounds that I could relate. It affirmed who I was as a brown person in a white-dominated society.

There’s divinity within because we come from the divine,

A force that’s not seen, but you feel it every time:

When the wind blows, and the world turns,

And the rain drops, and the baby cries,

And the bird flies, and the ground quake,

And the stars gleam.

– Q-Tip, “The Remedy,” from Get on the Bus Soundtrack, 1996


I was listening to rap by Q-Tip, Queen Latifa, Heavy D., Salt-N-Pepa, Public Enemy, Wu-Tang Clan, LL Cool J, Mos Def, Run DMC, and of course 2Pac and Snoop Dogg. Hip-hop was a counterculture movement that gave voice to youth who felt powerless against the system, who wanted to expose the system for what it was- historically and currently oppressive to black and brown peoples. Hip-hop was expression, freedom, it was speaking up and bringing attention to our condition but also cathartic, it was a way to keep from going insane. This was also the War on Drugs era when everybody in the ‘hood had a family member, or two, or three, addicted to crack. The police were the enemy. There were drive-bys and “jackings” (being robbed up close and personal) happening every day in South Central. So hip-hop was our sanctuary, our way to “speak truth to power” (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza & Matthews, 2013, p. 4).

Speaking truth to and about systems of power is what youth participatory action research (YPAR) is about (Bautista et al., 2013). It is a research methodology that puts youth at the center of their own lives through research they conduct about their experiences. As Bautista and his colleagues describe, “…YPAR is many things: a pedagogical practice, a form of resistance, a revising of whose knowledge is valuable, a tool of decolonization, and a radical research methodology” (Bautista et al., 2013, p. 5). Like rap, “…youth in YPAR develop their cultural consciousness” (Bautista et al., 2013, p. 6). Unlike rap, YPAR teaches youth tools to conduct multi-modal research about their communities so that they are armed with data to challenge systems of inequity.

I was able to find a presentation on my Los Angeles high school conducted by a California Council of Youth research group. The research about my high school, Manual Arts, indicated overcrowding, lack of or poor quality educational supplies, unavailability of counselors and teachers for guidance and poor preparation for college. Students identified three demands: money must be invested into course and school supplies, easy access to school counselors, and increased after-school and extracurricular activities (Armstrong, et al., 2010). Change takes time, but it is through youth participatory action research that educational equity can be achieved with the input of all stakeholders.


Armstrong, A., Dominguez, G., Herrera, J., McCoy, M., Torres, R. & McClain, R. (2010).  They have learned to live it down as though they did not care [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from

Bautista, M.A., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., D’Artangnan, S. & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights from the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record, 115(100303), 1-23


Issues in Critical Teacher Reflection

In the scope of my professional life, one of my strong areas of interest is the development and delivery of research-backed professional development that enables teachers to increase their students’ achievement. So, as I read author Tyrone C. Howard’s piece, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection, I was intrigued by what he outlines as, “ways that teacher educators can equip preservice teachers with the necessary skills to critically reflect on their own racial and cultural identities…” (Howard, 2003). This line, in particular, stood out to me because he is speaking directly to me and others that serve in this and similar capacities.

The process he details, attempts to get participants to tackle several deep philosophical questions that would cause, even the most reflective among us, to struggle. The questions seek, I believe intentionally so, to strike at the very core of the one’s being, posing things such as, “Who am I?” and “what do I believe?” with the intent that reflections on such questions will yield insights as to how a teacher’s identity coexists with those of his or her students, and the interplay between the two or more differing identities (Howard, 2003. p.199).  I see this presenting several unique and distinct problems that, unless specifically addressed, might confound the ideal outcome of truly critical and constructive reflection on one’s own teaching practices, biases, prejudices, race, and culture.

The first challenge I foresee for many schools is one of access. As I try to envision the qualities and qualifications of a person who would be competent and command enough authority on the subject to successfully facilitate a 3-day long preservice discussion, I expect that very few people, in a majority-White teaching population, could complete such a complex task (Howard, 2010). Perhaps this would not necessarily be the job of one person, but rather of a diverse team of people, working together within their own particular contexts regarding race. Further, in Howard’s later (2010) work, he discusses the paralyzing effect that conversations about race can have on people in the White majority, suggesting that discussions are often crippled by, “our fear, our sweaty palms, our anxiety about saying the wrong thing, or using the wrong words” (Howard, 2010, p. 102). These difficulties underscore how important it is to create a space in which participants feel safe enough to share, whether through writing, as Howard suggests, as it is more personal and private, conversations, or other activities, and comfortable enough to make themselves vulnerable to their peers in such a sensitive subject.

From my personal experience as an external professional development and implementation coaching provider, I know how essential the tone and culture that the facilitator sets is to the success of the session. Additionally, I have found that teachers and other educational professionals are often skeptical of someone coming in who doesn’t explicitly know them or their students, which can result in hostility, anger, passivity, cynicism, or unengaged participation. Therefore, I foresee a second layer of access issues for many campuses; if they’re able to find someone who can successfully navigate the difficult terrain of race-related conversations, there is the second requisition that the person also be able to relate to the participants to the point that he or she can set a tone and culture conducive enough to compel colleagues to share very personal thoughts and feelings.

The final issue I found in Howard’s suggestion, was not with the logistical and implementation issues of critical teacher reflection, but rather the emphasis that teachers answer questions like, “who am I?” and “what do I believe?” (Howard, 2003, p.199). I imagine that the average response of a teacher to such philosophically profound and esoteric questions would result in very reductionist answers that, instead of truly capturing who one is (if such a notion can even be put into words), would result in a person’s being being reduced to a set of criteria, or a list on paper (e.g. I am a mother, a teacher, an American, etc.), neither of which can approach the essence of who that person is at their most fundamental level.

It is with the above sentiments that I am skeptical that Howard’s suggestions of critical teacher reflection can be so easily implemented at the schools most in need of culture transformation, to one that moves away from deficit-based thinking to being culturally responsive to the diverse needs of a diverse student population.


Works Cited:

Howard, C. (2003). Culturally relevant pedagogy: ingredients for critical teacher reflection. Theory Into Practice, 42(3), 195–202.

Howard, T. C. (2010). Why race and culture matter in schools: closing the achievement gap in America’s classrooms. New York, N.Y.: Teachers College Press.