1st Edition

Active Learning
Social Justice Education and Participatory Action Research

ISBN 9781138821712
Published March 26, 2015 by Routledge
222 Pages

USD $58.95

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Book Description

While many educators acknowledge the challenges of a curriculum shaped by test preparation, implementing meaningful new teaching strategies can be difficult. Active Learning presents an examination of innovative, interactive teaching strategies that were successful in engaging urban students who struggled with classroom learning. Drawing on rich ethnographic data, the book proposes participatory action research as a viable approach to teaching and learning that supports the development of multiple literacies in writing, reading, research and oral communication. As Wright argues, in connecting learning to authentic purposes and real world consequences, participatory action research can serve as a model for meaningful urban school reform.

After an introduction to the history and demographics of the working-class West Coast neighborhood in which the described PAR project took place, the book discusses the "pedagogy of praxis" method and the project’s successful development of student voice, sociopolitical analysis capacities, leadership skills, empowerment and agency. Topics addressed include an analysis and discussion of the youth-driven PAR process, the reactions of student researchers, and the challenges for adults in maintaining youth and adult partnerships. A thought-provoking response to current educational challenges, Active Learning offers both timely implications for educational reform and recommendations to improve school policies and practices.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: Introduction

Overview of the Central Youth United Participatory Action Research Project

Researcher Location and Research Commitments

Research Methods and the Study Context

Overview of the Book

Organization of the Book

Chapter 2: Participatory Action Research (PAR) with Youth as Pedagogy


What is Active Learning?

The Youth Discourses: Systems of Reasoning that Frame Young People


The Role of Asset-based Pedagogies in Building Sociopolitical Consciousness

The Contexts of Schooling and Learning

What is Participatory Action Research with Youth?

PAR with Youth as a Teaching and Learning Approach

PAR as a Pedagogical Approach in the Central Youth United Project

Chapter 3: The Context of Central Youth United and Participant Profiles


Profile of the Central Neighborhood

Background of the Central Youth United Project

Overview of the Central Youth United Project

Central Youth United Student Researcher Profiles










Profiles of Organizations Affiliated with the CYU Project

Central Community Development Center (CCDC)

Central Community Organizing Alliance

Representing Ourselves

Sister Space

Central Youth Task Force

Youth Voices

Chapter 4: A Pedagogy of Praxis: Connecting Reflection and Action


Participatory Action Research as a Structured Teaching Approach

CYU’s Purpose and Goals and Motivations to Join the Project

A Community Building Curriculum to Promote Collaborative Inquiry

A Gradual Process to Bolster Marginalized Students’ Voice

A Pedagogy that Supports Youth Participation and Active Learning

Structured Activities to Elicit Youth Voice, Experiences and Perspectives

Teaching Strategies to Guide and Build Knowledge Producers

Conclusion: A Pedagogy of Praxis Approach

Chapter 5: Situated Learning: Change Agents in a Meaningful Purpose


Youth Input and Decision-making: Contributing Ideas and Experiences

Relational Leadership: A Dialogical Process in Communities of Practice

Group Accountability within Relational Leadership

Inspiring Teamwork and Engagement in Others Through Relational Leadership

Peer Mentorship as a Component of Relational Leadership Development

Emergent Leadership Roles: Situated Learning

A Sense of Ownership

Adult Role in Increasing Project Ownership

Developing Agency, Commitment and Accountability

Features of Youth-led Work and Challenges

Challenges in Supporting a Youth-led Process

Conclusion: Situated Learning and Building Agency

Situated Learning

Connecting Ownership, Agency and Motivation through Communities of Practice

Positive Youth Development and Participation

Chapter 6: Promoting Sociopolitical Analysis Skills


A Dialogic Approach that Taps Funds of Knowledge to Actively Construct Ideas

Developing Sociopolitical Analysis Skills

The Role of Vulnerability in Understanding Shared Challenges

Conclusion: Sociopolitical Analysis Development

Chapter 7: Empowering Youth as Experts and Knowledge Producers


Successful Interventions by Instructors to Resolve Interpersonal Conflicts

Increasing Voice and Empowerment to Build Agency

Impact of the PAR Presentation and Next Steps


Chapter 8: Tensions and Dilemmas in Sustaining Collaborative Work


Catalyzing Events Impacting Group Dynamics

The Importance of Reflective Space In Group Processes

The Importance of Critical Care Approaches in Teaching Students of Color

Tensions in Partnerships between Student Researchers and Instructors

Impacts of Jason’s Disengagement on Group Dynamics

Lessons Learned about Instructors’ Roles and Interventions

Teaching Codes of Power to Navigate Environments

Sacrificing the Whole for One: The Need for Boundaries

The Construction of Four Context-Free "Bad Boys"


Roles, Strategies and Approaches in Central Youth United

Design Issue: An Unfit Match?

Design and Planning Issue: A Lack of Support for Instructors

Design Issue: Bridging Two Youth Organizations

Design Issue: Connecting Macro- and Micro-level Violence

Conclusion: Implications for Youth and Adult Partnerships

Adults’ Support of Participatory Action Research Projects with Youth

Chapter 9: Conclusion

Summary of Key Points

A Pedagogy of Praxis

Significance of a Pedagogy of Praxis

Sociopolitical Analysis Development

Relational Leadership and Agency

Youth and Adult Partnerships: Power With

Dilemmas and Challenges the PAR Project Faced

Transferability of Study Findings

Recommendations for Teaching and Schools: PAR as Pedagogy

Recommendations for Practice: Participatory Action Research

Implications for Policy and Planning

Implications for Future Research




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Dana E. Wright is an Assistant Professor of Education at Connecticut College.