ArticlePDF Available

Assessing the Key Processes of Youth-Led Participatory Research


Abstract and Figures

Youth-led Participatory Action Research (YPAR)—in which young people conduct research aimed at improving problems in their schools and communities—is increasing in public health, youth development, and education. We report on the development and psychometric testing of the YPAR Process Template (YPT)—to assess the quality of key YPAR processes in a systematic, flexible manner. Pairs of raters independently coded 40 live and videotaped observations. All scales achieved good to excellent interrater reliability with the exception of the power sharing over major decisions scale, which had interrater reliability in the acceptable range. This instrument can be useful for a range of settings practicing YPAR and similar youth empowerment programs. We further report findings generated by YPT assessments that demonstrate that power sharing was a robust predictor of observed youth engagement in the YPAR classes after controlling for the classes’ baseline level of engagement.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Youth & Society
2015, Vol. 47(1) 29 –50
© The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0044118X12468011
68011Youth & SocietyOzer and Douglas
© The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permissions:
1UC-Berkeley School of Public Health, Berkeley, CA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Emily J. Ozer, UC-Berkeley School of Public Health, 50 University Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720,
Assessing the Key
Processes of Youth-Led
Participatory Research:
Psychometric Analysis
and Application of an
Observational Rating Scale
Emily J. Ozer1 and Laura Douglas1
Youth-led Participatory Action Research (YPAR)—in which young people
conduct research aimed at improving problems in their schools and commu-
nities—is increasing in public health, youth development, and education. We
report on the development and psychometric testing of the YPAR Process
Template (YPT)—to assess the quality of key YPAR processes in a systematic,
flexible manner. Pairs of raters independently coded 40 live and videotaped
observations. All scales achieved good to excellent interrater reliability with
the exception of the power sharing over major decisions scale, which had
interrater reliability in the acceptable range. This instrument can be use-
ful for a range of settings practicing YPAR and similar youth empowerment
programs. We further report findings generated by YPT assessments that
demonstrate that power sharing was a robust predictor of observed youth
engagement in the YPAR classes after controlling for the classes’ baseline
level of engagement.
participatory action research, youth-led evaluation, process, observations
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
30 Youth & Society 47(1)
There is a growing demand in the youth development, public health, and
education fields for strategies that engage young people and create avenues
for youth participation in improving schools, health programs, and other
youth-serving organizations. Participatory research is increasingly being
used as a model to facilitate and encourage youth participation in these
improvements (Cargo, Grams, Ottoson, Ward, & Green, 2003; Mitra, 2004;
Nieto, 1994; Shor, 1996). Youth-led participatory action research (YPAR) is
a form of community-based participatory research (CBPR) that guides
young people through an iterative process of collective research and reflec-
tion to understand the situations in which they find themselves, and use that
knowledge to take action to improve those settings (Baum, MacDougall, &
Smith, 2006).
Core elements of YPAR involve the training of young people to identify
major concerns in their schools and communities, conduct research to under-
stand the nature of the problems, and take leadership in influencing policies
and decisions to enhance the conditions in which they live (London, 2001;
Mitra, 2004). YPAR shares values (and some methods) with other youth
organizing and empowerment approaches focused on increasing the power of
young people and improving their lives, schools, and communities (Brown &
Rodriguez, 2009; Cammarota & Fine, 2007; Freire, 1994; Ginwright,
Noguera, & Cammarota, 2006; Kirshner, 2007; McIntyre, 2000). YPAR,
however, is unique in its focus on systematic research—enacted by the young
people—to inform their actions and advocacy in addition to their own life
Identification of Key Processes and Implementation Quality
Despite recent interest in YPAR as a promising intervention in multiple fields
and a growth in published literature that documents the efforts, successes, and
challenges of diverse projects (Foster-Fishman, Law, Lichty, & Aoun, 2010;
Ginwright et al., 2006; McIntyre, 2000; Mitra, 2004; Ozer et al., 2008;
Sánchez, 2009; Schensul, LoBianco, & Lombardo, 2004; Suleiman, A.,
Soleimanpour, S., & London, J. (2006), there has been little quantitative or
mixed-methods evaluation of YPAR processes and outcomes thus far. One
major obstacle to the evaluation of YPAR—whether for continuous improve-
ment or more formal analysis of impact—is the lack of valid and reliable
methods for the assessment of key processes. Systematic assessment of YPAR
implementation process is particularly challenging because of the flexibility
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Ozer and Douglas 31
of the approach. By design, YPAR is not a “packaged” intervention but rather
a process in which young people—with guidance from adult facilitators—
make key decisions regarding the problem to be addressed, research methods,
and action steps. The iterative processes of research and action inherent in
YPAR are expected to unfold differently in diverse settings and may vary in
relative emphases on research and action as youth researchers respond to
opportunities and constraints in their schools and communities.
While recognizing the diversity of YPAR projects in terms of the specific
paths of research and action taken, it is important to identify underlying key
processes that would be expected to cut across diverse projects. Valid and
reliable measures for assessing what is meant by a “good enough” implemen-
tation of YPAR can inform the continuous improvement of practice and the
diffusion of more effective approaches. As YPAR gains popularity across
fields, a common understanding of the change processes that lead to positive
outcomes is necessary to move away from “black box” evaluations (Chen &
Rossi, 1989; Karachi, Abbott, Catalano, Haggerty, & Fleming, 1999). Multi-
method evaluation of YPAR can support explanations for youth-level out-
comes and impact, and suggest pathways through which classroom level
processes may help explain school or organization-wide impact.
Prior research and theory on the general processes and outcomes of psy-
chological empowerment emphasize the promotion of socialpolitical under-
standing, shared decision making, relevant skill development, working
together to solve problems, active engagement in the community, and the
creation of mutual support systems as key processes (Cargo et al., 2003;
Checkoway, Dobbie, & Richards-Schuster, 2003; Jennings, Parra-Medina,
Hilfinger Messias, & McLoughlin, 2006; Schensul, Berg, & Sydlo, 2004;
Zimmerman, 1995, 2000; Zimmerman, Israel, Schulz, & Checkoway, 1992)
As outlined earlier, YPAR, like other forms of CBPR, reflects these empow-
ering processes and is further characterized by the specific iterative process
of integrated research and action. Based on these literatures and in our own
extensive research with 44 semester-cohorts of YPAR projects in urban pub-
lic schools, we proposed a set of seven YPAR processes to be operationalized
to assess implementation quality (Ozer et al., 2010).
Core YPAR processes as shown in Table 1 thus include (a) iterative inte-
gration of research and action; (b) training and practice of research skills;
(c) the practice of strategic thinking and discussing strategies for influencing
change; (d) building of supportive networks by reaching out to school and
community stakeholders; and (e) teacher’s sharing of power with students in
the research and action process. Power sharing is a theoretically central
dimension of YPAR. In principle, the youth-led approach entails the young
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
32 Youth & Society 47(1)
people exerting power over key aspects of the research and action process
(e.g., topic selection, research methods, data analysis, action steps) with
adults in a support role. In practice, sharing power such that students experi-
ence a sense of ownership over YPAR projects can be hard to enact. Skillful
scaffolding from adults is needed to promote young people’s sense of owner-
ship while helping them manage challenges such as deadlines and conflicts
(Larson, Walker, & Pearce, 2005; Mitra, 2004; Vygotsky, 1978). This balance
of power may be particularly hard in hierarchically structured school settings
in which teachers are held accountable for students’ learning, and students’
change efforts may confront politically charged problems and policies.
Beyond the core dimensions, other processes that are inherent in a high-
quality implementation of YPAR but are not unique to it include expansion of
the social network of the youth; opportunities and guidance for working in
groups to achieve goals; the development of skills to communicate with other
youth and adult stakeholders; the teacher’s flexibility regarding classroom
projects or structure; teacher’s emphasis on student perspectives; and the
engagement of the students in the classroom activities (Ozer et al., 2010).
Study Goals
The first goal of this study was to operationalize YPAR processes via the
development of a valid and reliable measurement tool—the YPAR Process
Table 1. YPAR Processes Outlined by Ozer et al. (2010).
Central YPAR processes
Iterative integration of research and action
Training and practice of research skills
The practice of strategic thinking and discussing strategies for influencing change
Building of supportive networks by reaching out to school and community
Teacher’s sharing of power with students in the research and action process
Processes that are important—but not unique—to YPAR
Expansion of the social network of the youth
Opportunities and guidance for working in groups to achieve goals
The development of skills to communicate with other youth and adult stakeholders
The teacher’s flexibility regarding classroom projects or structure
Teacher’s emphasis on student perspectives
The engagement of the students in the classroom activities
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Ozer and Douglas 33
Template (YPT)—to assess the quality of YPAR implementation. This mea-
sure is intended to be flexible enough to use in a range of school and out-of-
school settings, and for subscales that are not focused on research training to
be useful to practitioners and evaluators of youth empowerment and organiz-
ing projects. Here, we first report on the formative development and psycho-
metric testing of the YPT observational measure (Phase 1). Second, guided
by relevant theory, we investigated the relationship between enhanced stu-
dent power and student engagement in the YPAR projects using a larger
longitudinal data set from the same study (Phase 2). Consistent with findings
from the educational psychology literature, we expected that young people
who experienced greater control would demonstrate greater behavioral
engagement in the YPAR activities (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Shernoff,
Csikszentmihalyi, Schneider, & Shernoff, 2003; Skinner & Belmont, 1993).
The present study was conducted in the context of a larger mixed-method
intervention study investigating the impact of youth-led participatory research
on students and their school settings. Consistent with the policy of the school
district and the university institutional review board (IRB), the parents/
guardians of these students provided their signed consent and the youth pro-
vided signed assent. Phase 1 of the present study, the development and psycho-
metric testing of the YPT, was conducted in 14 semester-long classes in four
urban public schools over two years. Participating schools were diverse in
terms of size, ethnic diversity, and achievement level. School size ranged from
approximately 200 to 2,000 students, with Asian American students compris-
ing the majority at two of the four sites and Latino/Hispanic students com-
prising the majority at the other two sites. Schools ranged from 577 to 938 on
the Academic Performance Index (API), a statewide school-level indicator of
student performance (range = 200 to 1,000), and enrolled between 35% and
57% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, an indicator of poverty.
Four teachers (two male, two female) participated across 14 semester-long
cohorts; class sizes ranged from 3 to 17 students (mean = 10.7, SD = 4.8) aged
14 to 19 years (mean = 16.8, SD = 1). More than 60% of participants were
female; the greatest proportion identified as Latino (38%), followed by Asian/
Pacific Islander (29%), African American (21%), and Caucasian (5%). The
variability in the class sizes is reflective of the policies at the schools allowing
students to take elective courses, such as the YPAR class.
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
34 Youth & Society 47(1)
The problems addressed in the YPAR projects were decided by the stu-
dents with facilitation from their teachers and ranged according to the school
and cohort. Topics included the prevention of school drop out; smoothing the
transition to ninth grade; stress related to family, academics, or peers; improv-
ing the school lunch; cyber-bullying; sexual health; safety and hygiene in the
school bathrooms; improving teaching practices to engage diverse students;
and improving interethnic friendships at the school. Each project lasted at
least one semester. The curriculum used by the teachers represented an
adapted version of existing YPAR curricula (London, 2001; Sydlo, 2000).
While the teachers were provided with a manual tailored to their district and
classes, they also engaged in monthly and as needed consultation with the
study authors and biweekly consultation with a supervisor to target the needs
of their specific project.
In the issue-selection phase, the teacher-facilitators led multiple class ses-
sions to help students decide on a topic as a group, and to pick topics that
were within the scope of feasible action. With training and guidance from
their teachers and the university team, students engaged in a research phase
to study and understand the problem using a range of survey, interview,
observational, and multimedia approaches for data collection as determined
by each group of student researchers. In the action phase, the teacher-facilitators
helped students to identify specific and feasible actions that they could take
within the time frame to address the problem, with the understanding that it
was likely beyond the scope of the project to fully solve it.
Data collection for Phase 1 was conducted via a combination of live obser-
vations with pairs of raters and videotaping of classes for ratings in the
research lab. All four teachers agreed to have their classes rated in the live
coding sessions and three agreed to have their classes videotaped. Of the 40
observations included in this analysis, 23 were live class sessions lasting 50
to 90 min and 17 were video clips between 20 and 45 min in length that rep-
resented the substantive portions of the classroom activities for the day. For
the reliability analysis, teachers were not given prior notice about when the
team would videotape or conduct live ratings. Classrooms were chosen for
coding based on availability of raters, with an effort to include raters avail-
able for multiple sites and class times. During reliability testing, raters scored
seven additional video observations to rate the “power sharing over major
decisions” scale, owing to challenges in establishing reliability for this scale
that stemmed from the fact that there were YPAR class sessions wherein no
major decisions about the class project were discussed. On these days, the
raters recorded “N/A” for power sharing over major decisions. Thus, we had
fewer codes to include in our reliability analysis for this scale. To address
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Ozer and Douglas 35
this, two new raters scored 7 videotaped sessions only for the power sharing
over major decisions scale. This increased the number of valid observations
to provide sufficient data for reliability testing.
Phase 2 of the present study was conducted using longitudinal data from
a total of 22 semester-long classes (the 14 semester-cohorts from Phase 1
plus an additional eight cohorts). All Phase 2 data was collected during live
observations. These additional data provided a larger sample of YPAR class-
rooms to test our hypotheses using quantitative analyses, beyond the class-
rooms involved in the YPT reliability analyses. The additional eight
semester-cohorts included in Phase 2 were from the same schools and teach-
ers as those included in Phase 1; the data from these additional semester-
cohorts were not included in the reliability analyses because they were not
double-coded by pairs of raters. Phase 2 participant characteristics were
similar to Phase 1 (60% female; age range 14 to 19; mean = 16.6, SD = 1.1;
35% Latino, 29% Asian/Pacific Islander, 16% African American and 5%
Overview of YPT Scales and Scale Development
Our first goal was to develop and test the YPT; we sought to assess the seven
types of processes outlined earlier that would theoretically be expected to
occur in YPAR classes (Ozer et al., 2010). The research team outlined indica-
tors to operationalize each category (Table 2) based on 2 years of formative
research with teachers and students participating in YPAR projects regarding
which processes they considered important for the effectiveness of the proj-
ect and the growth of the participants. We also based our selection of pro-
cesses on the existing literature on YPAR and psychological empowerment
(Cargo et al., 2003; Checkoway et al., 2003; Jennings et al., 2006; Schensul,
Berg et al., 2004; Zimmerman, 2000) and a review of other assessment mea-
sures for rating the quality of school and after-school settings (Pianta,
Hamre, Haynes, Mintz, & La Paro, 2006; Smith & Hohmann, 2005).
The measure development process was conducted over two years of sys-
tematic observations and weekly meetings of the research team to discuss
subcode and ensure that processes could be coded reliably. The research team
consisted of 10 graduate and undergraduate students who received approxi-
mately five hours of initial training in conducting observational ratings, fol-
lowed by weekly supervision with the PI and BA-level project coordinator
(coauthors). After extensive review of the YPT measure and guide, the train-
ing group coded videotaped classroom sessions and discussed any disagree-
ments. If trained raters were not able to agree on a specific scale after several
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
36 Youth & Society 47(1)
efforts to clarify the coding, the item was revised. The coauthors facilitated
the trainings and discussions. Raters were eligible to code classroom sessions
included in this analysis after achieving 80% agreement with other raters on
five video sessions.
Frequency scales. The first section of the YPT consists of five frequency
scales to quantitatively assess the interactions for specific YPAR processes
(see Table 2). As described earlier, the study authors developed these scales
based on the existing literature and formative research. Each scale includes a
set of subcodes to operationalize the broad process category—rated from
zero to two. The first scale assesses the “training and practice of research
skills.” “Promoting strategic thinking” captures when students engage in
critical analysis of social issues, making recommendations to solve problems,
and interacting with adults in positions of power. Sub-codes for this scale
include instances in which teachers scaffold strategic thinking and when stu-
dents independently demonstrate these processes. “Group work” assesses the
engagement and productivity of smaller groups of students within the class.
“Opportunities for networking” highlights when students and teachers
Table 2. Codes and Subcodes on the YPAR Process Template.
Code (# subcodes) Subcode examples
Training & practice of
research skills (6)
Identify research questions
Assess and develop research tools
Practice data collection and data analysis
Promoting strategic
thinking (9)
Discuss root causes to social problems
Consider how to influence rules & policy
Making research based recommendations
Consider alternative points of view
Group work (3) Student takes on role to further group goals
Students engage in productive group
Opportunities for
networking (3)
Students contact other students or adults
Teacher contacts adults on behalf of
Communication skills (2) Practice formal presentations
Practice sharing ideas/perspectives aloud
Power sharing: Class
Assesses how power is shared as decisions
are made about a class project (including
the YPAR project)
Power sharing: General
class structure
Assesses how power is shared in the
everyday class climate
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Ozer and Douglas 37
connect with youth or adults outside of the class to gain/share information or
expertise. “Communication skills” captures the extent to which students
develop these skills through presentations, exercises, and class discussions,
and when the teacher or classmates provide constructive feedback to the stu-
dent regarding communication.
Dimensional scales. We developed two-dimensional scales to assess youth–
adult and youth–youth interactions in the YPAR projects. These dimensional
scales reflect how power is shared in the classroom between the facilitating
teacher and youth participants, with respect to (a) decisions about the YPAR
project and (b) the structure and activities during class time. Examples of deci-
sions about the YPAR project include choosing the problem that the students
would study or selecting an action to solve the problem. All dimensional scales
were rated from one to seven, with a “not applicable” option for the power
sharing over major decisions scale. Our power-sharing items were based on the
Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) (Smith & Hohmann, 2005), a
validated observational measure of after-school settings. The YPQA subscale
item, “Staff share control of most activities with youth, providing guidance and
facilitation while retaining overall responsibility,” was adapted in our power
sharing over major decisions scale response range to “Low (1,2) = Students are
provided limited or no opportunity to make major decisions regarding action
research or other projects” to “High (6,7) = Teacher clearly provides opportuni-
ties for students to share power in making the major decisions regarding class
projects. The teacher advises . . . decisions but gives final decision making
power to the youth.”
Qualitative data collection. In addition to the quantitative scales, the YPT
requires that raters provide a brief summary of the class and illustrative
quotes to explain the ratings. This approach generated supplementary data
regarding the content of the classes for a richer evidence base regarding the
YPAR process and the overall “story” of the YPAR project.
Existing Class Climate Measures
Because the YPAR projects were being implemented in classroom settings,
we also utilized existing validated measures of class climate as part of our
overall assessment. The research team rated the study classrooms using three
scales from the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): regard for
adolescent perspectives, positive climate, and student engagement (Pianta
et al., 2006). Regard for adolescent perspectives captures the extent to which
the teacher incorporates students’ social and developmental needs through-
out the lesson by providing opportunities for decision making and sharing of
ideas, connecting lessons to adolescent’s lives, and allowing meaningful
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
38 Youth & Society 47(1)
opportunities to work with peers. Positive climate considers the overall emo-
tional tone of the classroom, capturing the warmth of peer-to-peer interac-
tions as well as interactions between the teacher and students. Finally,
student engagement considers how actively engaged students are in the les-
son and whether engagement was sustained throughout the class period. The
CLASS demonstrates good interrater reliability and convergent validity with
other commonly used class climate measures (Pianta et al., 2006). Prior to
conducting observations, raters were trained using the CLASS scoring
manuals and 12 videotaped class sessions with master coding guides. During
training meetings, team members rated the CLASS videos and then com-
pared their ratings to the master coding guide.
Qualitative Interview Data from Students and Teachers
As part of the overall study, the authors conducted extensive interviews with
students and teachers that assessed some overlapping areas with the YPT
dimensions and are analyzed in the present study as part of an initial assess-
ment of the validity of the YPT. We conducted semistructured group inter-
views during class time with all YPAR students who were present (divided
into groups of five to eight) at the end of each semester regarding the trajec-
tory of their YPAR project, the decisions made and why, areas of learning, and
changes to their relationships and networks due to participation. Due to the
theoretical centrality of shared power in YPAR theory and practice, the pro-
cess domain we most specifically targeted in the group interviews was the
relative power of the students versus teachers for making decisions regarding
the YPAR project. Each student was asked by the group facilitator to provide
a number to represent the relative power of students to teachers in the YPAR
class (e.g., 0 to 100) and asked to provide reasons to explain their ratings. We
utilized these qualitative data to examine the correspondence between the
YPT scale scores for power sharing; we focused on power sharing because of
its theoretical importance and because we had responses from each participant
for that dimension. First, we used the mean and SD of our YPT power-sharing
scales to differentiate high, average, and low power-sharing classes; we then
examined the text of the students’ responses regarding shared teacher–student
power, identifying concordant and nonconcordant cases (Patton, 2002).
Phase 1: Psychometric Testing of YPT
Observation Protocol. Pairs of raters simultaneously rated live classroom
sessions and were paired based on availability, with an attempt to match as
many unique pairs of raters as possible (15 unique pairs in total). Three of
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Ozer and Douglas 39
the 10 raters participated in either video or live observation trainings while
all other raters participated in both modes. Instructions for using the tem-
plate, detailed descriptions of each subcode and examples of interactions
appropriate for each code are listed in the YPT Guide. Raters were instructed
to refer to the manual when recording observations to ensure consistency.
Raters recorded field notes during the class period, ranging in length from
50 to 90 min. Although they had a copy of the YPT with them during the
observation, raters recorded notes during the session and then used their
observations to complete the YPT. All YPTs were completed within 24 hr
of observing the class. For the videotaped sessions, a research team mem-
ber recorded the class period during a single rater observation visit. The
recorded class was then viewed and scored during a lab meeting. Fre-
quently, more than two raters coded each video observation; in this case,
two raters were randomly selected from the group for the reliability analy-
sis. In all cases, the individuals coding the sessions were instructed not to
discuss ratings until their forms were submitted.
Interrater reliability analysis. We calculated intraclass correlation coeffi-
cients (ICCs) to assess the interrater reliability of the seven YPT scales.
ICCs summarize the degree to which differences in paired ratings result
from differences between raters versus random variation in scores. Calculat-
ing intraclass correlations was the most appropriate method given the wide
range of potential scores, the uneven distribution of ratings across this range
of scores, and the use of an ordinal scale (Fleiss & Cohen, 1973; Jakobsson
& Westergren, 2005). This method corrects for agreement between raters
that may be due to chance (Cicchetti, 1994; Fleiss & Cohen, 1973). ICCs
have been used to assess other frequently used classroom assessment scales,
including the YPQA and the CLASS (Pianta et al., 2006; Smith & Hohmann,
2005). ICCs fall between zero and one and can be interpreted as the ratio of
between rating variance to total variance. We used the criterion suggested by
Fleiss (1981) that outlines the categories of agreement as follows: < 0.40 =
poor; 0.40-0.74 = fair to good; 0.75-1.00 = excellent (Fleiss, 1981). These
frequently cited guidelines are similar to others in the literature (Cicchetti &
Rizley, 1981; Landis & Koch, 1977).
Phase 2: Power Sharing and Engagement Analysis
In Phase 2 of this study, we investigated the relationship between teacher–
student power sharing during the YPAR projects and observed student
engagement as measured on the YPT. We used multiple regression analyses
in StataIC10 (College Station, TX, 2010) to test if the level of power sharing
between the teacher and students predicted students’ behavioral engagement
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
40 Youth & Society 47(1)
in the YPAR process. While our expectation was that teachers’ sharing of
power might promote students’ behavioral engagement in YPAR, it is also
reasonable to expect that the direction of the relationship could be reversed.
That is, it is likely that teachers who are fortunate enough to be assigned a
class with more engaged students would be able to share more power. To
help rule out the possibility that any observed association between teacher–
student power sharing and student engagement was driven only by students’
level of engagement at the outset, our strategy was to use students’ baseline
engagement scores as a covariate in our analysis of the relationship between
teachers’ power sharing and student engagement. We calculated baseline
engagement by averaging the first two engagement scores given to each class
during the semester; the other scores on student engagement were averaged
to create the dependent variable. Because power sharing was operationalized
in two ways in the YPT—power sharing over major decisions and over the
daily structure of the classroom activities—we examined the relationship
between power sharing and engagement along each of these dimensions in
separate regression analyses. We initially included the number of students in
the class and the teachers’ experience with the YPAR curriculum as covari-
ates in the analyses, but these were excluded to maximize degrees of freedom
as their effects were small and not statistically significant.
Phase 1: YPT Psychometric Analyses
YPT reliability results. Table 3 shows the ICC scores and 95% confidence
intervals for the seven scales on the YPT. Using the criteria suggested by Fleiss
(1981), all seven scales on the template are in the good to excellent ICC range
when using combined data from both live and videotaped classes. We further
considered any patterns according to the observational method used (i.e., live
vs. videotaped). We found that three subscales—training and practice of
research skills, group work, and opportunities for networking—showed equiv-
alent reliability for coding of live versus videotaped observation data. Three
subscales—promoting strategic thinking, power sharing over major decisions,
and power sharing over class structure—showed stronger interrater reliability
for the video ratings. The communication skills subscale showed substantially
lower interrater reliability when using videotaped observations only.
Descriptive statistics. The means, standard deviations, and ranges for each of
the seven original scales are presented in Table 3. Raters coded in each class-
room observation an average of two examples of training and practice of
research skills, three examples of promoting strategic thinking, three
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Ozer and Douglas 41
examples of working in groups, one of networking with others outside of the
class and one example of students’ practicing good communication skills. On
a scale of one to seven, raters gave an average score of 3.36 for power sharing
regarding major decisions and an average score of 4.06 for power sharing
regarding general class structure. For both scales, a score in the mid-range (3, 4,
or 5) described a class where youth had opportunities to provide input and
make decisions and benefited from structure provided by the teacher. Below,
we share several examples of “mid-level” power sharing between teachers and
students to describe this important dimension. In one class, the teacher created
guiding questions to initiate a conversation about pressing issues in the school
or community but allowed students to stray from the lesson plan when the
discussion focused on a particular topic. In another, students decided to apply
for a grant for their action project but had no experience developing this kind
of application. The teacher coached students on the appropriate language for
this kind of document, asked the students to respond to all the questions them-
selves, and then went through each one with the students to work through
suggested revisions. In another class, the teacher required students with little
experience presenting to adults to create a handout or slideshow to guide a
presentation, but allowed the students to develop the materials themselves.
Correspondence of YPT Power Subscales
and Student Reports of Shared Power
Our analysis of the correspondence between the YPT shared power subscale
and students’ report of teachers’ sharing of power helps to provide initial
Table 3. Characteristics of Ratings on the YPAR Process Template.
XRange SD ICC 95% CI
Training and practice of
research skills
2.14 0-7 1.57 0.88 (0.78, 0.93)
Promoting strategic thinking 3.23 0-10 2.15 0.73 (0.55, 0.85)
Group work 2.56 0-7 1.84 0.97 (0.94, 0.98)
Opportunities for
1.44 0-4 0.78 0.73 (0.55, 0.85)
Communication skills 1.23 0-3 0.55 0.76 (0.58, 0.86)
Power sharing over major
3.36 0-6 1.97 0.66 (0.47, 0.80)
Power sharing over class
4.06 1-6 1.40 0.72 (0.52, 0.84)
Note. N = 80 for all scales, except N = 112 for power sharing over major decisions.
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
42 Youth & Society 47(1)
evidence for the validity of the YPT ratings for this dimension central to
theory and practice. Below we jointly consider YPT and student focus group
data that exemplify patterns for low, average, and high sharing of power with
students. One teacher scored low on power sharing over major decisions (3.5
and 4 out of a possible 7) for the two semesters she taught YPAR; student
data reflect a consistent theme regarding their lack of shared power, for
example, “this was supposed to be a more student-run class . . . she keeps
trying to force us to think what she wants us to think,” and “the whole class
feels that we should have more say in the class.” After this teacher left, a new
teacher took over at the same site; this teacher’s YPT power-sharing scores
increased over the course of several years (5.8 to 6.1 power sharing over
major decisions; 4.2 to 5.6 power sharing over daily class activities). Student
reports parallel the YPT power-sharing scores, starting with an average of 5.8
across the semester: “Student (S) 1: . . . I would put us at 75 . . . S2: Fifty.
S3: I would put us at 50. S4: So he has 60 . . . S5: Fifty.” A subsequent
semester with the same teacher demonstrated higher average power sharing
(6.1 out of 7), also reflected in student comments:
S1: I think it was 80. Our teacher had control over the class but he
always let us decide with our peers what we’re going to be talking
about, what we think is important . . . We have a lot of control over it
and we decide the topic, but at the same time, he has somewhat control
over us . . . S2: I think 90 because he plans it out but we take more
control over it. S3: . . . I see him more as one of us—like a student.
Maybe he’ll lead discussion; maybe he’ll bring up a topic and then
we’ll discuss it and decide it.
Last, we consider YPT and student data from a project with an early power
struggle over the topic that was resolved in ensuing semesters. Early in the
project, power sharing over major decision scores were low-average (4.9)
and several student focus group comments expressed limited power: “At first
she was trying to like force some suggestions onto us about what we should
do our topic on. And she kept bringing up issues that we would like say ‘no
we’re not interested in that.” Student data from a later semester in which this
same teacher was rated with high sharing of power over major decisions (6.6)
on the YPT reflect more shared power, for example, “an 80 because (teacher)
kind of leads us into the right direction of where to bring our project and what
kinds of next steps but she never really tells us what to do,” and “I’d say 90.
I feel like (the teacher) really just coordinated, but a lot of the decision power
. . . was made by us.”
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Ozer and Douglas 43
Phase 2: Power Sharing and Engagement
As outlined earlier, we examined the relationship between teacher-student
power sharing and students’ behavioral engagement in terms of (a) power
sharing over decisions in the YPAR project; and (b) power sharing over
daily structure and activities in the classroom. Results of our first regression
show that power sharing over major decisions explained 15% of additional
variance in students’ behavioral engagement and was a significant predictor
after controlling for baseline engagement (β = 0.41, t(19) = 2.18, p = 0.05).
Our second regression indicated that power sharing over daily structure
explained 27% of variance in engagement scores, after controlling for base-
line engagement (β = 0.53, t(19) = 2.57, p < 0.01). Third, we examined a
combined model that included both power-sharing scales. We found that
power sharing over daily class structure and activities was a stronger predic-
tor of behavioral engagement than power sharing over major decisions in
the YPAR project; daily power sharing remained robust after controlling for
power sharing over major decisions in the project and baseline engagement,
explaining an additional 14% of the variance in student engagement (β =
0.44, t (18) = 2.18, p < 0.05).
This study extends our ability to operationalize key YPAR processes and to
systematically use these indicators to understand and assess the quality of
YPAR implementation. As narratives about the value of participatory
research and empowerment programs for youth continue to emerge, it is
important to understand and assess the elements that constitute these pro-
grams. The YPT represents a reliable observational measure based in rele-
vant theory and guided by extensive formative research in diverse classroom
Development and Testing of YPT
There are previous documented efforts to assess the quality of YPAR pro-
gram implementation in community-based and participatory action projects
using qualitative methods. For example, qualitative coding of participant
observations, focus groups, and key-informant interviews were used to
assess program delivery efforts (Breckwich Vásquez et al., 2007; Catalani &
Minkler, 2010; Nastasi et al., 2000). This study builds on prior efforts in
several key ways. The YPT’s structure helps to target the collection of
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
44 Youth & Society 47(1)
systematic quantitative and qualitative data for practitioners and evaluators
to assess the quality of YPAR implementation. Data generated by the YPT can
be aggregated over repeated sessions to summarize participants’ exposure to
“active ingredients” during the course of the project. Because YPAR projects
may unfold over the course of many months and include many steps, all of
which contribute to the experience and potential impact of the program on
participants, using the YPT to focus on key processes may reduce data over-
load that can occur with open-ended observational methods.
Here, we present psychometric evidence that multiple bachelor’s and
undergraduate-level observers can achieve good to excellent interrater reli-
ability on the YPT. We examined interrater reliability for our two methods of
observation— live and videotaped—in combination and separately. We
found that interrater reliability remained strong for both live and videotaped
observations for the training and practice of research skills, group work, and
opportunities for networking but that other subscales (promoting of strategic
thinking, power sharing over major decisions, and power sharing over daily
class structure) showed stronger interrater reliability for the video ratings. We
suspect that the difference in reliability stemmed from the focused “gaze” of
the videotaped sessions where only a portion of the classroom was being
viewed at any given time. In contrast, two raters in a live classroom may have
in fact observed different interactions happening simultaneously in different
parts of the room. It is also possible that the “live” raters had more time
elapse between their observations and their scoring of the YPT than those
who completed their videotaped observations in the lab, although it was typi-
cal for the raters to complete the YPT immediately following the live class-
room observation.
Shared Power and Behavioral Engagement
The second contribution of this study is the use of information from the YPT
and other qualitative sources to assess the relationship between two key pro-
cesses in youth development programs—sharing of power between adults
and youth and youth engagement in the project. Considering longitudinal
data from 22 YPAR cohorts, power sharing was found to be a robust predic-
tor of observed youth engagement in the YPAR classes even after controlling
for the classes’ baseline level of engagement. Power sharing in terms of daily
structure and activities in the classroom was more powerfully associated
with behavioral engagement than was power sharing over major decisions
made in the YPAR project. Our finding that greater autonomy in the class-
room (in this case, an YPAR classroom) is associated with higher behavioral
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Ozer and Douglas 45
engagement is consistent with the theoretical and empirical literature in
human development and education reviewed earlier (Deci & Ryan, 1985;
Shernoff et al., 2003; Skinner & Belmont, 1993).
The relative strength of the power over the daily structure of the classroom
activities, as contrasted with the “bigger” decisions over the YPAR project,
raises some interesting questions for further research on YPAR and community-
based participatory research more generally. Does young people’s power
over these “daily decisions” provide a meaningful level of power even in
situations where they are constrained from exerting power over major deci-
sions? Or are these daily decisions over the structure and activities in the
classroom merely a form of “token empowerment” (Bess, Prilleltensky,
Perkins, & Collins, 2009)? Our results suggest that it was informative to dis-
tinguish between these two forms of decision-making power, and that daily
power in class was independently related to behavioral engagement over and
above the effects of power over major decisions. While we make no claims
that behavioral engagement as observed here represents an accurate assess-
ment of higher-level dimensions such as “ownership” or psychological
empowerment, we argue that behavioral engagement may be viewed as a
necessary if not a sufficient step toward those higher-level experiences for
young people.
Limitations and Next Steps
Further research with the YPT should be undertaken to build upon this
study’s findings. The present study addresses the interrater reliability of the
YPT and uses student focus group data to provide initial support for the
validity of the YPT in assessing the key dimension of shared teacher-student
power. It does not, however, provide specific evidence to support the predic-
tive validity of the YPT measure; future research should examine the rela-
tionship between the implementation quality of the participatory research
and outcomes for the student participants. Second, even more rigorous train-
ing and observation protocol could increase interrater reliability estimates
(Raudenbush, Martinez, Bloom, Zhu, & Lin, 2008). Third, the process for
assigning raters to specific classrooms was a limitation of this study. Ideally,
all raters would have an equal chance of being assigned with any other
corater, at any participating school and on any given day of the week. Our
ability to randomly assign raters, however, was limited by availability.
Teachers were reluctant to have a large number of different visitors rotate
through the classroom and varied in their willingness to allow their class to
be videotaped. We attempted to alleviate these constraints in several ways.
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
46 Youth & Society 47(1)
To address randomness of rater assignment, we made an effort to select raters
who would be available for a variety of sites and class times, created as many
different live-observation pairings as possible, and videotaped all possible
sessions so that raters could be randomized to code the taped sessions in the
research office. We also separately analyzed the reliability of ratings on
video versus live observations.
During the development and testing of the YPT, several considerations
arose that serve as learning points for efforts to assess YPAR and similar
approaches. First, YPAR is a dynamic and often-lengthy process; assessment
of implementation quality requires repeated observations to assess the range
of activities that participants experience. These observations should be long
enough to assess the substance of the activities, rather than brief time samples
that would be appropriate for capturing class climate dimensions such as
emotional tone. Lengthier observations carry the potential disadvantages of
observer fatigue. The YPT demonstrated acceptable reliability despite these
complexities. Second, some higher-order processes were not directly observ-
able in any single class session but were nonetheless integral to YPAR theory
and as to how the program was experienced by youth. Most notably, class-
room observations were not sufficient to assess the extent to which research
and action were integrated over the course of the project. The assessment
process for this higher-order integration dimension—beyond the scope of the
present article—was conducted for each cohort utilizing observational data
from the YPT in combination with interviews with students and adults.
The YPT measure developed here incorporates a range of YPAR compo-
nents in an effort to respect the inherent variability across programs while
assessing the key processes we expect to see in these programs. We do not
assume that all processes listed on the template must be present at each ses-
sion to have a high quality YPAR project; instead, this tool provides a guide
for observers to focus observations and engage in more targeted data collec-
tion. Because all YPAR projects observed here took place in high school
classrooms, subcodes may need to be expanded to incorporate program-spe-
cific needs when the YPT is applied to projects with other age groups or in
non–school environments. Employing the YPT in a variety of settings will
enable more systematic understanding of which processes are uniform across
YPAR projects that achieve desired goals for participants and their change
efforts. Along these lines, future research and evaluation efforts are needed to
determine if adapted versions of the YPT can be useful for the observational
assessment of participatory research among adults, and if the subscales not
explicitly focused on research—promotion of strategic thinking, networking,
group work, communication skills, and power sharing over decisions and
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Ozer and Douglas 47
daily structure— can contribute to the assessment of empowerment or orga-
nizing programs that do not emphasize research.
The authors express appreciation to Elizabeth Hubbard, Gary Cruz, Adee Horn, and
Morgan Wallace for collaboration with the research; Thomas Cook, Meredith
Minkler, and Lawrence Green for their consultation; Sami Newlan and Marieka
Schotland for assistance in data collection; and Amanda Bailey, Monica Beas, Teresa
Igaz, Eric Koo, Christina Law, Emma Lantos, Becky Lee, Diana Rios, Kathryn
Steckler, and Jasmine Wang for their assistance in data collection.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received following financial support for the research, authorship, and/
or publication of this article: This research was supported by a William T. Grant
Scholars’ Award to Emily J. Ozer.
Baum, F., MacDougall, C., & Smith, D. (2006). Participatory action research. Journal
Epidemiol Community Health, 60, 854-857. doi: 10.1136/jech.2004.028662
Bess, K. D., Prilleltensky, I., Perkins, D. D., & Collins, L. V. (2009). Participatory
organizational change in community-based health and human services: From
tokenism to political engagement. American Journal of Community Psychology,
43, 134-148.
Breckwich Vásquez, V., Lanza, D., Hennessey-Lavery, S., Facente, S., Halpin, H. A.,
& Minkler, M. (2007). Addressing food security through public policy action in a
community-based participatory research partnership. Health Promotion Practice,
8, 342-349. doi: 10.1177/1524839906298501
Brown, T. M., & Rodriguez, L. F. (2009). Youth in participatory action research. San
Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.
Cammarota, J., & Fine, M. (Eds.). (2007). Revolutionizing education: Youth partici-
patory action research. New York, NY: Routledge.
Cargo, M., Grams, G., Ottoson, J., Ward, P., & Green, L. (2003). Empowerment as
fostering positive youth development and citizenship. American Journal of Health
Behavior, 27(Supplement 1), S66-S79.
Catalani, C., & Minkler, M. (2010). Photovoice: A review of the literature in health
and public health. Health Education & Behavior, 37, 424-451.
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
48 Youth & Society 47(1)
Checkoway, B., Dobbie, D., & Richards-Schuster, K. (2003). Youth participation in
community evaluation research as an emerging social movement. Community
Youth Development Journal, 4(1), 19-25.
Chen, H., & Rossi, P. H. (1989). Issues in the theory-driven perspective. Evaluation
and Program Planning, 12, 299-306.
Cicchetti, D. (1994). Guidelines, criteria, and rules of thumb for evaluating normed
and standardized assessment instruments in psychology. Psychological Assess-
ment, 6, 284-290.
Cicchetti, D., & Rizley, R. (1981). Developmental perspectives on the etiology, inter-
generational transmission, and sequelae of child maltreatment. New Directions for
Child Development, 11, 31-55.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self determination in
human behavior. New York, NY: Plenum.
Fleiss, J. L. (1981). Statistical methods for rates and proportions (2nd ed.). New York,
NY: Wiley and Sons.
Fleiss, J. L., & Cohen, J. (1973). The equivalence of weighted kappa and the intraclass
correlation coefficient as measures of reliability. Educational and Psychological
Measurement, 33, 613-619. doi: 10.1177/001316447303300309
Foster-Fishman, P., Law, K., Lichty, L., & Aoun, C. (2010). Youth react for social
change: A method for youth participatory action research. American Journal of
Community Psychology, 46, 67-83. doi: 10.1007/s10464-010-9316-y
Freire, P. (1994). Pedagogy of hope: Reliving pedagogy of the oppressed. New York,
NY: Continuum.
Ginwright, S., Noguera, P., & Cammarota, J. (Eds.). (2006). Beyond resistance! Youth
activism and community change: New democratic possibilities for practice and
policy for America’s youth. New York, NY: Routledge.
Jakobsson, U., & Westergren, A. (2005). Statistical methods for assessing agreement
for ordinal data. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 19, 427-431. doi:
Jennings, L., Parra-Medina, D., Hilfinger Messias, D., & McLoughlin, K. (2006).
Toward a critical social theory of youth empowerment. Journal of Community
Practice, 14(1-2), 31-55.
Karachi, T. W., Abbott, R. D., Catalano, R. F., Haggerty, K. P., & Fleming, C. B.
(1999). Opening the black box: Using process evaluation measures to assess
implementation and theory building. American Journal of Community Psychol-
ogy, 27, 711-731. doi: 10.1023/a:1022194005511
Kirshner, B. (2007). Supporting youth participation in school reform: Preliminary
notes from a university-community partnership. Children, Youth and Environ-
ments, 17, 354-363.
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Ozer and Douglas 49
Landis, J. R., & Koch, G. G. (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for
categorical data. Biometrics, 33(1), 159-174.
Larson, R., Walker, K., & Pearce, N. (2005). A comparison of youth-driven and adult-
driven youth programs: Balancing inputs from youth and adults. Journal of Com-
munity Psychology, 33, 57-74.
London, J. (2001). Youth rep: Step by step: An introduction to youth-led evaluation
and research. Oakland, CA: Youth in Focus.
McIntyre, M. (2000). Constructing meaning about violence, school, and community:
Participatory action research with urban youth. The Urban Review, 32, 123-154.
Mitra, D. L. (2004). The significance of students: Can increasing student voice in schools
lead to gains in youth development? Teachers College Record, 106, 651-688.
Nastasi, B. K., Varjas, K., Schensul, S. L., Silva, K. T., Schensul, J. L., & Ratnay-
ake, P. (2000). The participatory intervention model: A framework for conceptu-
alizing and promoting intervention acceptability. School Psychology Quarterly,
15, 207-332.
Nieto, S. (1994). Lessons from students on creating a chance to dream. Harvard Edu-
cation Review, 64, 392-426.
Ozer, E. J., Cantor, J. P., Cruz, G. W., Fox, B., Hubbard, E., & Moret, L. (2008). The
diffusion of youth-led participatory research in urban schools: The role of the pre-
vention support system in implementation and sustainability. American Journal of
Community Psychology, 41, 278-289.
Ozer, E., Ritterman, M., & Wanis, M. (2010). Participatory Action Research (PAR) in
middle school: Opportunities, constraints, and key processes. American Journal
of Community Psychology, 46(1), 152-166.
Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thou-
sand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Pianta, R. C., Hamre, B. K., Haynes, N. J., Mintz, S., & La Paro, K. M. (2006).
Classroom assessment scoring system (CLASS) manual: Middle/secondary ver-
sion pilot. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press.
Raudenbush, S. W., Martinez, A., Bloom, H., Zhu, P., & Lin, F. (2008). An eight-
step paradigm for studying the reliability of group-level measures. William T.
Grant Foundation. Retrieved from
Sánchez, P. (2009). Chicana feminist strategies in a participatory action research
project with transnational latina youth. New Directions for Youth Development,
2009(123), 83-97. doi: 10.1002/yd.316
Schensul, J. L., Berg, M. J., & Sydlo, S. (2004). Core elements of participatory action
research for educational empowerment and risk prevention with urban youth.
Practicing Anthropology, 26(2), 5-9.
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
50 Youth & Society 47(1)
Schensul, S. L., LoBianco, L., & Lombardo, C. (2004). Youth participatory research
(youth-par) in public schools: Opportunities and challenges in an inner-city high
school. Practicing Anthropology, 26(2), 10-14.
Shernoff, D. J., Csikszentmihalyi, M., Schneider, B., & Shernoff, E. S. (2003). Stu-
dent engagement in high school classrooms from the perspective of flow theory.
School Psychology Quarterly, 18, 158-176.
Shor, I. (1996). When students have the power: Negotiating authority in critical peda-
gogy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Skinner, E. A., & Belmont, M. J. (1993). Motivation in the classroom: Reciprocal
effects of teacher behavior and student engagement across the school year. Jour-
nal of Educational Psychology, 85, 571-581.
Smith, C., & Hohmann, C. (2005). Youth program quality assessment validation
study: Findings for instrument validation. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope.
Suleiman, A., Soleimanpour, S., & London, J. (2006). Youth action for health through
youth-led research. Journal of Community Practice, 14(1/2), 125-145.
Sydlo, S. J. (2000). Participatory action research: Curriculum for empowering youth.
Hartford, CN: National Teen Action Research Center, Institute for Community
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher mental pro-
cesses. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Zimmerman, M. A. (2000). Empowerment theory: Psychological, organizational, and
community levels of analysis. In J. Rappaport & E. Seidman (Eds.), Handbook of
community psychology. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.
Zimmerman, M. A. (1995). Psychological empowerment: Issues and illustrations.
American Journal of Community Psychology, 23, 581-599.
Zimmerman, M. A., Israel, B. A., Schulz, A. J., & Checkoway, B. (1992). Further
explorations in empowerment theory: An empirical analysis of psychological
empowerment. American Journal of Community Psychology, 20, 707-727.
Author Biographies
Emily J. Ozer is a clinical-community psychologist whose research is focused on
strengthening secondary schools as settings for the promotion of the mental and
physical health of adolescents; particularly via systematic, multi-method studies of
intervention research and participatory approaches.
Laura Douglas, MPH, received her Master of Public Health degree in Health and
Social Behavior from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests
include positive youth development, promoting adolescent sexual and reproductive
health, and quality improvement in adolescent clinical care.
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on March 29, 2015yas.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... Participatory approaches are central to research that generates questions, methods, and outcomes aligned with the needs, contexts, and preferred communication style of the very communities most affected by social, political, and economic issues [21,22]. For example, in youth participatory action research (YPAR), principles of best practice include the pursuit of inquiry-based topics that are grounded in youths' lived experiences and concerns; genuine collaboration that builds upon the expert knowledge and skills of youth; and opportunities for youth to take on leadership positions that actively intervene to create social change [23]. ...
... For example, in youth participatory action research (YPAR), principles of best practice include the pursuit of inquiry-based topics that are grounded in youths' lived experiences and concerns; genuine collaboration that builds upon the expert knowledge and skills of youth; and opportunities for youth to take on leadership positions that actively intervene to create social change [23]. The execution of these principles involves power-sharing between YYAs and academic researchers, while iteratively integrating research and actions for social change [2,22]. ...
... By integrating YPAR and crowdsourcing principles of power-sharing into this research, we are disrupting standard beliefs and practices about who has expertise to create knowledge and who is responsible for public service to others. On an individual level, gains may be seen in YYA self-esteem, critical thinking skills, and perceived control, which are all very relevant to mental health and wellbeing [22,30]. On a societal level, this approach is aligned with promoting inclusivity and ecological approaches to problem-solving. ...
Full-text available
As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continued to progress into 2021, appeals were made to take a stronger focus on the perceptions and practices of youth and young adults (YYAs) regarding COVID-19 mitigation, as well as the impact of mitigation strategies on the overall wellbeing of YYAs. In this paper, we describe our efforts to increase YYA engagement in Arizona's COVID-19 response by pairing embedded values from youth participatory action research (YPAR) with a crowdsourcing challenge contest design. The research protocol and implementation are described, followed by a thematic analysis of YYA-led messaging portrayed in 23 contest submissions and reflections formed by 223 community voters after viewing contest submissions. The authors conclude that a YYA-led crowdsourcing contest presented an opportunity to (a.) investigate the perceptions and behaviors of YYAs and their networks regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation efforts and (b.) amplify the voices of YYAs in the pandemic response. Perhaps even more importantly, this approach also offered insight into the exacerbated impact of the pandemic on YYA mental health and wellbeing, and the utility of YPAR in raising awareness of these effects among the contexts and social networks of YYAs.
... youth-generated data collection and/or analysis) or youth participatory action research (YPAR) methodologies. Education, youth development, and public health research is increasingly using YPAR to study inequities and improve social problems (Ozer & Douglas, 2015;Rodríguez & Brown, 2009). By ensuring youth know that injustices are produced and not natural, YPAR seeks to contest and transform inequitable systems and institutions. ...
Full-text available
The experiences of disabled girls of color have historically been ignored within and/or excluded from US educational research and thus, are often unheard and under-recognized. Few scholars use an intersectional lens to examine how inequities impact disabled girls of color. In this call to action to the research community, existing scholarship focused on their lived experiences is reviewed first. Next, the affordances of intersectionality as an axiological, methodological, and theoretical approach to educational research are discussed. As such, scholars, educators, and policymakers can use intersectionality to learn about the types of experiences disabled girls of color are having in school, including what is working and what is not working for them, from their perspectives. Therefore, intersectionality supports a deeper and more complex understanding of how schooling inequities impact students. Moreover, intersectionality supports engagement and transformation wherein scholars, educators, and policymakers act on the suggestions and solutions disabled girls of color bring forth for dismantling unjust educational systems to (re)imagine, (re)design, and (re)construct them. Finally, implications for research, practice, and policy are discussed. In sum, honoring the experiences and perspectives of disabled girls of color has the power to transform schooling.
... Differing emphases are reflected within the terminology used to describe the child researchers, including youth partner (Abraczinskas & Zarrett, 2020), child researchers (Anselma et al., 2019(Anselma et al., , 2020, child co-researcher (Bristow & Atkinson, 2020), student (Buckley-Marudas & Soltis, 2020; Donovan, 2016), or child (Donovan, 2016). Key authors cited in the studies based on YPAR include: Ozer (2017), Ozer et al. (2010Ozer et al. ( , 2013Ozer et al. ( , 2018, Ozer and Douglas (2015), Ozer and Schotland (2011), Ozer and Wright (2012), Cammarota and Fine (2008), Langhout and Fernández (2015), and Langhout and Thomas (2010). The predominant normative frame reflected in the papers is children's rights. ...
Full-text available
The choice to conduct research projects done with or by children is a political one. It reflects a standpoint that appreciates children's position as agentic beings and acknowledges their expertise. There are complex questions for academics and practitioners engaged in such research projects. This paper reports on a systematic review of peer‐reviewed research relating to children as researchers. The scope of the analysis is limited to children aged 15 and under, who were involved in at least one component of a research project. Twenty‐five published articles are included, and they demonstrate varied methods of engagement. The theoretical perspective the studies adopted may focus on one of three: (a) child‐led research, (b) children as co‐researchers, or (c) youth participatory action research. Not all studies included child researchers in all aspects of a research project, with participation influenced by the adopted theoretical perspective as well as reported barriers and challenges. This review presents the results of a systematic examination of the included papers, including approaches and methodological considerations as well as the socio‐cultural contexts within which projects are carried out. We discuss situational tensions that might inhibit the capacity of adults and children to partner in co‐creating new knowledge and developing robust ways of working together. Finally, we draw attention to three significant dimensions within the findings: the influence on the children‐as‐researchers paradigm of hierarchical structures inherent to academic institutions; the importance of engaging with specific historical, political, and social contexts; and challenges for inclusion and diversity.
... Developed in response to traditional models that only promote capacitation, participatory research programs move the researcher away from the domain [15], supporting PYD and psychological empowerment [16]. In a mentoring relationship between adults and young people, they facilitate power sharing during the process, consultation, skills development, discussion for social change, and building relationships with stakeholders [17]. In a conceptualization of these programs, Rodriguez and Brown [18], summarize them in three principles: (i) they focus on the life experiences and concerns of young people; (ii) the methodology and pedagogy are based on the collaboration and participation of young people; and (iii) they have a transformative characteristic that contributes to changing theories and practices that improve the lives of young people and their contexts. ...
Full-text available
In an unprecedented scenario, much of the research and interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic, which focused on young people, found themselves suspended. (1) Background: The goals of this project were to investigate (Study 1) social participation and positive development among young people in Cascais, Portugal, and to investigate (Study 2-a case study) the implementation of a program promoting active citizenship, social participation, and social entrepreneurship. At the same time, it was intended to constitute a resource and strategy to diminish the social alienation exacerbated by the pandemic. (2) Methods: SPSS v.26 software was used to analyze quantitative data from questionnaires used in the study of social participation, as well as the pre- and post-test impacts, and MAXQDA 2020 software was used to analyze qualitative data from YouTube discussions about youth needs and strategies for their problems, as well as from focus groups. (3) Results: In S1, it was evident that young people’s expectations of participation in the community were not defined and that their expected participation in the community was of a weekly nature. They considered themselves to have a good sense of belonging to the community or group and had reasonable social self-efficacy. Girls showed higher scores in Expectations of Community Participation and Active Participation. In their positive development, they did not have a defined evaluation of their competence, but their connection with others was evaluated as good. Boys showed higher levels of Competence. They said that every week they make 1 h of their day available to help others, and they did not frequently report feelings of social alienation. In S2, the evaluation of the impact of the project generally showed an improvement in the action research skills of the participants. At the end, six projects were proposed. In the analysis of the participants’ voices, the themes related to Substance Use, Social Capital, and Love and Sexuality stood out with higher participation and lower participation in the themes of Diversity, Culture and Housing. (4) Conclusions: The results suggest a need to encourage social participation, active citizenship, and entrepreneurship, along with their knowledge and skills for action. The promotion of debate and knowledge on issues related to young people’s lives seems to be a priority, especially issues related to Diversity, Culture and Housing. The Dream Teens model may prove to be an important strategy in this work, suggesting that this project may constitute a relevant model for future work.
... In a contrasting model to traditional paradigms, in youth participatory research programs, the researcher no longer speaks for the young person [25], but the young person benefits from the adult-young person mentoring relationship, sharing power during the process, developing their skills and consultancy, encouraging debate based on social change and the establishment of alliances with stakeholders [26]. ...
Full-text available
Scarcely explored, intergenerational dialogue may support the re-encounter between generations. Background: Focused on intergenerational sharing and on the identification of differences between generations, the project #GenerationsWithAVoice aims to identify generational inequalities, with the aim of promoting awareness of intergenerational challenges, boosting public debate and interest in public policies. Methods: Twenty focus groups were developed, and an evaluation instrument was applied. Results: (i) Young people believe that they have more knowledge, but less propensity for action, leaving this task to the following generations; (ii) the family and housing emerge as the issues with the greatest number of problems identified, but also as important resources; (iii) government and politics, community and society, and the economy are of less interest and knowledge on the part of this generation; (iv) school seems to be the ideal scenario for the implementation of strategies that lead to change. Conclusions: We highlight the role of this work in the deconstruction of beliefs regarding previous generations, the development of knowledge, and the promotion of cohesion and social support.
Full-text available
Background Despite decades of calls for increased diversity in the health research workforce, disparities exist for many populations, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color individuals, those from low-income families, and first-generation college students. To increase representation of historically marginalized populations, there is a critical need to develop programs that strengthen their path toward health research careers. High school is a critically important time to catalyze interest and rebuild engagement among youth who may have previously felt excluded from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and health research careers. Methods The overall objective of the MYHealth program is to engage high school students in a community-based participatory research program focused on adolescent health. Investigators will work alongside community partners to recruit 9th through 12th graders who self-identify as a member of a group underrepresented in STEM or health research careers (e.g., based on race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, first generation college student, disability, etc.). MYHealth students are trained to be co-researchers who work alongside academic researchers, which will help them to envision themselves as scientists capable of positively impacting their communities through research. Implemented in three phases, the MYHealth program aims to foster a continuing interest in health research careers by developing: 1) researcher identities, 2) scientific literacy, 3) scientific self-efficacy, and 4) teamwork and leadership self-efficacy. In each phase, students will build knowledge and skills in research, ethics, data collection, data analysis, and dissemination. Students will directly collaborate with and be mentored by a team that includes investigators, community advisors, scientific advisors, and youth peers. Discussion Each year, a new cohort of up to 70 high school students will be enrolled in MYHealth. We anticipate the MYHealth program will increase interest and persistence in STEM and health research among groups that have been historically excluded in health research careers.
Purpose: This article focuses on the evaluation of youth empowerment projects from the perspective of the educators themselves. Method: HEBE Rubric (collects quantitative and qualitative data) was applied to 20 youth projects. The selection of projects was based on intentional sampling. Results: The results show that the projects focus on some youth empowerment dimensions to the detriment of others. The most important dimensions are responsibility and self-sufficiency. There is also evidence of more work from the individual perspective of empowerment than from the community perspective, and from a perspective that is more internal to the project than in relation to the context. Discussion: Important educational work is carried out in the projects analyzed, according to the educators themselves. It would be interesting to reinforce the educational work carried out by these projects with activities and strategies that facilitate contact, openness, and educational work with the community.
Full-text available
Youth-led participatory action research (YPAR) is an applied research methodology in which youth work in collaboration with adult stakeholders to conduct research projects. YPAR has been traditionally conducted in person, with virtual forums typically serving as ways to share resources and ideas across independent YPAR teams or collecting data. The COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the closure of most public spaces where youth congregate (including schools) and requirements to socially distance, led to translating YPAR projects into completely virtual formats. This paper aims to provide promises and challenges of conducting virtual YPAR during the COVID-19 pandemic. It describes how a team of university faculty, college students, and youth from two community-based youth organizations navigated a YPAR experience during the 2020-2021 academic year. We provide reflections on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on (a) the research setting, (b) the building of collaborative relationships, (c) YPAR methodology, (d) youth engagement, and (e) conceptualization of community action and engagement. We end with the implications for the future of YPAR for practitioners.
Youth of color who have recently been emancipated from foster care are among the most vulnerable group at risk for having poor sexual health outcomes. It is essential for researchers to understand how emancipated foster care youth receive messages about safe sex and HIV/STI prevention in order to tailor health promotion activities for this group. This study presents a strengths-based view of emancipated foster care youth of color who developed an empowering, arts-based campaign to prevent HIV and substance abuse in their community using Youth Participatory Action Research (Y-PAR) methods. The project was led by 10 emancipated foster care youth who participated in two focus groups that centered on understanding their knowledge of HIV. Five major themes emerged from the focus group. Implications for researchers include incorporating safe spaces for youth to develop ideas that can result in empowering activities relating to prevention.
Full-text available
Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) is an epistemological stance premised on the belief that young people can and should participate as researchers in an inquiry-based process designed to critique and take action against oppression. Over the past two decades, university-based researchers working largely outside of school settings have documented inspiring YPAR work. As a result, YPAR is gaining the attention of U.S. public school teachers, an increasing number of whom are implementing YPAR in core academic subjects with students. To date, however, few studies have examined the beliefs and experiences of teachers who implement YPAR as pedagogy with students in classrooms, and no study has done so across a wide range of contexts. In my study, I interviewed 28 current or former U.S. public school teachers who have experience implementing YPAR with students in core academic classes in order to determine how they think about the work. The teachers taught in grade levels ranging from fourth to twelfth grade, across multiple subjects (e.g., English, history, science), and in 24 different schools located in nine large urban districts across the United States. In my analysis, I examined how the teachers converged with and diverged from each other in their understanding and enactment of the epistemology of YPAR. Further, I compared teachers’ beliefs and experiences to what leading university-based researchers have written about the epistemology of YPAR in academic texts. Most teachers in my study, like virtually all university researchers, believe that YPAR must be critical in nature, centering issues of power and oppression in the work. Additionally, the teachers believe that action is an epistemological requirement of YPAR; however, they diverge on the nature and priority of action, similar to university researchers. Further, the teachers gave substantially more control and choice to students in setting the research agenda and driving the process than university researchers. Finally, a third of teachers asked students to engage in individual YPAR projects – an approach which has yet to be captured in the academic literature. The findings from my study provide insight to adults engaging youth in YPAR inside and outside of classroom settings.
Full-text available
Many youth development programs are designed to improve youth outcomes by improving the quality of social interactions occurring in classrooms, athletic teams, therapy groups, after-school programs, recreation centers, or other group settings. In evaluating such programs, it becomes essential to assess the impact of the program on the “group quality,” that is, the quality of the social interactions that occur in such group settings. It follows that the reliable measurement of group quality becomes important to the success of the evaluation. Low reliability will weaken the statistical power of the evaluation to detect program effects on group quality. In this paper, we provide a concise, step-by-step account of how to conduct a study of the reliability of measures of group quality. This paper is a companion to a more rigorous account provided by Raudenbush, Martinez, Bloom, Zhu, and Lin (2008).
Full-text available
On the basis of a new model of motivation, we examined the effects of 3 dimensions of teacher (n = 14) behavior (involvement, structure, and autonomy support) on 144 children's (Grades 3-5) behavioral and emotional engagement across a school year. Correlational and path analyses revealed that teacher involvement was central to children's experiences in the classroom and that teacher provision of both autonomy support and optimal structure predicted children's motivation across the school year. Reciprocal effects of student motivation on teacher behavior were also found. Students who showed higher initial behavioral engagement received subsequently more of all 3 teacher behaviors. These findings suggest that students who are behaviorally disengaged receive teacher responses that should further undermine their motivation. The importance of the student-teacher relationship, especially interpersonal involvement, in optimizing student motivation is highlighted.
The past decade has seen increasing recognition in prevention science of the need to move away from a black box approach to intervention evaluation and toward an approach that can elaborate on the mechanisms through which changes in the outcomes operate (Chen & Rossi, 1989; Durlak & Wells, 1997; Spoth et al., 1995). An approach that examines issues of program implementation is particularly critical in the design of efficacy studies of school‐based preventive interventions. Numerous preventive intervention strategies are now delivered within the schools, often by regular classroom teachers. The extent to which teachers faithfully deliver a particular curriculum or incorporate instructional strategies emphasized by an intervention is a critical question for the overall project evaluation. This article illustrates the utilization of process measures from a multicomponent school‐based prevention program to examine implementation of a teaching staff development intervention, and the program's underlying theoretical basis. Given the nested study design, the analyses utilize hierarchical linear models (Bryk & Raudenbush, 1992) to examine changes in teaching strategies by condition and investigate the hypothesized relationships between teaching practices and student behaviors based on the program's theoretical framework. Results suggest that teaching practices in two of the six intervention focus areas were positively impacted in the first 18 months of the project. Findings also support th relationships between teachers' instructional practices and students' behaviour.
I: Background.- 1. An Introduction.- 2. Conceptualizations of Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination.- II: Self-Determination Theory.- 3. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Perceived Causality and Perceived Competence.- 4. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Regulation.- 5. Toward an Organismic Integration Theory: Motivation and Development.- 6. Causality Orientations Theory: Personality Influences on Motivation.- III: Alternative Approaches.- 7. Operant and Attributional Theories.- 8. Information-Processing Theories.- IV: Applications and Implications.- 9. Education.- 10. Psychotherapy.- 11. Work.- 12. Sports.- References.- Author Index.
For the most part, discussions about developing strategies to solve educational problems lack the perspectives of one of the very groups they most affect — students, especially those students who are categorized as "problems" and are most oppressed by traditional educational structures and procedures. In this article, Sonia Nieto uses interviews to develop case studies of young people from a wide variety of ethnic, racial, linguistics, and social-class backgrounds who at the time interviewed were attending and successfully completing junior or senior high school. By focusing on students' thoughts about a number of school policies and practices and on the effects of racism and other forms of discrimination on their education, Nieto explores what characteristics of these students' specific experiences helped them remain and succeed in school, despite the obstacles. In essence, these are lessons from students, and Nieto believes that in order to reflect critically on school reform, students need to be includ...