Student Success Educational Equity Participatory Action Research Pilot (2020 - current)

Research Team

Faculty Advisor

Project Summary

Members of a community should be involved in defining problems and outlining solutions (Langhout, 2010). Typically, however, social scientists who are concerned with topics such as social justice, mental health and wellbeing, and student success often define the context, identify the problem, and propose solutions based on observations or interviews designed and conducted by adult researchers in the field (Langhout 2010). This is particularly problematic when working with communities that have historically been silenced (e.g., first-generation, students of color) and/or are approached through a deficit-based framework as it ends up stigmatizing community participants labeling them as “needing to be fixed” (Valencia, 1997). 

The Student Success Educational Equity Participatory Action Research (SSEE-PAR) program seeks to shift this narrative and attempt a new approach by engaging those most closely affected (undergraduate students) in defining the research questions, conducting the research, and engaging in solutions with an asset-based approach guided by the students’ own lived experiences. In partnership with the First Generation Initiative, we will focus this work on the minoritized student experience (e.g., first-generation college students, students of color, and those from working class/working poor backgrounds). 

The proposed 2-year SSEE-PAR pilot program has four distinct phases: 1) program development, 2) research team and problem definition development, 3) research execution (data collection, analyses, and reporting), 4) research action toward social change, and 5) evaluation and refinement of the program. 

Throughout the pilot program, we will assess the experiences of the SSEE-PAR team, gaining insights during each phase of the research process. Data that is collected will be analyzed during the course of this project, and adjustments will be made to the theory of action model. Our goal is to develop a model that identifies the important mechanisms or levers of change in order to make the SSEE-PAR project most effective. The refined model and accompanying curriculum will be shared with interested campus partners to inform their own work and practice with students. 

Generous funding has been provided by the Jacques M. Littlefield Foundation through a gift to the UC Santa Cruz First Generation Initiative, Student Fee Advisory Committee, Radical Resilience Initiative, and the Student Success Equity Research Center.