Young people as co-researchers

Dr Juliana Ryan specialises in the role of youth participatory action research in co-designing a post-secondary transition program

Dr Juliana Ryan is a Lecturer, Teacher Education and Ethics in the School of Education.

In her teaching role, Dr Ryan’s subjects are focused on what it means to be an ethical education professional.

“Teachers make around 1500 decisions a day that have a profound impact on students, often at a formative time in their lives. So, it is vital that they can make justifiable decisions that are based on ethical reasoning and research-informed practice,” says Dr Ryan.

Dr Ryan finds it rewarding when her students make personal connections with course content.

“I enjoy seeing students making sense of concepts or theories in ways that are personally meaningful. This might be because their view of the world or their place in it changes somehow. I also appreciate it when students show me different ways of thinking.”

As a researcher, Dr Ryan is interested in the role of youth participatory action research.

“Youth participatory action research is about reframing young people as co-researchers. We value the experience and knowledge of young people and by including them in our research we not only gain valuable insights, but we can also challenge the traditional power dynamics in academia,” Dr Ryan explains.

New research co-authored by Dr Ryan explores the role of youth participatory action research in co-designing a post-secondary transition program.

This project included a team of youth and staff collaborators who co-designed, piloted and evaluated a transition program to build young people’s agency in planning for their future.

“Transition from school is typically presented as a linear process that needs to be smoothed by expert adults. This diminishes young people’s agency and disregards the diversity of their experiences. Through the co-design process, young people were able to develop a sense of ownership in the program that they co-designed,” Dr Ryan says.

Juliana is now working with partners from the pilot program to develop additional industry partnerships.

“We aim to co-design new iterations of the program and develop sustainable, place-based learning communities that can support larger numbers of young people from diverse backgrounds to imagine, and then take, the next steps in their lives after school.”

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