Model Project: first phase was the teaching of a School of Education year-long course (2007-2008), "Action Research for Youth and Community Development" which focused on Community Based Research

Community-Based Research for Youth Development

(EDUC 4800 - Sec 803)


A two-semester sequence in community-based research (3 credits per semester)

Fall 2007
Tue/Thurs: 12:30 – 1:45

Spring 2008



Ben Kirshner, PhD

Room 215, School of Education


Office hours: 10:30 – 12:15, Thursdays OR by appointment


Graduate Research Assistant

Kristen Pozzoboni


UROP Research Assistant

Chelsea Bridges




This upper-level course is designed for undergraduates who are interested in some of the following topics:


Community engagement

Youth development

Applied research

Social justice

Service learning          



Course Description


In this class you will learn how to carry out an authentic, high quality research project that meets a community need. Projects will involve partnerships with youth-serving agencies in the Boulder area. Be prepared to devote time outside of the class to working with a partner organization. For example, you might collaborate with a school to assess how students perceive its diversity curriculum. Or you might work with a youth development agency to help evaluate its outreach programs and make recommendations for how services could be improved. Projects will be created based on community needs, student capacity, and the extent to which they contribute to increasing equity or social justice. You do not need to have prior experience doing applied research – but you do need to be interested in learning about it! By the end of the course you will learn skills that will serve you well in graduate school and professional contexts, such as:


  • How to carry out community-based research (e.g., interviews, focus groups, field notes,)
  • How to develop collaborative relationships with organizations
  • Effective approaches to promoting youth and community development
  • How to write a research paper for public consumption based on original data


Course Virtues


  • Authentic engagement– Become intrinsically motivated in complex, open-ended projects that require engagement with the community; carry out high quality work because you value the outcome for community partners and your own learning.


  • Collaboration– Be prepared to cooperate with others in accomplishing the work; communicate your needs and listen to the needs of others; berespectful towards other students’ ideas, participate in discussions and small group tasks; ask for clarification; address your comments and questions to each other as much as to the instructor; learn from each other.


  • Professionalism– Meet deadlines; respond to email promptly; show up on time; communicate with partner sites and each other; follow-through on agreements with partner sites; be flexible in response to changing circumstances.


  • Intellectual curiosity –Be open to new ideas; ask questions when you’re not sure you understand; try thinking about things in new ways.


  • Self-reflection– Assess your strengths and weaknesses; reflect on what you are learning; set goals for your learning.

CU Learn

This course will rely on CU Learn for course assignments, readings, and other resources, such as links to CBR websites. All readings (aside from the two required books) are posted there. All assignments will be posted there. Unless otherwise notified, please submit all written assignments to CU Learn. You will receive written feedback electronically. We may use CU Learn for other purposes as well (as I learn how it works).

Required Readings

There are two required books for this course. Books are available for purchase in the CU bookstore and online. All other readings are posted on CU-Learn.



Boyte, H. (2004).Everyday politics.Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


MacLeod, J. (1987/1995).Ain’t no makin’ it.Boulder: Westview Press.

Attendance policy

You are expected to attend every class. I understand that over the course of the semester you may get sick or you may experience one or two conflicts that you cannot fix. In those cases, you should notify me in advance and I will count these as “excused.” If you miss class you are responsible for information conveyed during the class (including assignments). More than two absences, however, is not acceptable because of the format and interactive nature of this class. Missing more than two classes will jeopardize your semester grade and could result in lack of credit for the class.

Policy regarding late assignments

It is essential that you complete and turn in assignments on time because they are designed to build on one another and they will form the groundwork for our class discussions.  Late assignments will be accepted only if you have received approval in advance.

Reasonable accommodation

Disability: If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to me a letter from Disability Services early in the semester so that your needs may be addressed. Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities. To contact Disability Services, call (303) 492-8671 or view


Religious Obligations: University policy is for teaching faculty to make every effort to accommodate all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments, or other required attendance, provided they notify instructors well in advance of the scheduled conflict. Whenever possible, students should notify faculty at least two weeks in advance of the conflict to request special accommodation. The campus policy can be viewed at


Student Honor Code: A Student Honor Code system has been implemented in all schools and colleges and students should be familiar with these new policies and procedures. You can view the honor code information at


Sexual Harassment Policy: The University of Colorado Policy on Sexual Harassment applies to all students, staff and faculty.  Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual attention. It can involve intimidation, threats, coercion, or promises or create an environment that is hostile or offensive. Harassment may occur between members of the same or opposite gender and between any combination of members in the campus community: students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Harassment can occur anywhere on campus, including the classroom, the workplace, or a residence hall. Any student, staff or faculty member who believes s/he has been sexually harassed should contact the Office of Sexual Harassment (OSH) at 303-492-2127 or the Office of Judicial Affairs at 303-492-5550.  Information about the OSH and the campus resources available to assist individuals who believe they have been sexually harassed can be obtained at:



Description of Work – Fall Semester


Participation in discussions and decisions


Readings and conceptual understanding

  • Reflective essays (2) and activities
  • Expository essay: Principles of CBR
  • Homeworks
  • Documentation of fieldwork/readings
  • Students’ Guide to CBR (part 1)


CBR project development*

  • Relationship development with CBR partners
  • Documentation of fieldwork/readings (same as above)
  • Communication with your team
  • Research proposal


*Most aspects of project development will be completed in small teams.



Participation in discussions and decisions


This class will be a group endeavor. We will talk about readings, reflect on our learning, and make joint decisions about the projects. It might remind you of putting on a play, being on a sports team, or engaging in some kind of sustained social action project. Just like those kinds of activities, yourparticipationwill be essential. We’ll talk more in class about participation norms – they include a willingness to speak up and also to step back and listen to others.


Readings and conceptual understanding


  • Reflective journal and activities


On several occasions throughout the semester you will be asked to reflect on what you are learning and doing – sometimes in writing and sometimes in discussions. Sometimes these reflections will be shared with fellow students, sometimes with the instructor, and sometimes with Kristen Pozzoboni (the graduate research assistant who is supporting the class).


  • Principles of CBR paper


This is a 4-5 page paper that demonstrates your interpretation of CBR principles. Details will be handed out in class.


  • Homeworks


Periodically there will be short assignments that are needed for the upcoming class. These shouldn’t take more than 15-30 minutes to complete and are listed in the syllabus.


  • Students’ Guide to CBR (part 1)


This class is part of an emerging field still identifying best practices. We can contribute something to that emerging field by creating a students’ guide to CBR. My hope is that the experience of creating this guide will provide an opportunity for your reflection and deeper learning. The final draft of this document will be due in the spring semester, but we will get started on it this fall. It should be user-friendly, creative, and engaging to read. The length is up for discussion. My sense is that it will be somewhere between 5 and 10 pages. The final document will be created by the whole class.


CBR project development


  • Relationship development with CBR partners


Building a project in collaboration with CBR partners requires a foundation of relationships. There will be several assignments related to building this relationship – ranging from sending thank you notes to meeting with your liaison. Most importantly, you will be expected to make at least 3 fieldwork visits in the first semester (in addition to 1-2 meetings to work out details of your research plan). You will receive coaching in this kind relationship building – it might mean hanging out there without any meeting scheduled; it might mean doing a service activity; it might mean taking time to find out what motivates people at the site, it might mean completing a short-term research task needed by the agency. Regardless, it will take time and you should prepare for that.


  • Fieldwork visits and documentation


As part of your fieldwork you will be expected to type reflective notes about what you observe and make connections to our readings about youth development. These three written documents will comprise data for your research project and will also assess your understanding of the readings.


  • Communication with your team


You will work in groups of 2-4 on your CBR projects. This will require you to communicate regularly with each other and your course “coach” (Ben or Kristen) both in class and over email. You will need to coordinate schedules with each other in the event that you need to be at the site at the same time.


  • Research proposal (5-7 pages)


You are responsible for developing a detailed research plan to propose to your CBR site. You should expect at least two revisions – first after feedback from Ben or Kristen and then in response to feedback from your partner site. Your research plan will include: 1) research questions; 2) research methods; 3) schedule for time spent at the site; 4) what you need from the partner site; 5) communication plan (how you will communicate your findings); 6) anticipated uses of data (how you think it could be useful); 7) how your project relates to relevant youth development literature.




Grading will be different in this class. You will not receive letter grades on your assignments, but your work will be assessed and commented upon. You will receive written feedback on all of your assignments, as well as summative feedback at the end of the semester. I will provide clear expectations for what constitutes excellent work for various assignments. To the extent that your work does not meet a threshold of excellence I will let you know how it can be improved. All students will be expected to receive an A for the course. If your work and participation does not meet this standard by the end of the fall semester than you may not be invited to continue in the spring semester.


A word about the course calendar and assignments


This will be a demanding course – intellectually, interpersonally, and also in terms of your time. You will be expected to read, reflect, and interact with your colleagues. During several occasions in the semester you will be expected to either meet with your partner site liaison or spend time at your partner site observing and helping out. For these reasons, read the calendar and assignments carefully. Be sure you have organized your schedule so that you can meet these expectations.


Project Development Timeline










Open house with potential partners


Decide on partners

Build relationships with partner sites


Begin fieldwork

Develop research plan


Collect data

Finalize MOU with partner sites


Develop research protocols










Collect data

Collect data


Analyze data

Analyze data: Identity findings


Sharepreliminaryfindings with partner sites

Complete final paper


Share findings with community partner through report and presentation


Course Calendar


  • My goal is to organize our meetings such thatTuesday meetings focus on readings/conceptsandThursday meetings focus on project development. For this reason all readings are expected to be completed by Tuesday’s class unless otherwise specified.


  • There are some readings still “TBD” (to be determined). Also, because we are still establishing community partnerships, this schedule will likely go through some changes. I will be sure to communicate any changes promptly to you.








August 29, 31




What have been your experiences with research (or academic course-work in general)?


  • Awuor, “Graduate field work: a reflection from Nairobi Kenya”
  • Brown, “Social science and environmental activism”
  • Strand et al.,Community-based research and higher education:Preface, Chapter 1
  • Course syllabus


Sept 4, 6


Models of Community Engagement

  • Reflective essay #1 due Tues, Sept 4 (300-350 words)

For Tuesday

  • Kahne & Westheimer, “In the service of what?”
  • McKnight, “Professionalized service and disabling help”


For Thursday

  • Weinberg, “Negotiating community-based research”
  • Strand et al.,Community-based research and higher education:Chapter 2


Sept 11, 13


Community-Based Approaches: Research and Organizing


  • HW due Tues, Sept 11: Find and bring example of CBR from web


  • Reflective interview with Kristen completed by Sept 14
  • Willis et al, “The undergraduate perspective”
  • Gottlieb, “Janitors and dry-cleaners”
  • Horton, fromThe long haul:p. 13 – 45
  • Strand et al.,Community-based research:Chapter 3


Sept 18, 20


CBR and Public Work



  • HW due Tues, Sept 18: Prepare short introduction of 1 visiting agency




  • Horton, fromThe long haul:88 – 112
  • Boyte,Everyday politics:Preface, Chapters 1-3


Optional resource

  • Squires & Willett, “The fair lending coalition”


Sept 25, 27


Building Relationships I



  • Partnerships: Reflection on presentations and Thank you letters due Tuesday, October 2


  • Boyte,Everyday politics:Chapters 4–6
  • Franquiz, “Casa Esperanza”
  • WestEd, “Starting a community partnership”


Oct 2, 4


Building Relationships II


  • Expository essay on principles of CBR due Tues, Oct 2



  • Boyte,Everyday politics:Chapter 7
  • TBD readings on communication


Oct 9, 11


Intro to Fieldwork/ Evaluation


  • Partnerships: Meet with partner agency by 10/12; submit fieldwork schedule to instructor



  • Boyte,Everyday politics:Chapter 8
  • TBD readings on evaluation/fieldwork


Optional resource

  • Stoecker, “Making connections”





Oct 16, 18


Adolescent Development


  • Lerner et al, “Positive youth development”
  • Damon, “Social development,” (p. 271-285)
  • Nakkula, “Identity and possibility”
  • Arnett, “Cognitive foundations,” 63-88 + summary”


Oct 23, 25


Social Context of Adolescence


  • Fieldwork/reading reflection #1 due on Thurs, Oct 25
  • MacLeod,Ain’t no makin’ it:Chapters 1 - 3.
  • Flores & Benmayor, “Introduction”


Oct 30, Nov 1




  • Fieldwork/reading reflection #2 due on Thurs, Nov 1


  • MacLeod,Ain’t no makin’ it:Chapter 4-5
  • Sánchez, “Coming of age across borders”


Nov 6, 8



  • Partnerships: Submit rough draft of research proposal to instructor November 8
  • MacLeod,Ain’t no makin’ it:Chapter 6
  • Delpit, “Teaching other people’s children”
  • Valenzuela, “Subtractive schooling…”
  • DeJesus et al., “Urban students tackle research on inequality”


Optional resource

  • Rothstein, “Reforms to…narrow the achievement gap”


Nov 13, 15


Youth Organizations

  • Partnerships: Revised research proposal due to partner site by Thurs, Nov 15
  • Eccles & Gootman, “Features of positive developmental settings”
  • Flores-Gonzalez, “From hip-hop to humanization”
  • McLaughlin, “Community counts”


Nov 20, 22




Thanksgiving week


Thanksgiving week

Nov 27, 29


Equity and access for youth


(BK at conference Nov 29)

  • Partnerships: Revise research plan in light of feedback


  • Fieldwork reflection #3 due on Thurs, Nov 29


  • Ginwright & James, “From assets to agents of change”
  • Hart, “Children’s participation”
  • MacLeod,Ain’t no makin’ it:Chapters 7-8 (112-150).


Dec 4, 6


Topic TBD


  • Partnerships: Signed MOU with partner agency by 12/7
  • Boyte,Everyday politics:Chapters 9 – 10.
  • Connell & Gambone, “Youth development”


Dec 11, 13


Topic TBD

  • Reflective essay #2 due Tues, Dec 11


  • Students’ Guide to CBR (part 1) due Thurs, Dec 13


  • Readings TBD