“Why Don’t We Learn Like this in School?” One Participatory Action Research Collective’s Framework for Developing Policy Thinking

Mayida Zaal, Jennifer Ayala


This article explores the ways in which schools and communities can create conditions whereby youth can develop and strengthen policy thinking as they pursue advocacy, action, and participatory policy making. Based on a participatory action research (PAR) project created to address the implications of New Jersey’s high school graduation requirements, this framework engages young people in critical policy analysis. Utilizing PAR as a critical pedagogy, we consider the curricula and structures that could nurture policy thinking, as we involve young people in deep critique, analysis, and knowledge production towards community concerns. We describe four dimensions of policy thinking and propose a PAR-based policy thinking framework.


participatory action research, policy thinking, youth research, engaged pedagogy

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JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing is an interdisciplinary journal of curriculum studies. It offers an academic forum for scholarly discussions of curriculum. Historically aligned with the "reconceptualist" movement in curriculum theorizing and oriented toward informing and affecting classroom practice, JCT presents compelling pieces within forms that challenge disciplinary, genre, and textual boundaries.

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