Let Me Say It My Way: Using Culturally Relevant Research Strategies to Explore Young Adults’ Experiences of Social and Economic Health

By M. Tanya Brann-Barrett.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this paper I critically examine culturally relevant research strategies that I used to explore young adults’ experiences of socio-economic health in their economically disadvantaged Atlantic Canadian community. Working with young people from varying socio-economic and educational backgrounds, a goal of this critical ethnographic research was to create spaces for young adults to articulate their ideas for their communities’ futures in ways that were meaningful to them. After presenting the theoretical and methodological frameworks for this research, I discuss three culturally relevant strategies in particular: 1) critical dialogue (focus group discussions relevant to the research sparked by media such as music and film), 2) photonarrative (participants’ views expressed through their own photography and verbal narratives), and 3) community mapping (participants’ construction of visual maps based on their experiences in their community). Using specific examples from my research, I consider the potential strengths and limitations of these strategies as empowering research and community engagement educational tools.
Economically disadvantaged regions across Canada struggle to reconstruct themselves in the face of globalization and reduced social welfare. As a community-based and university educator in an economically depressed Atlantic Canadian municipality, I argue that successful community sustainability must reflect the experiences and perceptions of local citizens—including those whose insights are not typically solicited such as youth and young adults. Moreover, in socio-economic disadvantaged regions where outmigration is rampant, young people are vital to communities’ survival. This research is a step toward collaboration with young people to find ways that education can support their culturally relevant efforts to inform decision-making about social justice, sustainability, and regional equity in their communities.

Keywords: Young People, Culturally Relevant Research Strategies, Social Exclusion, Community and Citizen Engagement

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp.525-538. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.388MB).

Dr. M. Tanya Brann-Barrett

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Cape Breton University, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada

Dr. Tanya Brann-Barrett is an assistant professor of Communication at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, Canada. She obtained a PhD in Educational Studies from the University of British Columbia. Her areas of research interest include social exclusion and community development education; issues of public engagement and citizenship as they relate to youth, young adults, gender and class, and critical and performative ethnography and arts- based inquiry. She has presented and published work in these areas. A mother of two young boys, Tanya is also a community volunteer and educator on Cape Breton Island where she lives and works. Her community work includes the design and facilitation of interpersonal and public communication training for school children, community groups, and organization. She is actively involved in community economic development initiatives as a community-based researcher, a group facilitator, and communication consultant.


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