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Youth Participatory Action Research

Exeter teams with the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives to give students the tools and opportunity to study central elements of the student experience.

May 30, 2018
Members of the 2017-18 Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives group before their presentation to the research consortium's conference at the University of Pennsylvania.

Members of the 2017-18 Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives group before their presentation to the research consortium's conference at the University of Pennsylvania.

At Exeter, we want students to use their voices, and their actions, to have a tangible impact on the world around them — including on how we understand and improve the experiences of our own community.  

Starting last year, PEA teamed with the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives, a research consortium at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Researchers at CSBGL work with students and faculty to study central elements of the student experience at Exeter with social scientific depth and rigor. Through the program, students learn qualitative and quantitative research methods in order to investigate questions of significance to them and the well-being of their peers. Their work becomes the basis for developing policies and practices that improve the Academy. The students collaborate with their peers and with adults to bring their insights and ideas into practice.

In 2016-17, the students researched the ways in which gendered rituals shaped campus climate and culture. Their research was instrumental in the development of this year’s pilot of an enhanced visitations policy. In 2017-18, the students chose to research the effects of socio-economic status on student experience at Exeter, in the areas of academics, social life and extra-curriculars. Their research makes an important contribution to our focus on equity and inclusion of all kinds, and especially financial equity -- one of five strategic directions for the Academy.

The members of the club shared their research at a research colloquium at UPenn; in a strategic planning committee meeting with administration and faculty; with faculty and staff collecting data for the Academy’s accreditation report; and in an assembly with the entire student body. The club looks forward to continuing their work next year and beyond under the guidance of club advisers Math Instructor Aviva Halani and Religion Instructor Hannah Hofheinz. 

In the fall of 2018, the CSBGL will rebrand itself as SPARC: School Participatory Action Research Collaborative. We will also formalize this work as an Exeter-specific chapter. In collaboration with her family, we have named our club in honor of Preeya Sheth ‘16, who died by suicide in the summer of 2014 — the Sheth Participatory Action Research Collaborative. Preeya believed in impassioned discourse and in action to make Exeter an even better place, and her name, her spark, will live on through the research and work of Exeter's SPARC.