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Youth Participatory Action Research:
A Guidebook and Curriculum

Designed for high school educators who want to implement a course dedicated to student inquiry and leadership

YPAR Guidebook cover
December 20, 2023


  • Get an overview of YPAR principles and practices, suggested steps and tools for developing a YPAR curriculum and examples and resources from a year-long YPAR course.
  • See an example of how to curate and customize a YPAR curriculum.
  • See recommendations for how educators might develop and implement similar YPAR courses.

What happens when young people can serve lead investigators of issues that matter to them? The answer: good things!

With Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR), students are positioned as experts and leaders. They design and implement research projects, conduct inquiries, analyze findings, communicate their implications and contribute to reform efforts. In doing so they demonstrate just how insightful and powerful they can be when we give them the proper supports and get out of their way.

With our new comprehensive YPAR guidebook, published in partnership with WestEd, we share the knowledge we gained and the curriculum we developed while piloting a yearlong YPAR course at an urban Northeastern public high school during the 2022/23 school year. Trusted to produce and not just receive knowledge, students in the YPAR course were supported to build and lead research agendas of their making. What we built with them is designed to be implemented and adapted in any high school that is committed to student voice, continuous improvement and equity.

This guidebook provides teachers, administrators and community leaders with key considerations for planning, implementing and refining a yearlong YPAR course. The curriculum contains the scope and sequence, detailed lesson plans, instructional resources and a host of crucial sample documents educators and leaders need to construct a rigorous, fun and inspiring YPAR course. It contains three distinct cycles of student-led research investigations. Throughout the guidebook we have integrated a host of practitioner-friendly resources to:

  • Help educators and students execute research tasks by focusing on their own positionality and the lenses it affords
  • Develop strong research questions that align with students’ concerns and curiosities
  • Build effective systems and structures to carry out activities associated with data gathering, analysis and presentation

To facilitate strong renditions of YPAR projects, we organized the guidebook and curriculum into four phases, all designed to be adapted to fit local contexts and conditions:

  • Phase 1 describes the goals of YPAR and orients practitioners to its learner-centered routines and structures.
  • Phase 2 provides details on preparing to offer a YPAR course including: curriculum development; recruiting partners, students and educators; and preparing students and educators to engage in the work.
  • Phase 3 supplies activities to design, refine and execute investigations, then share discoveries with audiences positioned to do something about it.
  • Phase 4 provides suggestions for refining the YPAR systems, structures and curriculum throughout the year based on student reflection, feedback and leadership.

We think students are hungry for these types of opportunities and challenges, communities benefit greatly from well-designed youth inquiry and leadership and educators thrive when they have a structure they can rely on to implement it well.

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