When qualitative researchers and ethnographers enter schools to study the lived experiences of students, they are far from fly-on-the-wall observers.
“When you’re taking up space in a school, you are now a part of students’ everyday lives,” says Veena Vasudevan, assistant professor of digital media and learning at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. “While this creates opportunities to deeply know young people, it also means that you have to be responsible with their feelings and be transparent in communicating why you’re there.”
Navigating the interpersonal relationships formed during long-term school-based research is explored in a new book co-edited by Vasudevan, titled Care-Based Methodologies: Reimagining Qualitative Research with Youth in U.S. Schools (Bloomsburg Press, 2022). The book details methods for conducting responsible research that improves the understanding of youth lives, cares for their wellbeing, and works toward dismantling the systems that oppress them.
“So much of educational research talks about kids but doesn’t talk with kids. Schools can be deeply uncaring and isolating for students, particularly for Black and Brown youth in urban public education,” says Vasudevan. “When you don’t feel cared for in a place, that affects how you engage in everything else.”
Vasudevan co-edited the book with Nora Gross, visiting assistant professor of sociology at Boston College; Pavithra Nagarajan, senior research associate at CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance; and Katherine Clonan-Roy, assistant professor at the Cleveland State University College of Education and Human Services.
The book’s core idea is that care is essential in all aspects of school-based research—touching everything from the research design and methods approach to the ways in which researchers build relationships and communicate with participants. Core components of care-based methodologies include transparency, reflexivity, reciprocity, curiosity, consent, and self-care.
Care-Based Methodologies includes chapters meant to support graduate students and early-career scholars, as well as chapters for those running research teams who oversee decisions about collecting data and cultivating relationships in communities.
The book’s final chapter touches on how the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for care.
“The pandemic has illustrated the fissures and inequities in our society,” says Vasudevan. “The last two years have been so isolating for young people and reaffirms that the role of care in our work is more necessary than ever. It’s much more magnified at this time.”
She adds: “Fundamentally, the book is about human relationality and the importance of setting those relationships up—whether it’s through Zoom or in person—in a way that makes people feel cared for.”
The School of Education will host a virtual book launch event for Care-Based Methodologies: Reimagining Qualitative Research with Youth in U.S. Schools on Friday, February 25, 2022, from 4 – 5 p.m. All are welcome to attend. Registration is required.