Girls Re-imagining Gender: Using Creative, Critical and Collaborative Methods with Youth

The voices, perspectives of girls and young women in history, political and civic education are rare, and those of girls of color are even rarer still. It is seldom that girls direct the researcher’s gaze or control the camera’s lens. How can a collaborative, critical and creative approach to research help us understand what young people are learning about their roles in society? This interactive workshop will explore the use of participatory, visually-informed research methods in engaging participants in critical reflection and action on issues of gender equality.

This workshop will draw on a study, called Project Citizen-Girl, conducted in the Toronto area, which used photovoice to explore ideas about gender with a group of young women. In light of Canada’s growing cultural diversity, its comparatively low rate of political participation of women, this study sought to examine what systemic issues exist to present greater political participation of women from various backgrounds, as well to explore the myriad of ways that young women are currently resisting, defying and acting as citizens, much of which doesn’t often get included in traditional measure of civic participation.

This project was situated in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and brought together a group of seven young women between the ages of 14-19 from a variety of cultural, racial and geographic backgrounds all of who belong to a group organized by an NGO doing work internationally to promote girls’ education and gender equality. This study used purposive sampling to find a group of girls who might be considered ‘active citizens” because of their active participation in a variety or organizations working on issues of gender equality and girls’ education. Through their participation in a girls’ group with this NGO, these girls had access to critical new research and advocacy work on gender equality that most young people do not. Thus, the study sought to use collaborative methods with these young women to explore the complex web of messaging they receive about gender and the ways they negotiate, adapt and resist traditional gender socialization.

Photovoice is a participatory action research (PAR) method where participants are given cameras to document their lives and then write and discuss their images, revealing their own natural priorities and values (Mitchell & Allnutt, 2008; Cole & Knowles 2008; Prosser & Burke 2008; Wang & Baker 2006). This inquiry process draws on feminism, Freireian approaches to community development, critical pedagogy and participatory media allowing the research participants to identity both common priorities as well as define unique perspectives as well. The idea of a participatory arts-based approach allowed for the research to be “on, for and with” people, as opposed to making participants subjects of an expert researcher (Harrison, 2002; Mitchell & Allnett, 2008; Prosser & Burke, 2008).

This workshop will be co-facilitated by some of the youth who were participant-researchers in the larger Citizen-Girl study and will explore the benefits and limitations of using a collaborative, critical and visually-informed approach to scholarly inquiry that engages youth and attempts to revise power relations in traditional, positivist research. This study used photovoice and interviews where girls explored their roles as females and citizens within their families, schools and society at large (Baker & Wang, 2006; Wang, Ling and Ling, 1996). These young women documented their lives through both text and photovoice, creating images of girls and young women as counter-images to the dominant pictures in the mainstream media.

There will be opportunities for workshop participants to discuss ways to incorporate approaches that draw on critical, creative and collaborative research methods, which generates interesting findings not possible with more traditional methodologies. In addition, for researchers also interested in a deeper relationship for participants and using research for social change, such approaches may also be possible of generating what Patti Lather calls catalytic validity. This concept implies how such interactive research methodologies can also lead to the research participants continuing to be actively engaged in promoting gender equality and social change in their lives post-research study. This workshop is open to all, and we particularly encourage those who may not have prior experience in gender or participatory methodologies to participate.

Lead Instructional Staff:
Dr. Leigh-anne Ingram
Post-Doctoral Researcher at the University of Alberta and
Educational Consultant, Save the Children

CIES 2014 Program
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A Pre-Conference Workshop Canceled
Unlocking the Potential of Higher Education in Meeting EFA The Case of Non-traditional Partners - CANCELED
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Hosted by OISE,
"Learning from Ontario: Reaching for Equity and Excellence in Education". Keynote by Assistant Deputy Minister of Education, Mary Jane Gallagher. Monday, March 10, 1pm-3pm.
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Monday March 10
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Tuesday March 11-15
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Wednesday ends at 6:45
Saturday at noon
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