Action-Research-Design Model v.2

I revised our YouthStudio participatory research & design model using feedback from my colleague Martin Wolske at UIUC.  I added a few steps to highlight what Martin and I agree represent some of the potential transformative and social change aspects of our approach, which include the following: information –> knowledge, knowledge –> action, and action –> power processes. All of this is what I believe to be an extension of our Community Informatics Studio.

YouthStudio Design Cycle II(Click on image above to enlarge)

In my thinking, this perspective is also informed by Randy Stoecker’s (2014) re-conceptualization of the civic engagement goals within many higher ed community-engagement projects, an approach which he lays out nicely in his paper, “What If?

The excerpt below highlights my thinking about how the evaluative and critical reflective aspects of the YouthStudio design cycle have the potential to lead to what Stocker refers to as “knowledge power” in the paper.

When I think about knowledge development as civic engagement, however, I need to do so from the standpoint of the constituency, not the university, and that requires some shifts in my thinking about knowledge. One perspective that has been helpful to me in making these shifts has come from Michel Foucault (1975; 1980) and his thinking about power/knowledge. My understanding of this idea is that power and knowledge are mutually reinforcing. When someone has power, they are in a better position to produce knowledge that will in turn enhance their power. For me, power is the ability to engage in goal-directed action. And knowledge is not simply information, but information that has been sifted and sorted and critiqued and organized in a way that facilitates power. I then use the phrase knowledge power to refer to the capacity to gather information and use it to develop knowledge that can effectively inform goal-directed action. My job in higher education civic engagement is to work with constituencies to help them build their collective knowledge power. (p. 1666)

In other words, when our model includes the phrase “action –> power,” it is perhaps more accurate to say that we’re making the assumption that action — which is embodied by the design activities as well as the evaluation of and critical reflection on how the design activities speak to the “hypothesis” or design problem (as in the action-research-design model above) — will lead to greater knowledge power for youth who participate in the YouthStudio project.

The next step, I believe, is to begin to pull together our various theoretical and methodological approaches in order to articulate an evaluation framework that simultaneously encompasses, builds upon, and extends our critical interpretive contributions to date.


Stoecker, R. (2014). What if? AISHE-J: The All Ireland Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 6(1), 1661-16616.

YouthStudio Action-Research-Design Model

I put together a YouthStudio Action-Research-Design Model based upon Davydd Greenwood & Morten Levin’s (2007) work in their Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change.  Because the teens may come and go, dropping in and out of the YouthStudio project at the Moore Public Library, throughout this semester, I realized that we needed an action research and participatory design model that we could use regardless of the individual’s level of experience, interest, and expertise.

YouthStudio Design CycleYou can click on the .jpg above to see a larger version, which I’m looking forward to discussing with my SLIS students in class tomorrow night.  This model provides a starting point for a more rigorous theoretical and methodological approach to our work this semester.  I think we’ll be able to articulate a simpler, more concise approach in working with the teens.  In the meantime, I thought I’d share it here in case anyone outside of our class had any additional thoughts or feedback.

Youth Community Informatics Studio

This semester, I am teaching a new community-engagement course called Leadership in Information Organizations. I am particularly excited about the course because it has been an opportunity to implement the Community Informatics Studio, which I have been developing with my co-author Martin Wolske at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign over the past three years.

This spring, my students (as both students and co-investigators) and I will be using our Critical Interpretive Sociotechnical (CIS) Framework as one of the guiding theoretical foundations for our class. I am also excited to announce that the class meets weekly in and with the community at the Moore Public Library, where we will be working with teens on a youth-led action research and participatory design project to redesign the Teen Space.

Our community-based research project is very much inspired by K-Fai Steele’s work with teens at the Free Library of Philadelphia as well as the amazing grassroots organizing and digital media education work taking place as part of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition.



The class is part of a research project, which I am calling “YouthStudio” or perhaps more accurately “Youth Community Informatics Studio.” Here is a description of the case for spring 2015:

Overview: For the Spring 2015 design case, student teams will partner with professionals and youth at the Moore Public Library to: (1) design and implement innovative popular and progressive digital literacy programs; and 2) develop evaluation models based on community-based and outcomes-based evaluation frameworks. These YouthStudio projects for spring 2015 will focus on creating teen digital literacy and community leadership programs with youth at the Moore Public Library. By participating in an iterative cycle of digital literacy program development and delivery along with development of evaluation rubrics, students will help to define new approaches to bridging these output/outcome evaluation gaps. The results of this studio-based learning approach will immediately inform programming at the Moore Public Library, and they will also be made widely available to inform the work of LIS professionals more broadly.

Additional Details: This course is part of a research project led by Dr. Colin Rhinesmith to investigate how studio-based learning can be used to help teens develop digital literacy and community leadership skills. Studio-based learning is a common pedagogical model in fine arts and architecture, but it is less frequently used in library and information environments. The goal of the research is to understand how librarians can use studio-based learning to assist youth in developing the digital and leadership skills they need to excel in college, in the workplace, and in their community.

The flyer above was created by the good folks at the Pioneer Library System in collaboration with two of my students who are also information services professionals at the Moore Public Library. I am very excited about this opportunity to work with teens, my students, and librarians in Moore to help teens use the project to address a youth-identified problem or issue in the community as well as to help create a stronger relationship between the library and teens in Moore.