Community-Based Research in Urban Settings

February 1, 2001

Introduction and Background to the Course
In November 1999, the DU/Northwestside Schools Partnership received funding to collaborate with the Piton Foundation in a research and evaluation component of the DeWitt-Wallace/Beacon Project Evaluation. Beacons are extended-service schools—schools that open before the start of the traditional academic day and offer a range of enriching activities in the afternoon through evening hours, as well as on weekends and over the summer. Their purpose is to answer the pressing need for productive and meaningful activities for children and youth during the non-school hours. There are three Beacon sites in Denver: Cole Beacon Neighborhood Center, Lake Middle School, and Rishel Beacon Neighborhood Center.

The collaboration between DU and the Piton Foundation is being undertaken through the above course to provide graduate students with the theoretical and practical skills to assist with this project and to conduct their own research studies. After reading about, discussing, and practicing the relevant research techniques, you will work in teams with fellow graduate students and your professors to oversee data collection at one of the three Beacon Sites. This work involves training high school students to conduct interviews at the three neighborhood centers, overseeing all interviews, organizing the data for entry and analysis, and writing up a draft of the findings that will be submitted to the Piton Foundation.

The research project will provide information about young people’s attitudes about their neighborhood centers and their suggestions for improvement. If time allows, you will have the opportunity to conduct interviews with site providers.

Course Description
This class will introduce you to the emerging philosophical and methodological issues that arise when university faculty and students collaborate on research with community-based organizations. We will discuss different research traditions, master relevant skills, and access resources to prepare you to conduct your own inquiries and to understand and solve problems.

Course Objectives
This course will enable you to:
1. Learn about the challenges and successes involved in effective community-based youth programming.
2. Learn about conducting research in community settings.
3. Assist with a research project based upon the needs of the Piton Foundation and the Beacon Neighborhood Centers. This research project includes the development of a data collection instrument(s), data collection and entry, analysis of findings, and the writing of a report.
4. Develop, understand, and practice applied research skills with professors, fellow students, community members, and young people that can inform and improve community-based youth programming.

Course Readings
There is no required text for this course—indeed the course·s focus is inherently applied and will itself be community-based. However, readings will be assigned based on the development of the class and their relevance to the questions that we are grappling with. Also the instructors have several books, articles, and reports that will enable you to follow up on your own interests.

Organization and Course Outline
The content of classes will consist of a configuration of guest lectures, discussions, site visits, group process activities, and other activities to be determined.

These course topics and dates are presented as a guide. It is reasonable to assume that interests and needs may lead to some variation.

Week 1: Jan 5 Introductions; Course overview; Description of research project and introduction to data collection instrument.
Guest speaker: Terri Bailey, Research Officer, Piton Foundation, Denver (Course Consultant).

Week 2: Jan 12 Extended service schools, youth development and developmental assets
Activities: Complete final draft of Beacon Participant Interview Instrument.
Readings: Focus: Extended-Service Schools (DeWitt Wallace Reader·s Digest Report); Voices of hope: Building developmental assets for Colorado youth
Guest speakers: Constancia Warren, Senior Program Officer, Academy for Educational Development, New York; and Terri Bailey.

Week 3: Jan 19 Beacon Site Visit (1)
Activities: Meet Coordinators; identify high school research assistants; organize and implement training of research assistants.
Reading: Fred Beauvais, “Ethnic communities and research: Building a new alliance.”

Week 4: Jan 26 Beacon Site Visit (2)
Activities: Meet Coordinators; identify high school research assistants; organize and implement training of research assistants.

Week 5: Feb 2 Beacon Site Visit (3)
Activities: Meet Coordinators; identify high school research assistants; organize and implement training of research assistants.

Week 6: Feb 9 Data Collection at Beacon Sites
Activities: Data collection—Monday-Thursday.

Week 7: Feb 16 Data Entry (Data Collection Reserve Date)
Activities: SPSS tutorial.
Guest lecture/visits: Dr. Tom Paskus and Jo-Anne McDonald, DU Educational Psychology (Course Consultants).

Week 8: Feb 23 Data Analysis
Activities: Meetings with research team.

Week 9: Mar 1 Writing
Activities: Meetings with research team.

Week 10: Mar 8 Findings and Reflections on Community-Based Research
Activities: Presentations and Celebration!
Reading: National Center for Service Integration Resource Brief.

Course Requirements
There are five course requirements.

1. Thoughtful participation (10%). You will be required to attend all class sessions, participate fully and responsibly, and read all assigned readings.

2. Research Log (20%). You will compile a notebook comprising reflections on the readings, class discussions, and your work at the Beacon site. These reflections may form the basis for part of your presentation (see 5 below) and will be due on the last class session.

3. Organization of data collection (30%). You will be responsible for establishing rapport at your Beacon site, identifying and training high school research assistants, and supervising data collection.

4. Organization of data entry, analysis, and writing report draft (30%). You will be responsible for analyzing the data and producing a report draft.

5. Presentation (10%). You will present your findings to the class and provide reflections on the research process.

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