Voices and empowerment in a democratically-constructed elementary school classroom: a participatory action research study of our beliefs
Rogan, Robert patrick
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Democratic education is a learning approach that encourages and respects the voices of students. Unfortunately, much of the research on student empowerment and democratic education has utilized antiquated techniques that were researcher driven and disempowering to the objects of their study, the children. The current research incorporated a participatory action design to study the impact democratic education would have on the beliefs of three elementary age students. As part of the process, the students were involved in almost every facet of the research process. As co-researchers, they had dual roles as participants and researchers in the study of their own beliefs as well as the beliefs of others. During the process, we decided to utilize reflexive photographic narratives, kinetic drawings, and projective interviews as our primary sources of data because we believed that they are situated within the control of those being studied, instead of those doing the studying. The findings suggested that democratic education is a viable alternative to the current traditionally-based teaching approaches current utilized in many schools. The findings also indicated that the current methodological approaches for data collection often result in misinterpretations of the student’s beliefs.