Community-engaged research through the lens of school closures: Opportunities, challenges, contributions, and lingering questions
Keywords:community-engaged research, school closings, New York City, Baltimore
This article expands upon and problematizes the practice of community-engaged research (CES) through the lens of school closings. Rather than employ a one-dimensional view of CES that portrays university researchers and community partners as collaborating equally on all stages of the research, we suggest a broader, more flexible understanding that incorporates various contextual factors. Drawing on local examples, from New York City and Baltimore, and one national effort to resist school closings, we present three forms of CES: participatory action research (PAR), in which university researchers and community partners collaboratively engaged in almost all aspects of the process; the engaged learner, in which the researcher documented a community organizing campaign with the full support of the campaign organizers; and a grassroots listening project implemented without university partners. In each case, participants had to navigate the thorny issues of power differentials, race and racism, ownership and voice, and presentation and representation. Difficulties notwithstanding, CES has made important contributions to both the literature on and practice of school closings. We conclude the article with a discussion of some of the lingering tensions that characterize community-engaged scholarship.