This paper shares findings from a critical reflection on a collaborative participatory research initiative called “The Improving Schools Project." The first author’s reflections explored the interaction of race, space, and positionality within the context of a cross-racial participatory research project. She considered how the racial identity of organizations and individuals nested within organizations impacted patterns of engagement and participation in this project. Through engaging in critical reflexive work facilitated by co-inquirers, she developed a clearer understanding of how the racialization of organizations played a critical role in mediating participants’ engagement in terms of control, collaboration, and commitment. Organizational histories and legacies grounded in (mis)treatment and relationships with communities of color shaped and were shaped by the racial identities of individuals representing these organizations. Multi-layered critical reflexivity allowed for the examination of unintended impacts on participatory processes and practices in cross-racial participatory projects.


Participatory Research, Racialized Identities, Critical Reflexivity, School Reform

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Elizabeth Drame is an associate professor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is currently the Chairperson of the Department of Exceptional Education, prepares special education teachers, and coordinates the Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate Program. She is a recognized scholar and was most recently honored with an award to conduct research in Senegal, West Africa as a Senior Research Scholar in the U.S. Fulbright African Regional Research Fellowship Program. Dr. Drame conducts school and community-based research addressing educational and behavioral outcomes for students with special needs in public schools, most recently in New Orleans, Milwaukee, Senegal, West Africa and Nairobi, Kenya. She employs participatory evaluation methods to carry out her scholarship. Her research is published in top-tier research journals, such as Exceptional Children, Excellence and Equity in Education, Urban Education, Remedial and Special Education, and Educational Action Research. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: Elizabeth R. Drame at, erdrame@uwm.edu.

Dr. Decoteau Irby is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His current research, advocacy, and policy work centers on the cultural politics of urban education; zero tolerance, school safety, and discipline policies; ideological dimensions of school reform movements; and schooling and labor experiences of Black males. He is published in academic journals including Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, Preventing School Failure, Studies in Educational Evaluation, Urban Education, and the Urban Review among others. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: Decoteau Irby at, irbyd@uic.edu.

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