All research is a social construction. In this paper, we work to illuminate those moments of co-constructed meaning by taking readers on a “behind the scenes” tour of a collaborative research project that explored educator relationships. We describe our priorities in and care for participant recruitment and scheduling, our post-hoc reflections on the differences in emotional tenor between interviews and focus groups, and our own roles and positionalities within the data collection and analysis process. Action-items are recommended for other group-based qualitative studies to humanize the process of research and prioritize moments of agency, trust, and connection among participants.


feminist methodologies, critical focus group research, interviewing, reconceptualizing collaboration, decolonizing the academy, pedagogy

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Anne E. Pezalla is a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Macalester College. Her research explores positive youth development, parenting dynamics and family relationships, and interpretive methodologies. Please direct correspondence to apezall1@macalester.edu

Alyssa Scott is a senior research analyst in the youth development program area at Child Trends. She is dedicated to community-based participatory research, youth participatory action research, racial equity in maternal and child health, justice-involved youth and young adults, and creating culturally grounded programs that meet the needs of local communities. Please direct correspondence to ascott@childtrends.org

Lex Nappa’s areas of expertise include positive youth development and social emotional learning, with a focus on cultivating and improving relationships among educators, curriculum development and applying an equity lens to adapting evidence-based interventions. Please direct correspondence to lexn@search-institute.org

Dr. Ta-yang “Diane” Hsieh's research focuses on motivational theories as well as applied research projects in educational settings. Diane is originally from Taiwan; her international upbringing contributes to her passion and commitment for doing research that truly celebrates diversity. Please direct correspondence to dianeh@search-institute.org


This study is supported by a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Foundation grant (CZIF2021-005774; “Expanding the Vision for Developmental Relationships in Schools”) awarded to Search Institute.

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