Discovery Project: Research as a Tool for Change

In this lesson, students explored the various dimensions of research, from traditional methods to its impact on social change and justice, discussing ethical considerations and the balance of insider versus outsider status, and reflecting on how research can empower communities and influence their own work.

Author: Marieka Schotland, Executive Director at i4Y (Innovations for Youth), Berkeley Public Health
Course Number & Title: PH199: Independent Study - YEDI (Youth Equity Discovery Initiative)
Grant Type: Berkeley Discover Departmental Innovation Award Program (Discovery Trailblazers), Berkeley Collegium Grant Program

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Lesson Title Research as a Tool for Change
Delivery Format In-person

High Impact Practices (HIPs) Categories

(Review definitions for each category(link is external))

  • Collaborative Assignments and Projects
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Diversity/Global Learning
Learning Objectives
  • Expand students' understanding of what research is, including how it can affect social change

  • Expose students to various pieces of research that are critical when it is community engaged

Innovative Teaching Reflection

Most undergraduates have a narrow understanding of what research means. This lesson gives them a broader view of it.

Lesson Length 45 min
Learning Activities

The introduction includes an interactive activity where students put up post-it notes on the white board answer what research sounds like, smells like, feels like, tastes like and looks like. The answers are often very traditional or lab based answers. We want to challenge them to think about how research can also be about social change - sounds like youth voice, smells and tastes like food for a community focus group, feels like flyers to recruit community partners, etc.

Then we talk about past research and how it has often broken the trust of communities that the research has been done in, usually marginalized groups. We explain how safeguards have been put in place now to project people. We also talk about how research can be used for justice work, about how researchers have to balance insider vs outside status, and about how research can help break cycles of oppression and violence, changing it to a cycle of resistance and empowerment. Finally they reflect on this knowledge and apply it to the research work they are involved in.

Impact & Feedback

The Tuskegee Airman research story is often very shocking for the students.

Lesson Details See handout