Elevating Learner Voice Through Youth Participatory Action Research in Kentucky

How prepared do learners feel to use the certification they have earned through their CTE program? Do learners feel their certification will increase their chances of employment after graduation? A group of learners in Kentucky are working with Advance CTE and the Kentucky Student Voice Team to find out. In this blog, Membership and Policy Associate, Amy Hodge introduces this new initiative.

In September 2023 , Advance CTE launched an exciting new pilot initiative to engage state Career Technical Education (CTE) leaders in the youth participatory action research space. This project centers the belief that CTE programs should be designed with learners, not simply for learners, as learners are too often left out of key conversations about what access, quality, and success look like. Youth participatory action research (YPAR) is an exciting approach for engaging learners in policy and practice decision-making.

The CTE Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project is a collaboration between the Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT), the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Kentucky Postsecondary Council on Education (CPE), and Fayette County Public Schools. This pilot is generously funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and aligns with Advance CTE’s vision for the future of CTE where learners have agency and feel empowered to advocate for high-quality CTE programs.

Advance CTE helped recruit a group of 15 high school-aged learners to receive training from the Kentucky Student Voice Team on designing their own YPAR project. Learners came from three career academies in Fayette County, KY, including Tates Creek High School, Bryan Station High School, and Frederick Douglass High School. These school teams receive bi-monthly training from the Kentucky Student Voice Team to learn about different youth research strategies, survey design, and how to use these findings to become more effective advocates for high-quality CTE programs in their state. 

After they’ve designed and collected responses from their school community, learners will have the opportunity to present their findings and recommendations to state-level leadership and inform future policies. Throughout this first phase of the work, Advance CTE will identify ways to scale this process in other states and communities in the future and make recommendations for state CTE leaders looking to incorporate more learner voices into how programs are designed and delivered.

The academy teams have completed sessions about the fundamentals of YPAR, reviewing different pathways for students to have a voice and seat at the table in education decision-making, research fundamentals, and survey question design, construction, and distribution. Themes have begun to emerge as these learners narrow in on the focus of their research questions. These themes include:

  • Certification effectiveness now and in the future
  • CTE’s preparation for learners’ career and life after graduation
  • Additional CTE programs that aren’t currently available to learners
  • Learners’ understanding of and comfort with CTE 
  • Learners’ perceptions of educator and school support in CTE [programs]

Questions that learners identified through their preliminary exploration include:

  • How prepared do learners feel to use the certification they have earned through their CTE program?
  • How connected do you feel with your teachers at school?
  • How much do you feel your certification increases your chances of employment after graduation?

Advance CTE Members will be able to learn more about this project when the school teams present at Advance CTE’s Fall Meeting in October. 

Learn more about KSVT!

The Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT) is an independent, youth-led nonprofit that works to co-create more just, democratic Kentucky schools and communities by partnering with research, policy, and advocacy partners across the state.

For more information and tools to design a learner-centered CTE program, visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Resource Center.

Amy Hodge, Member and Policy Associate


Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.