Taking Boys Seriously by Andy Hamilton, Susan Morgan, Ken Harland in ARJ

Andy Hamilton, Susan Morgan, Ken Harland have just published a paper with ARJ entitled: Taking Boys Seriously. This action research project from Northern Ireland has spanned 17 years! Andy writes…

 “The longevity of this project has made a valuable contribution to the capacity of the research to engender systemic change. By the time the Taking Boys Seriously (TBS) research comes to completion – in 2028 – the original cohort of 378 boys who began participating in 2006 will be well into their 30s. The knowledge they co-created continues to shape fresh approaches to education and learning with a new generation of young people.

The aim of TBS has never been to make adolescent boys into action researchers. It has, however, always been premised on making a positive difference to the educational experiences of boys on the margins of their classrooms and communities. We wrestle with the concept of youth participation to ensure that our research involves the ethical and meaningful contribution of young people, giving voice to the experience and expertise of boys and their educators. 

One of the most exciting aspects of our research has been the growing momentum of a localised educational ecosystem committed to implementing systemic change. We invite you to read how we harnessed this collaboration through the crucial role of a committed steering group made up of representatives across a highly divided and stratified education system in post-conflict Northern Ireland. Their collective contributions ensure that TBS has an impact throughout the educational pipeline. Schools, alternative education centres, youth organisations, and universities are among the settings in which the research is embedded with wider partnerships and buy-in across other regions in the UK.

ARJ Associate Editor, Dr Marina Apgar, who led the review of our paper, remarked:

‘I find this paper really exciting. The combination of Taking Boys Seriously (TBS), being a longitudinal participatory action research initiative (which is quite rare), the context of Northern Ireland being complex and contested, the intersectional approach to working with adolescent boys, and finally, the framing on systemic change make this a very compelling paper for our journal.’

The paper considers the importance of appreciative inquiry in a context where adolescent boys are often depicted as troublesome; we take a non-prescriptive approach respecting the professional autonomy of educators; we challenge traditional power relationships in education where adults (not least the researchers) first listen to and learn from boys in a shared effort to disrupt and dismantle compounded educational disadvantage. Making long term, systemic impactful change for these boys remains the central driver within TBS.

Marina and the authors also got to meet and chat about the paper. Happily they recorded the video snippet below. And you may read the full paper in ARJ using the ‘forever’ link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/14767503241226894