Addressing Equity in Schools: Youth Participatory Action Research and Transformative Social and Emotional Learning during COVID-19

Jan 7, 2022

cands cover croppedIn 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and rise in racial injustices signaled the need to engage students in macro-level interventions to maximize their contributions to their schools, communities, and society. School social workers are uniquely positioned to elevate student voices, hone their critical thinking skills, and capitalize on their strengths and assets. Critical thinking skills can help students analyze the world around them by engaging them in addressing equity issues in their schools and communities.

In a recent issue of the journal Children & Social Work, co-published by NASW and Oxford University Press, an article addresses these concerns. The article introduces the concept of transformative social and emotional learning (TSEL) within the context of youth-led participatory action research (YPAR) and a critical service learning (CSL) framework for school social workers to promote student empowerment. Through CSL, students cultivate advocacy skills by identifying, investigating, and taking action to address concerns.

Additionally, the authors include a case example demonstrating TSEL and YPAR, using CSL as a school social work intervention that recognizes and promotes students’ strengths and assets.

Study authors:

  • Chastity L. Owens, LCSW, lecturer of social work, Jane Adams College of Social Work, University of Illinois Chicago
  • Annette H. Johnson, ACSW, LCSW, clinical associate professor, Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois Chicago
  • Aubrey Thornton, LCSW, is therapist, Search, Inc., Chicago, IL



The journal Social Work is a benefit of NASW membership. It is available online or, at a member’s request, in print. Children & Schools, Health & Social Work and Social Work Research are available by subscription at a discounted rate for NASW members, either online or in print. You can find out more about the journals and subscriptions at this link.

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