Penn State

Consortium forSocial Movements and Education
Research and Practice

Kristen Goessling

Kristen Goessling

Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
Kristen Goessling

Professional Bio

Dr. Kristen P. Goessling is an interdisciplinary engaged scholar whose work aligns to create spaces of belonging where people build meaningful relationships, construct knowledge, and take action toward social change. Dr. Goessling uses participatory action research to investigate personal experiences of public policies with youth, students, and community members as co-researchers. Underpinning her scholarship is the understanding that individuals are active cultural producers in relation to the social practices and systems in which they are embedded. Dr. Goessling is the principal investigator of the Philly Participatory Research Collective. The Research Collective designs and conducts research in the areas of public education, opioid impacts, and institutional pressures and evolving dynamics in urban coalitions. Their research is designed in tandem with, and in service of social movements.

Research Interests

Participatory Action Research, Youth, Sociocultural Theories of Learning and Development, Cultural Production, Qualitative Research Methodologies, Designing Places of Possibility

Related Materials

Originally published as a special issue of the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, this volume explores how researchers, educators, artists, and scholars can collaborate with, and engage young people in art, creative practice, and research to work towards social justice and political engagement.

By critically interrogating the dominant discourses, cultural, and structural obstacles that we all face today, this volume explores the potential of critical arts pedagogies and community-based research projects to empower young people as agents of social change. Chapters offer nuanced analyses of the limits of arts-based social justice collaborations, and grapple with key ethical, practical, and methodological issues that can arise in creative approaches to youth participatory action research. Theoretical contributions are enhanced by Notes from the Field, which highlight prime examples of arts-based youth work occurring across North America. As a whole, the volume powerfully advocates for collaborative creative practices that facilitate young people to build power, hope, agency, and skills through creative social engagement.

This volume will be of interest to scholars, researchers, postgraduate students, and scholar-practitioners involved in community- and arts-based research and education, as well as those working with marginalized youth to improve their opportunities and access to a quality education and to deepen their political participation and engagement in intergenerational partnerships aiming to increase the conditions for social justice.

Kristen Goessling, Dana E. Wright, Amanda C. Wager, Marit Dewhurst
Our Research

We, the four co-editors, write the introduction for this special issue from our respective locales and positionalities while being flooded with images and accounts of injustice. The present moment is marked by a desire for radical change, a belief in new possibilities for the world, and an overwhelming sense of urgency. Things have to move. We consider this volume a critical mix-tape created by young people, artists and scholars during this moment of possibilities as evidence of how this urgency drives conceptual and methodological innovations to advance notions of equity, liberation, hope, healing, transformation, and justice. Each of the manuscripts in this issue contribute unique “songs,” with melodies of uplift, rhythms of resistance, and lyrics of liberation that encourage us to create humanizing spaces through embodied praxis as social justice.

Goessling, K. P. (2020). Youth participatory action research, trauma, and the arts: designing youthspaces for equity and healing. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education33(1), 12-31.

Coming of age in an urban setting presents both opportunities and challenges for development and learning. In this paper, I illustrate the importance of understanding the ways in which marginalized young people respond to, resist, and are shaped by complex traumas stemming from structural oppression as a result of ongoing colonial and racial violence. I offer “youthspaces” as a framework that centers those with direct experiences of oppression as trauma as experts and cultural producers to envision a more socially just future-world and imagine things as though they could be otherwise. Five guiding principles and a living curriculum are offered for co-creating humanizing spaces with youth grounded in radical imagining, belonging, and collective creative inquiry. This work provides researchers, youth workers, young people, community organizers, activists, and educators a toolkit for conceptualizing, designing, and implementing praxis for critical consciousness and more effective, culturally sustaining programming, services and policies.

Goessling, K. P. (2018). Increasing the depth of field: Critical race theory and photovoice as counter storytelling praxis. The Urban Review50(4), 648-674.

Thru the Lenz was a youth participatory action project in which a group of urban high school students explored their lives and communities through art, photography, and narrative. Drawing on data from Thru the Lenz, I deploy CRT to reimagine the research space as a place for counter storytelling. Majoritarian stories are stories that invoke and perpetuate white privilege, are based on racist ideology, are pervasive and are told by whites as well as people of color (Solórzano and Yosso in Qual Inq 8:23–44, 2002a). Counter stories are a method and a tool that enable a deeper understanding of the stories the youth co-constructed though their photos and narratives and also challenge the majoritarian stories told about them, their school, and community (Solórzano and Yosso in Qual Inq 8:23–44, 2002a). Specifically, I present the research praxis organized in the form of an emerging counter story based on two key themes: good community and successful school. When constructed using a CRT framework, the students’ stories about their educational experiences provide a strong critique of neoliberal education reform. I conclude with a discussion of the tensions and challenges of engaging in counter story as critical, emancipatory praxis that elucidates the linkages of personal experiences and macro policies (Stovall in Race Ethn Educ 9:243–259, 2006).

Goessling, K. (2017). Youth Learning to Be Activists: Constructing" Places of Possibility" Together. Critical Questions in Education8(4), 418-437.

This paper draws from a critical qualitative study that took place in Vancouver, British Columbia and focused on a group of young people learning to be activists through participation at a youth-driven organization, "Think Again" (TA). In this paper, I focus on one aspect of the youths' participation at TA--their creative action projects--and the emergent methodologies employed in this study that generated the conditions for "places of possibility" to emerge. I conceptualize "places of possibility" as literal and metaphorical spaces where people are afforded the tools and resources necessary to imagine alternative realities, identities, and systems than what currently exist, primarily through creative and activist practices. Specifically, I utilize a narrative framework to examine the ways the social relationships and practices at TA enabled some of the young people to take up an activist identity.

Goessling, K. P. (2017). Resisting and reinforcing neoliberalism: Youth activist organizations and youth participation in the contemporary Canadian context. Mind, Culture, and Activity24(3), 199-216.

This critical qualitative research focused on a group of youth engaged in social justice and critical education activities in a youth activist organization. This article explains how neoliberalism as governmentality provides insight into the ways in which the interrelated macro, local, and micro contextual layers mediate youth activist organizations and youth participation. Three participation narratives are woven together with two key themes: the ethos of individualism and market-focused discourse. This work aims to provide insight into how youth activist organizations can effectively engage youth in social practices and relationships toward social justice in an increasingly neoliberal era.

Goessling, K. P. (2019). Participatory action research: Re-imagining the study and transformation of social problems. In Researching social problems (pp. 102-121). Routledge.

This chapter provides an overview of the central theoretical tenets, key concepts, and practical implications of participatory action research (PAR). Two empirical examples illustrate the ways in which PAR projects are rooted in cycles of participation, inquiry, contestation, and action. Tips are provided for novice PAR researchers and resources for making a case for the legitimacy of PAR. Readers are invited to consider a PAR approach to studying social problems that can produce valuable knowledge and galvanize positive social change.