Collective and individual dynamics in building a transformative activist peer-based learning community

This presentation highlights the central role of positioning students as activist social actors in the dialectic process of personal and collective transformation aiming at equity and social justice. Building on the transformative activist stance (Stetsenko, 2008; Vianna & Stetsenko, 2014), I will discuss the implementation of an expansive model of transformative education reform with and for students in an urban community college in New York City. Termed the Peer Activist Learning Community (PALC; Rifino, Matsuura, & Medina, 2014), this project seeks to engage students as co-creators of activist communities of learning aimed at transforming alienating and oppressive educational practices in the college and beyond. Based on the analysis of students’ learning and developmental trajectories and the project’s growth as two facets of the same (i.e., unified) process, I will describe PALC’s increasing impact on institutional change as instantiated by participants’ learning and development, including their expanding contribution at the intersection of a range of college and community practices. Drawing from multiple sources of data, this paper will showcase how participants’ evolving and growing engagement with and contributions to the collaborative project led to shifts in their own positioning and stances at various levels (i.e., in their learning goals and broader life agendas) and how these changes, in turn, spurred changes in the collaborative project itself. Specifically, this paper will focus on how PALC fosters and builds on students’ strengths to demonstrate how this project serves as a site where students build on their own range of cultural repertoires to critically reflect on their college and life experiences as they master critical theoretical concepts.
Presenter
Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY)

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