Developing educational resilience in youth from undeserved communities through engagement in community-based arts education

This project involved a number of methods to investigate the impact of the community arts provision on educational resilience, spending time with a university in the USA to explore one of their research projects, YouthBEAT.

Community arts 1


Research background

The UCET travel scholarship supported a visit to Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts with a focus on exploring the research processes, insights and outcomes of a research project directed by Dr Camara at Tufts University, entitled YouthBEAT. The aim of the scholarship was to explore the effectiveness of a community-based arts project for youth in an underserved community and its impact on educational resilience. This scholarship enabled the investigation of pedagogies within these community settings and the socio-cultural-political structures that affected teaching and learning.

The findings of this travel scholarship directly informed and influenced research back at the University on a Youth Music-funded research project called Exchanging Notes. Discussions with the research staff on the YouthBEAT project, the directors of Berklee College of Music and music leaders aided understanding of the structures and pedagogical processes involved in projects working with underserved communities.

Research aims

Research in this area in terms of understanding is still in its infancy. This research helped in the development of new understandings, theorisations, identify and evidence gaps in knowledge and facilitate new research and teaching collaborations.

The research had five aims: 

  • Gain insights into pedagogies within a US-based community based project (YouthBEAT);
  • Compare methodologies with a not-dissimilar research project in England;
  • To investigate the impact of the community arts provision on educational resilience;
  • To develop mutually beneficial links with practitioners involved in the YouthBEAT project and university staff at Tufts University for future collaborations;
  • To utilise the research visit to further inform and impact the analysis of research data on these projects and the teaching of research methods in HE environments.

The visit involved observations, interviews, and researcher conversations all of which enabled me to explore the effectiveness of the program and the impact on teaching and learning. 

How is the research being carried out?

IE is method that is used for inquiry and discovery about the way in which things are put together and how they work in order to establish the actualities of people’s everyday lives (Smith, 2006). It offers a theorised approach to reflecting critically on what one knows from that embodied place in the world (Campbell and Gregor, 2008). The focus is not upon the subjective experiences of individuals, but on the way in which organisational processes and structures, texts such as policies and contracts, job descriptions and curricula serve to organise the social relationships within the organisation, privileging some knowledge whilst at the same time diminishing or undermining others.




Throughout the research and comparative work it was evident that a successful pedagogical approach moves beyond merely acquiring skill and knowledge of music, but includes the social aspects of learning, cultural understanding, thinking processes and creativity. It is important for the learners to be aware of the thought processes involved in learning. The role of the teacher therefore is to help the learners become more metacognitive; to be aware of how they go about learning and thinking. Skill and knowledge are not enough; learners need to be helped to achieved mastery but also reflect on how their learning approaches can be improved.

The YouthBEAT program provided an approach to education that fostered and developed engaged citizens. They are achieving this by encouraging young people to see how social and cultural experiences shape learning.  For YouthBEAT these learning experiences occur outside of school, and can be defined as community-based art education. There is a strong focus in this work on fostering dialogic encounters as spaces for social change. In this community, a curriculum is not just enacted, it is a practice in which community life, learning activities, and educational aspirations interconnect. This community has a meaning, purpose and symbolic role in the young people’s sense of belonging.

The research concluded with some final thoughts and further reflections:

Music education in England has often failed to “hear” the student voice in the discourse of curriculum, pedagogy, and musical value, resulting in the disengagement of many young people from music education in school. YouthBEAT and Exchanging Notes are both explore pedagogy through a combination of formal and informal approaches. Student voice is central to both projects but what is a socially just pedagogy in music education?

You can view the report below:

Developing educational resilience in Youth from Underserved Communities through engagement in community based Arts education .