Effectively Evaluating Action and Academic Research by John Nepomuceno

John Villanueva Nepomuceno | Mandela Law & Public Service Academy | Fremont High School | EDDA Inquiry Group – Senior Project

Inquiry Reflection

“What did you learn this year about the three components of the civic engagement framework – analyzing issues, taking action, and reflecting?”


Since I run the Mandela Law & Public Service Academy of Fremont High School’s Senior Project within our Career Technical Education – Social Justice & Advocacy class, I am marrying the school-wide expectations of a 15+ page research paper and capstone presentation with CTE/work based learning-related Field Research and Field Service.  Throughout the past five years, I have worked into re-developing and refining our Academy’s Senior Project, improving research writing, quality of issue analysis, field research work, and presentation skills.  Much of my EDDA Inquiry focuses on the quality of issue analysis of their “hard research” in conjunction with their field research work and finding ways to help students effectively compare and contrast these sources in order to express their understanding to a panel of teachers, industry professionals and other community stakeholders.  Hence, my EDDA Inquiry question is as follows:

How can students effectively differentiate and evaluate input and insight from surveys and interviews from community stakeholders in consideration of data and research taken from more scholarly or academic sources?

Summary of key finding:

I want the kids to be able to get better at analyzing evidence from a variety of sources (ranging from academic research to community action research through surveys and interviews), in an effort to identify similarities and/or differences.  Through this understanding, I hope they will make better sense of their key research questions and propose more effective solutions.

My key finding based on what I have done with my students in regards to my inquiry is this:  Students know how to take action and go out and participate in community action research through their outreach of community stakeholders.  They have learned how to create mass surveys via SurveyMonkey and distribute it to others. They also know how to find and identify differences and similarities between their “academic research” and their “community action research” (comprised of surveys and interviews of community stakeholders, ranging from peers to neighbors), but there are still questions on how well these students can evaluate and articulate these findings in an effective manner. Students are still having trouble trying to present their findings in a way that shows they understand the value of research from reliable academic sources as well as the value of the voice of their community, whether their input is in full agreement, disagreement, or a mix of that when compared side by side.


Diagram A. Comparison Card

To help students compare their academic research and community-based research (Action Research), I had them use a Comparison Card.

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The Comparison Card (Diagram A.) is a tool created by Young Whan Choi and myself to help students visually compare/contrast their data from their academic research (Source One) with that of their action research (Source Two). The idea was to assist students in organizing their data in a manageable way and help them use it as an effective tool for their presentations.

The following diagrams show how two students were able to visually articulate their findings via their Senior Project Presentations. Explanations of their progress and process follows after each diagram.

Diagram B:  Victoria (Focal Student)


For Victoria (my focal student), she created a visual depiction of the two sources she focused on for her research questions, but spoke about the similarities/differences verbally in her presentation rather than have it mapped out in the Venn Diagram of the Comparison Card example.  As she explained her analysis on the differences and similarities between her research and her interview, she spoke rather simplistically initially, before getting questions from the panel on her Comparison Card, and the going more in-depth about what she understood from the two sources, analyzing the importance of having our own community stakeholders (for this case, her classmate), and their knowledge of our prison system in regards to coming up with solutions for 1) helping most prisoners rehabilitate rather than make them worse and 2) educating students of the dangers of going to jail.   In her explanation, I found that she understood the connections between her research and the voice of her interviewees, taking point to illustrate, verbally, her understanding of the two with hypothetical as well as real-world examples of what she observed through both ends of the research.

I felt her statements reflected much of what she learned from this research experience.

Diagram C:  Andrea


For Andrea’s presentation, in addition to the research source quotes and analysis, she also included a snapshot of her survey results from Survey Monkey before ultimately re-creating the Comparison Card Venn Diagram via Prezi. Visually, her Venn Diagram seemed a bit simplistic, writing out the entirety of her Source One’s quote and a paraphrased blurb from her Source Two’s interview, with placing a clear “Peer Pressure” bit squarely on the center of the Venn Diagram. I felt she could’ve done a better job had she possibly put each points of her sources in bullet points and maybe add a bit more articulation on her center piece that showed the two sources were in agreement. She, however did an effective job verbally expressing the similarities between Source One and Source Two, going in-depth about how “Peer Pressure” can be a major cause for teen drinking and why, given the “hard research” and the “action research.”  She spoke confidently in her findings, and was on-point in her analysis, especially as her panelists pressed her with more questions regarding her comparison of the research and her interviews/surveys.


I have done a great deal of thinking over the past few months about how the Senior Project has went, and how I want things to be next time. The inquiry has helped me immensely towards re-imagining the project to include more civic engagement as well as, at the very least, jumpstart my students towards surveying and interviewing community stakeholders as a means to compare and contrast their views side by side with their own “hard” research of more academic sources, as a means of creating deeper answers and solutions towards their senior project issue.  In this “trial run” of using Comparison Cards, I encountered some level of resistance, and plenty of confusion in the initial stages. I felt students were more overwhelmed than anything in this stage of their projects, which is why I got some push-back, but after dedicating two periods towards doing the Comparison Card as a class, and as time picked up with their interviews and surveys, I felt the students as a whole had a fairly solid understanding on how to use the Comparison Cards, and it definitely showed when they presented their analyses and findings to their panels.  However, I definitely feel that there was still a significant level of struggle for many of them, and articulating their findings could definitely use a lot more preparation and modeling.  I feel that aside from kicking off Comparison Cards at the very beginning of the year, I hope to also better model how to do Action Research, showing videos of this as well as consulting other teachers about how to compare sources from interviews and surveys with that of their literature and online resources.

As I have navigated through these uncharted waters with my youth, I have begun to see the inherent benefits of starting the class off much earlier in their Senior Project research paper to really require that they interview and survey not just their peers, family members, or neighbors, but also reach out to the industry professionals, our Academy partners, and other folks “in the know,” from the absolute beginning.  In doing so, I hope that the kids can have a much more authentic experience of marrying their more “traditional research” – scouring sources from books, magazines, and the internet – with a more thorough “action research” experience – going to their communities and beyond through telephone and email interview. With both research strands coming together, I would expect that students could come up with legitimate solutions towards their issues.

I sincerely feel that this year has been an invaluable experience towards my revision of the Senior Project, especially in the name of civic engagement and action research. I felt that I have only scratched the surface of what I really want the Senior Project to be this year, and given the continuous changes, and last-minute “additions,” (i.e. the Comparison Cards that implemented in the second semesters), I’m certain that if these changes were made known at the very beginning, the students would have a better chance of making these projects better than ever before.


I have a wealth of resources for my Senior Project that I’m currently recreating in the form of a Senior Project Handbook.  I will have a link ready that can be easily downloadable via Dropbox.  If Google Drive is a better option, I can share the resources via email, so as long as I receive a request via my email address, teachernepomuceno@gmail.com, I am more than happy to share any of my resources with anybody who wants it!


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