Department of Educational Administration


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Published in Handbook of Critical Education Research: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Emerging Approaches. Edited by Michelle D. Young and Sarah Diem. New York & London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2024. Pp. 778–797.

doi: 10.4324/9781003141464-46


Copyright © 2024 Hernández et al.


For the past six years, we—members of the Family-School Collaboration Design Research Project—have been working to understand and transform family-school relationships in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our group includes an evolving cast of scholars, family leaders, professional educators, graduate students, and organizers. We are trying to create spaces where culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families-families whose language and culture differ from the dominant school culture-have real voice in schools and can partner equitably with educators.

We are a part of a national network of scholars, practitioners, and family and community leaders called the Family Leadership Design Collaborative (FLDC). Since 2016, we have been working and learning alongside colleagues across the country, with support from the network's central organizers, Drs. Ann Ishimaru and Megan Bang. The FLDC is carving out new aperturas (openings) for research and social change, based on a vision of community wellbeing and educational justice (Ishimaru et al., 2019). You can read more about the FLDC framework, methods, and projects at .

In the FLDC, we use a form of design-based research we call solidarity-driven co-design (Ishimaru et al., 2019). Design-based research advances educational theory by designing, piloting, studying, and revising educational interventions in real-life learning situations (Cobb et al., 2003; Collins et al., 2004). Solidarity-driven co-design takes design-based research and integrates aspects of community-based research and decolonizing methodologies (Bhattacharya, 2009; Beckman & Long, 2016; Strand et al., 2003; Tuhiwai Smith, 2013). The result is a critical, participatory process that centers the knowledge, leadership, and creativity of families that are usually kept out of research and decision-making spaces (Bang & Vossoughi, 2016; Philip et al., 2018).

Solidarity-driven co-design follows an iterative, four-step cycle. In step one, families, educators, organizers, and researchers come together to build relationships, share stories, and theorize together about a topic of concern. In step two, the team designs possible solutions, which are then piloted in step three. In step four, the team analyzes data from the pilot and refines solutions for another cycle. Throughout the process, close attention is paid to critical questions of identity and power in terms of both the topic of study and internal dynamics among the co-designers (Ishimaru et al., 2019). This process shares features with other community-based methods, such as critical participatory action research (Fine & Torre, 2021; Torre et al., 2012). For example, it positions people who are usually the subjects of research as co-researchers, it goes through iterative cycles that include both research and action, and it is committed to social transformation. At the same time, the process of co-design makes much less of a distinction between the stages of research and action, instead merging the two into an ongoing process of creation. It emphasizes the tools of both reflection (looking at the past and the present) and imagination (envisioning and beginning to craft more just futures for our schools and communities) .

In this chapter, we share a bit about our work in Salt Lake City-our goals and our methods, our challenges and our successes. We discuss how the project emerged, how we facilitated the co-design process, and the products we created in order to reach beyond the academy. We explore some of the tensions we faced and how the project evolved over time as COVID-19 changed the landscape of schooling.